Inabelle Steve Stirnemann Oral History

Dublin Core


Inabelle Steve Stirnemann Oral History


Inabelle Steve Stirnemann Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


October 2, 1998
January 28, 1999


Analog Cassette Tape, .Doc File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Marianne Peterson


Inabelle Steve Stirnemann


2500 Agency Road in Fallon, Nevada


Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with


Fallon, Nevada

conducted by


October 2, 1998


January 28, 1999

This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of the Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.


Inabelle Steve Stirnemann is a Paiute woman who is quietly proud of her heritage. Born in Stillwater in 1929, Inabelle grew up amidst a great deal of cultural change. It was a time when Inabelle's elders practiced much of the Old Way while Inabelle herself was being taught how to live in a non-Indian world. Today, when fewer and fewer first-hand accounts of the Old Way are accessible, Inabelle's stories are priceless.

Surrounded by Paiute artifacts and photos of both ancestors and descendants, Inabelle's memory served her well as she recounted details of her childhood. Stories about her grandmother, Alice Steve, who was her mentor and protector took the forefront.

Although comfortable in her Stillwater home which is surrounded by lush green trees and flowers of myriad colors, it is easy to see that Inabelle longs for the peace and love of another time. And these two things are her greatest wish for her descendants.

Interview with Inabelle Steve Stirnemann

PETERSON:         This is Marianne Peterson of the Churchill County Oral History Project interviewing Inabelle Stirnemann at her house at 2500 Agency Road in Fallon, Nevada. The date is October 2, 1998. Inabelle, thanks again for allowing me to do this interview. I'm really excited about this. What is your full name?

STIRNEMANN:  Inabelle Steve Stirnemann.

PETERSON:         And your maiden name, then, is Steve?


PETERSON:         Did your parents tell you how you got your name?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. I was named after - My auntie Eva which is one of my mother's younger sisters went to school with Inabelle Jarvis and that was one of her friends and then later on she was a teacher. She was my fifth grade teacher, and there was only two of us. She just passed away-was it last year? When I had my first baby at the hospital here, her niece was working there, and she never did know who I was. Elizabeth [Hannifan] came rushing in there, and she says, "That's who you are! I've seen you, but I never did know who the other Inabelle was. Now I know."

PETERSON:         Do you have a Paiute name?

STIRNEMANN:  [Long pause] No.

PETERSON:         Where were you born?

STIRNEMANN:  Right here.

PETERSON:         Here in this house?

STIRNEMANN:  No. We tore the old house down, and this house sits right on top of it. When HUD [Housing and Urban Development] came out with the first houses, I asked my mom if it would be all right if--and that was after my dad died--if I make my home here. She said, "Sure," so we tore the old house down, and so this sits almost on top of the other one.

PETERSON:         What was your mother's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Maggie Steve.

PETERSON:         And her maiden name?


PETERSON:         So, you've lived in this house, how long?

STIRNEMANN:  About thirty years.

PETERSON:         How long have you lived in Fallon?

STIRNEMANN:  Sixty-nine years.

PETERSON:         When were you born?

STIRNEMANN:  1929. [July 12]

PETERSON:         And both of your parents, are they Paiute?


PETERSON:         What was your father's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Willy Steve.

PETERSON:         And your mother's father's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Joe Cushman.

PETERSON:         Do you know his approximate date of birth?

STIRNEMANN:  [shakes her head no]

PETERSON:         Where was he born?

STIRNEMANN:  I have no idea.

PETERSON:         What are your memories of your grandparents?

STIRNEMANN:  My grandfather, I have no memory of Joe Cushman because he had died before I could remember, but my grandma Mayo lived up at Rattlesnake Hill. They had just a small little house. Not even the size of our bunkhouse out there. But all they needed was - and the same thing with my grandma Alice - it was wide enough to have a stove, a bed, and a kitchen table.

PETERSON:         And your grandmother Mayo was your mother's mother?

STIRNEMANN:  My mother's mother.

PETERSON:         And you mentioned Alice.

STIRNEMANN:  Alice is my father's mother, and she's the one that – more or less – that I learned… what I know I learned form her.

PETERSON:         And do you remember your father's father's name?


PETERSON:         I believe it was Natchez Steve. Does that sound familiar?

STIRNEMANN:  I really don't know because from what they've told me every time my grandmother got a new husband, we don't know who the real father was because when she re-married, got a new man, she went by his name, so my dad changed his name. And then I had an oldest brother. He was a half-brother, but I guess her last name would have been Morgan no, Oregon [or something similar, spelling unclear] but Marvin is the only one that came the closest to having an original name. I don’t know where the M came from, because I was told that my dad’s real name started… was Oregon, and then where Marvin got the M - Marvin Morgan - He didn't go by the name of Steve.

PETERSON:         Interesting.

STIRNEMANN:  So, I don't know, like I said, I don't know who was my dad's father.

PETERSON:         Do you know what your grandparents did for a living?

STIRNEMANN:  I guess they worked as farm hands. I'm almost positive on that because I think a long time ago the Indians took the name of the white people that they worked for, and my guess is that they worked for Bunny Cushman's [Corkill] grandparents, and I think that's where we got the name of Cushman because my grandfather was Joe Cushman. I thought maybe they had all different fathers and mothers, but Auntie Helen [Bowser] said no. She said they all had the same mother and father which would be the two people up there, and they had one sister.

PETERSON:         And the mother and father would be? What were their names?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't know if I would be right or not. Was it Mattie?

PETERSON:         You mentioned an Aunt Helen. Who was that?

STIRNEMANN:  My Aunt Helen is George Bowser's daughter, and that's one of the brothers of the original one.

PETERSON:         So, George Bowser would be your uncle?

STIRNEMANN:  Yeah. Well, in Indian he would be my grandpa. I always referred to him as grandpa, and he always called me my Togo which is a granddaughter, like my kids always call my dad Togo. I never ever knew what to call him except Togo, that was the only thing that I- And there was another great great grandma. It was maybe twenty years ago, my hube which would be like a great great grandma or great aunt maybe in the White way, and they lived back over here. Vivian Hicks lives on their land because she was another granddaughter, another cousin, but, anyway, I never knew what her name was until one day I asked somebody, "What is Hube's name? What is her white name?" And her name was Annie Hickley, and I never knew that.

PETERSON:         What memories do you have of both sets of grandparents?

STIRNEMANN:  The only grandparents I had--didn't have no grandfathers to talk about, just my grandmothers. My grandma Mayo lived uptown, and she lived with Eva [Cushman Williams] and Lou Emma [Cushman Dixon], my mom's younger sisters, and then Ivy was another daughter. She lived like in the back of them, and they all had little houses. The houses weren't big at all. She lived on one end of the colony, and my grandmother Alice lived on the other end of the colony. Our buses would come over here close to where my Grandma Mayo lived, so we used to go over there and wait for the bus.

PETERSON:         How old were you then?

STIRNEMANN:  Well, every time I got mad at my folks, I would go to my Grandma Alice, so they knew where I was all the time. I guess maybe seven, eight, nine years old.

PETERSON:         You said when you got mad at your folks, what kind of things did they do that made you angry?

STIRNEMANN:  Oh, we were always fighting. Me and my brothers. I got five brothers, and I was always fighting with my brothers. They got picking on me, and I'd start crying, and then I just wouldn't come home. I'd just take the bus and go over to my grandma's and slept with her.

PETERSON:         That's nice.

STIRNEMANN:  But, my Grandma Alice made a big impression on me and my brothers because I know of no other person on this earth... Like I told you, she lived in this small house, dirt floor. She just had carpeting on the ground. When my youngest brother was playing football--nobody had cars then. Kids didn't have access to cars like they do now. My brother's friends, if they had gas or their moms let them take the car, well, then, they would take him over to my grandmother's, but, if not, then he would stay over his friends' house because it was too far to bring him out here. What my grandmother would do is if she knew he's coming-she slept in a little cot--that was her bed--and got it nice and warm, and then when my brother would come, she would get out of the bed, and she would sleep on the floor. Jugger [Dell] says, "You know, I never ever thought of what she did for me until I got older."

PETERSON:         She kept it warm for him?

STIRNEMANN:  Um-hum. I never heard of anybody going to that extreme. I don't think I could do that for my grandchildren. I would just move over and make room for them, but I don't think I would give up my bed for them. I don't think I would. Maybe in those days I would. But, she always did things like that. If there was a carnival in town we'd walk to town. We didn't have money for a taxi. We'd walk to town and then watch, and then we'd all leave. There'd be a lot of people there, and sometimes you got a ride home, and sometimes you didn't. But in those days you could walk, and you never thought anything about it, and now I walk down to the bridge and am exhausted.

PETERSON:         The bridge. Where is that?

STIRNEMANN:  Just over here where you turned off. [points west]

PETERSON:         What did your parents do for a living?

STIRNEMANN:  They were farmers, and my mom made dolls. She made extra money by making little dolls and selling them.

PETERSON:         What kind of dolls?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't have any to show you.

PETERSON:         Were they made out of tules?

STIRNEMANN:  No, no, no. She made them out of cloth, and then they had the buckskin. She had a mold. I've got the mold.

PETERSON:         How did your mother make these dolls?

STIRNEMANN:  She had a mold she carved out of clay, or that looks like a bone, and then she made the face on it. Then she put this wet buckskin on there that had all the hair removed, and she just left it on there to dry. When she got ready to sew it, she had the regular doll head made out of cloth, and she sewed this onto the cloth. You can see them at the museum. Then she would do the beading. [shows doll-making accessories, i.e. beads, skins] These are stuff that she has left over, and I was always going to do something with it, but I never have. These are the Indian paints that she had. You wet it and you…

PETERSON:         It almost looks like chalk. Where does that come from?

STIRNEMANN:  I have no idea where she got these. When she first started, we used to make little hats like these and bead it and then put pins on them, and you wear it on your lapel.

PETERSON:         That's really pretty. Can you tell me what your earliest childhood memory is?

STIRNEMANN:  That we just lived right here. My Grandma Alice stayed here with us. We didn't have no lawn or no flowers or nothing. Then there was . . . I don't know what you call it. We've got one back over in that corner. [points to the east side of the house] I don't know what kind of a tree it is. It's not a tree, it's a shrub. But, anyway there was one right here, and the chickens would roost on it, and our woodpile was there. I can remember those great big oval washtubs that she would heat the water in, and she'd wash clothes in the tub.

PETERSON:         How did she heat the water?

STIRNEMANN:  On the fire. She had one out there. She stayed with us most of the time, and back over in this corner of the field she had a big garden. A huge garden, and we all had to get up and we had to pull weeds. One row in the morning and one row at night before it got hot. Then by the ditch bank there was trees all along there, and half of them are dead now, falling down. But, at that time, the trees in the evening time would shade it and then there'd be shade there. You wouldn't be out in the hot sun pulling weeds.

PETERSON:         Why do you suppose the trees are not alive anymore?

STIRNEMANN:  Just wormy trees, and they just died. The cottonwood trees seem to get a hole in the middle. In fact, I guess it was after we moved here, and they were burning weeds. We went down there looking at it 'cause I was afraid it'd get away, and the wind was blowing. You could see right through the middle of the trunk. All the way up to the top was a hole right through the middle of it.

PETERSON:         Was it eaten out maybe by insects?

STIRNEMANN:  Yeah. Probably bugs or something.

PETERSON:         What kinds of things grew in the garden?

STIRNEMANN:  Corn, potatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, honey dew, squash, almost everything that you have now.

PETERSON:         Did your family sell these?

STIRNEMANN:  No, we ate them. It was for our own food.

PETERSON:         Who taught you how to cook?

STIRNEMANN:  The school. When I got from our little schoolhouse down here, then about the fourth grade, I think, I went to school uptown, and then they started having home ec. I learned how to cook in home ec. Then after I learned what I made in home ec, then Mom would buy me the stuff to fix and cook it here for supper. My oldest brother always complimented me. "Oh, that's good!"

PETERSON:         Oh, it's nice when somebody tells you that it tastes good.

STIRNEMANN:  And my oldest brother would never give a compliment. He was so mean to me. He was always ornery with me, but when he complimented me, even before he got sick, I told him--one of his in-laws likes to cook, too--he said, "Yeah, but she can't cook like you do."

PETERSON:         [laughing] What is that brother's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Bill. They all call him Willy, but we call him Billy.

PETERSON:         And earlier you mentioned your younger brother. What was his name?

STIRNEMANN:  Dell. And then Russell. He quit school and he came out. He always helped my dad. He went in the Army and came back here. He went to school in Stewart for a little while. He met his wife up there.

PETERSON:         What other kinds of chores did you do as a young child?

STIRNEMANN:  Gather eggs.

PETERSON:         What kind of eggs?

STIRNEMANN:  Chicken eggs. And magpie eggs to sell. That was my spending money. Then when I got older--I didn't have to, but I made two cakes on the weekends, and I put them in my little red wagon, and I would go sell my cake for ten cents a cut. Right here was old people's homes. They were mostly relatives and stuff and sometimes they would buy the whole cake for a dollar. That was my lunch money. Then my mother sometimes they didn't have no money, so she said, "Split with me," made me give my brother some money. Half of the money, and I used to get mad. When they went out and got jack rabbits and sell it, you think they would give me? They would never share with me their rabbit money. That was part of our food. They would never share with me, but I had to share my cake money with them. That wasn't fair.

PETERSON:         Did you ever go with them when they went jack rabbit hunting?

STIRNEMANN:  I did one time, and that was over by the They had a rabbit drive.

PETERSON:         By the base?

STIRNEMANN:  Yeah. I can't exactly remember. I must have been about maybe seven, eight, maybe nine years old, but I went with them.

PETERSON:         How did they catch the rabbits?

STIRNEMANN:  What they did was, they just kind of cornered them and then shot them.

PETERSON:         Did you have any pets in your home or stock that you had outside?

STIRNEMANN:  We had cows. We had maybe one cow. I know Russell had a 4-H cow that he would milk, and we had horses and chickens. I guess that was about the extent of it. If we got too many chicken eggs, we would sell those.

PETERSON:         What was the first school that you attended?

STIRNEMANN:  It was down here at the Indian Day School. It's right there where the housing building sits now. It was a big white school that used to sit there

PETERSON:         What kinds of things did you learn?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't remember. It was just like a big one-room schoolhouse. Everybody went in there.

PETERSON:         And the second school that you attended?

STIRNEMANN:  One I remember- I'm not real sure about West End, but I remember it was a two-story building. And then later on they made it…. The first school I went to in town was a two-story building, and I think that was West End, but I’m not sure on that. It was kind of real vague. The one I remember is the Cottage Schools. In fact, I have pictures. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Sherman 'cause she would let me draw. I loved to draw. If I got caught up with my work, she would let me spend my time drawing.

PETERSON:         What kinds of things did you draw?

STIRNEMANN:  I drew the church. Anything that I wanted to draw. Right across from the Cottage School in that first building on that side was a Catholic Church which is now converted into an apartment building, so I drew that. I can remember drawing a deer 'cause she just gave me some pictures and I drew it from that.

PETERSON:         Where did you go to high school?

STIRNEMANN:  Churchill County High School.

PETERSON:         What memories do you have of that place?

STIRNEMANN:  I always go 'cause I liked to play. I didn't really like school. I was too dumb. Everything came hard to me, and yet my brother that's older than I am everything came easy to him. His math, everything. He really didn't have to study where I really had to work at it. I'd bring my homework home, and I'd end up crying. My mom, when we started out, she says, "Now you help her." So we'd sit here with our coal oil lamp, and he'd be trying to help me, and it just wouldn't penetrate.

PETERSON:         What is a coal oil lamp?

STIRNEMANN:  You don't know what a coal oil lamp is? Goodness sakes! [tape cuts out]

PETERSON:         Can you describe it, please?

STIRNEMANN:  It just has a big vase bottom on it for a flat thing so it can sit straight, and then it goes up, and it's got a little round one on top of that which you put your oil in It's got a wick that goes up there, and you light the wick. Then you put your chimney on. That's what everybody had. When we got older my dad got us a gas light. He had a hook up in the ceiling that we used to hang it up on, but this is usually what we have.

PETERSON:         Do you remember any of your friends from school?


PETERSON:         Do you remember their names?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. Imogene Ferguson, Ramona Kirn, Louise Brackney, Roger Mills.

PETERSON:         Did you attend Stewart Indian School?


PETERSON:         Do you know anyone who did?

STIRNEMANN:  Russell went for a little while?

PETERSON:         Your brother?

STIRNEMANN:  Um-hum. And my oldest brother went for a little awhile because he contacted TB some place in his junior year, so he had to fall out of school for a year, and he didn't want to fall back, so when he went back to school, he went to Stewart. He graduated from Stewart instead of Fallon.

PETERSON:         Did either of your parents attend Stewart?

STIRNEMANN:  My mother did. My dad always said he only went to the sixth grade, but he must have went to school because he was a smart man. He was mathematically smart.

PETERSON:         What kinds of things did they talk about about Stewart?

STIRNEMANN:  That they didn't like it if you talked Paiute. You had to talk English. They still did talk to themselves when nobody else was around. My mom never really said too much about that. I don't know where my dad went to school. He went to school in Lovelock. [End of tape 1 side 1] I don't think my dad went to school in Stewart, but he always said he went to the sixth grade, but to have the kind of mind he had, he had to have gone up higher, I think. Not unless he was just one of those kind of persons because he was smart. For being an Indian he was really a smart man. He never did anything unless it was for the betterment of everybody, not just for himself. He did things on the whole for everybody.

PETERSON:         So, both of your parents spoke Paiute?


PETERSON:         Do you have any memories of Stillwater? The marsh out there?

STIRNEMANN:  No. My grandma never took us out there. We went back here. She collected some duck eggs. They pick duck eggs when they've already kind of got little thing, and they ate them. I remember eating one, and I didn't like it very well. We ate ground squirrels. I liked that. We'd go between here and town. We used to have a lot of ground squirrels, and we'd take a bucket with us. We'd see a whole bunch of them if someone was irrigating, and then we'd stop. We'd go in there. Dad and them, they'd pour water down the hole and they'd grab it by the neck. Then they'd gut it. A lot of times we'd cook it right on the spot, and we'd eat it.

PETERSON:         What was your favorite food as a child?

STIRNEMANN:  I guess rabbit.

PETERSON:         How was the rabbit cooked?

STIRNEMANN:  It was fried, but Indians when they cook they leave a lot of blood on it. That made your juice more dark, and they call huva. Then when you eat your huva, you always had Indian gravy, tumutzuk, your bread, and your huva and you eat it.

PETERSON:         What was the bread made of?

STIRNEMANN:  Just flour.

PETERSON:         What kinds of other wild animals do you recall seeing as a child?

STIRNEMANN:  Wild animals? Just kuubs.

PETERSON:         What are kuubs?

STIRNEMANN:  Kuubs are the ground squirrels. I don't remember seeing too many. The only thing I remember, like around here we had a lot of rabbits at one time, and when they go on the rabbit hunt they get too much rabbit for the family, they would take it either to Schurz or to Nixon, and they'd sell it. And Pyramid Lake would do the same thing with their fish. If they caught too many fish, they'd bring it to each house, and they'd peddle the fishes down here.

PETERSON:         And when your family went on a rabbit drive, did they save the skin and use the fur?


PETERSON:         What did they make with it?

STIRNEMANN:  Blankets.

PETERSON:         Do you have any of these blankets today?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't have no blankets.

PETERSON:         Did you go for walks as a child with anybody?

STIRNEMANN:  We walked every place.

PETERSON:         Did you go for walks, not necessarily to go somewhere but just to pass the time?

STIRNEMANN:  We'd walk everywhere when we were little. We went to play with our cousins or our friends, we walked to their house. Then when we got older, we had the horses and we could ride the horses. Then when we get a little bit bigger from that, my uncle found a bike at the dump, and he put it together for us, so we had a bicycle, so we would ride bicycle.

PETERSON:         Which uncle was that?

STIRNEMANN:  My Grandma Alice's other son, Andy Jack.

PETERSON:         Do you remember meeting your grandmother Alice's friend Wuzzie George?


PETERSON:         What memories do you have of her?

STIRNEMANN:  What sticks out the most is that when somebody died, she always spoke over the graves in our language.

PETERSON:         Do you remember what kinds of things she would say?

STIRNEMANN:  Well, it was just that they were either relatives or what, but she said, "Now they've gone on to a better place." It's more or less what the white people say now when they say their eulogies, but instead of saying it in English, it was said in Paiute. Wuzzie spoke at almost every funeral I've ever gone to out here. Lately they haven't been doing it, and I've always said I wanted one done for me. My regret is the one they gave the guy that did my brother Billy's. He passed away shortly after my brother did, maybe a year later. He did an outstanding job, and I always regretted not having a recording. The least I could have done was my kids play it for me. That's my only regret. When I die there's not going to be anybody that speaks.

PETERSON:         Do you remember meeting Margaret Wheat?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. When I first met Margaret was when we were building this house, and she came over one day in her van, her and her dog. She had a recording of my grandmother that she did on battery. They didn't have batteries like this. It was a car battery that she did, and you could hear her. She was laughing, but it was on this kind of tape, but she says, "When I recorded it, it was on a battery tape. You can tell who the stronger person was on there because anytime Wuzzie would say something if my grandmother knew it was wrong, she would tell her. They would argue about it. Alice always won. She knew what it was."

PETERSON:         Did you ever go to the mountains with your family?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. Gone up pine nutting.

PETERSON:         Can you tell me about that?

STIRNEMANN:  I usually just played. I don't remember. A lot of times, too, we were in school when they went. My dad would take the big flatbed truck, and he would take about four or five grandmas. My mom and my grandmothers, my aunts, and he'd drop them off up there, and my hube, the one I was telling you about . . . Maybe it's in here.                [looking through a box of woven baskets] I don't think it's in here. I think I lost it. But my hube--Mom had it for a long time, and she had it hanging on the kitchen sink from the first day they were there, she had one stick. The second day she weaved another stick there to tell how many days they'd been up in the hills getting pine nuts, and when they would come back, they would have four or five sacks of cleaned pine nuts. I don't remember them selling them. We ate them for ourselves. Grandmother made pine nuts like a mush out of it for breakfast and then made pine nut soup and we just ate the pine nuts. When it was real, real cold we would stick our pine nuts in the window. Just cover it up and put in the window. It would be like frozen and it would be like a popsicle. You could lick it off like that. Then when my grandmother would sit on the floor with the grinding stone, all of us would sit around her. There would be about maybe ten, not more than twelve of us. Even Geno and Russell were in it and my younger brother. She had a lard bucket when they had those one-gallon lard buckets, and that's what she used to make her pine nut soup in. My pine nut stick is at the museum. She'd sit there and stir and stir until it got real nice and smooth. She had a little water at the top. The kids be sitting there holding the bucket with our thumbs in there as deep as we can get it, so when it would splash up on our thumbs we'd lick it off.

PETERSON:         [laughing] Sounds like something a child would do. Did you attend church when you were younger?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. I think everybody in the whole reservation used to go to church. I don't know what they did then that they don't do now because families would go, and then at the Christmas time even the mothers and fathers would be in the Christmas programs.

PETERSON:         Which church did you attend?

STIRNEMANN:  Well, the only one they had down there was the Baptist Church.

PETERSON:         Other than going to church, did your family maintain any Paiute religious beliefs?

STIRNEMANN:  My grandma did. She went to church, too, but then she always did her morning prayers when she first got up in the morning facing the sun. Our kitchen window was that way [points east], and when she washed her face she would go to her God, her religion, and she would pray every morning when she washed her face.

PETERSON:         Do you remember the kinds of things she would say?

STIRNEMANN:  Just vaguely. Just bits and parts of it. I don't really remember, but I know she did that every day.

PETERSON:         Did you celebrate your birthday as a child?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. We got a big box of cookies.

PETERSON:         From the store?

STIRNEMANN:  Um-hum. Store-bought cookies.

PETERSON:         What other holidays did you celebrate?

STIRNEMANN:  All of them. Every holiday they came along and went to a place where they gambled. Went to Schurz. We slept in the car. We slept with relatives, and the folks'd gamble and played hand games all night long. Then they'd sleep for a little while, then they'd go back and play hand games. My grandma and I would stay with one of my other grandmas at Schurz. But we would catch a bus.

PETERSON:         Can you describe this hand game?

STIRNEMANN:  There was two sides, and they would sing. They would bet money. They did that every holiday. Fallon used to be a place to come on weekends down here--there's two houses sits over there where there used to be a gambling house. This old building right next to my daughter's house over there was a gambling house, but they never played hand games there. They just played five cards. Every Sunday the old ladies got together and played cards.

PETERSON:         Do you remember any family conversations like over a meal? Just a typical conversation of what they may have talked about?


PETERSON:         What is your earliest memory of a non-Indian person?

STIRNEMANN:  Our missionaries, I guess.

PETERSON:         Can you tell me about them?

STIRNEMANN:  There was a Miss Bonsdale, and she had the random church, the Baptist Church here, and then there was another white lady, Martha Baumann. Her niece is one of the owners of Harmon Junction, Lila [Guazzini]. I remember Lila coming out here to the Indian church all the time. They never went to church in town, and then when Mr. Plants [Reverend William Plants] opened the church in town, that's where they go now. But they never… Her and her aunt always came to the Indian church long as I can remember.

PETERSON:         Do you remember how old you were when you first saw the missionaries?


PETERSON:         Do you ever remember being sick as a small child?


PETERSON:         When did you leave your home? How old were you?

STIRNEMANN:  I took off for the summer time. I went to stay in Lovelock with my aunt and my cousin up there and worked at the laundry. I guess I must have been about fourteen, fifteen years old when I went to Lovelock. Amy and I were both the same age. Her birthday was in April. Mine was July, and we worked at the Lovelock Laundry for the summer, and then when Fourth of July or some celebration come, we'd take the bus and we'd end up going to Reno for the weekend.

PETERSON:         How old were you when you first married?

STIRNEMANN:  Seventeen.

PETERSON:         What was your husband's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Vernon Numan.

PETERSON:         Where was he from?


PETERSON:         Was he Indian?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. That's my oldest daughter's dad.

PETERSON:         So you had one child with your first husband?


PETERSON:         What is your daughter's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Marcelle Rusk.

PETERSON:         And your second marriage--how old were you when you got married?

STIRNEMANN:  I think I was twenty-eight the second time.

PETERSON:         And what is your husband's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Robert Stirnemann. It was his first time, and he was like thirty-eight. Maybe I was twenty-seven 'cause there's nine years' difference between us.

PETERSON:         And he's not Indian, correct?


PETERSON:         How many children did you have together?


PETERSON:         What are their names?

STIRNEMANN:  Robin Harrison, Kevin and Steven Stirnemann.

PETERSON:         What kind of jobs did you have over the years?

STIRNEMANN:  I worked in a dry cleaner as a presser and then I worked as a housekeeper in a motel, and then I also worked as a housekeeper at the Riverside Hotel. That was my first job in Reno. Then after that we worked in the onion fields in Reno pulling weeds in the rocks. That was an awful place to work. It's bad enough when you don't have any rocks, but Reno is full of gravel and big rocks. We crawled through there to pull the weeds.

PETERSON:         Sounds like hard work. Do you have any memories of any of the wars that occurred during your life?

STIRNEMANN:  Yes. World War II. Lost two uncles. My brothers were all in it. My oldest brother went over to Japan. On his twenty-fifth birthday he wrote me. Said that they had a dogfight right on top of him, and he was in a foxhole. Then my Uncle James went on the invasion of France, and he got injured there, but they sent him back to the States, and he died. Then his brother was over in the Philippines, and he died. There was quite a few Indian boys from here that died during the War.

PETERSON:         Who has been your closest friend over the years?

STIRNEMANN:  My cousin, Amy Jane [Wasson Mann], in Lovelock.

PETERSON:         And how is she related to you?

STIRNEMANN:  Through my dad's side.

PETERSON:         Do you have any interesting materials that have been passed on to you from either your mother or grandmother or another family member?

STIRNEMANN:  My mom made this one. [shows a cradle board]

PETERSON:         Can you describe this to me?

STIRNEMANN:  This is my little tiny cradle board that . . . my mom was just practicing when she made this. It's just a little cradle board with a baby in it. The tsokonoh [hood] got broken here. These three were made by my hube, my Auntie Hickley.

PETERSON:         These are baskets?

STIRNEMANN:  She made these, and when she died she told Susie Hicks, she said, "You give Inabelle these." And this one here [holding a woven basket] belonged to my Grandma Alice. It used to sit in a back closet full of shells. It was a junk collector, but mostly shells went in there.

PETERSON:         When did your Grandma Alice make this basket?

STIRNEMANN:  I have no idea. That was in our hall closet. That was here in my earliest memories.

PETERSON:         What are these made out of?


PETERSON:         Who will you give them to later on?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't know. I've been debating. They're getting kind of broke up in here. This is her winnowing basket. See how they're burnt? These are the last ones I've got. I don't know what happened to the other baskets. My grandson's [Tulsa Harrison] cradle board is over there [pointing to a shelf]. My aunt from Pyramid Lake made that for him.

PETERSON:         What is your aunt's name?

STIRNEMANN:  Lena Wright. She's passed on.

PETERSON:         What would you say is your happiest memory?

STIRNEMANN:  My gosh, that's a tough one. I guess when my family are together. And now anymore everybody's bickering at one another, and I don't want my kids--when they come one at a time, fine, but I don't want them all together because this one holds a grudge, and this'll say something. I don't have that peaceful feeling anymore. I'm leery of having everybody together.

PETERSON:         Can you think of a really happy childhood memory?

STIRNEMANN:  I guess maybe would be when my aunt Ruthie [Olds], Helen's younger sister, but I always call her my cousin 'cause Ruthie is just a year, maybe two years older than I am, but it's auntie Helen's sister. She's really my aunt. We've had a lot of good times together. This one here [showing a cradleboard] was a surprise. I had some visitors come, and she came in. My aunt Lena that made this, she says, "Inabelle, I got something for you. I came, and I brought you a souvenir to remember me by," and she came in with it.

PETERSON:         How were you related to this aunt?

STIRNEMANN:  They all belong to Nelli Slaven and Suzy Hicks and my hube and Annie Hickley and that bunch. They're all related. But, anyway, she thought enough of me to come and bring me a present. She made that one for Tulsa. She was a very loving person, and when she seen Tulsa all the time, she just loved him and was just very nice.

PETERSON:         Tulsa is your grandson?

STIRNEMANN:  Um-hum. He's eighteen now. He's a good kid. He has anything bothering him, he always comes and talks to grandma. But, his dad died, and because of that, his uncles--and I always tell my boys, 'You guys take care of Tulsa always. Don't be mean to him." And they do. They watch after him.

PETERSON:         It seems as though there's a very special relationship between grandparents, particularly grandmothers, and their grandchildren among the Paiute people. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and why you think that is?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't know why that is. It's just that I just love them. Each on their own merits. I love one for one reason, and I get mad at them for one reason. My little granddaughter now, I don't think she'll graduate this year. She's been pretty sick. She's a little bit younger than Tulsa.

PETERSON:         Why is she sick?

STIRNEMANN:  I have no idea. Her mother told me, but it's got a big long name to it. One of the nurses she works with at the hospital told Marcie, "You know, I have that. All you want to do is sleep. You're tired. Your body is tired."

PETERSON:         When you think back to your grandmother Alice, what are your happiest moments with her, or what do you think is the most important thing she's taught you?

STIRNEMANN:  Just being with her, and saving my life. When I'm ready to get a spanking, I go stand by my grandma, and she takes me and put me to her back so nobody could touch me. 'Cause we got beatings, and they call it child abuse now, but we just got spanked every day. A day didn't go by that we didn't get a spanking. Dad had a big belt that hanged in the closet. He got mad at us, the belt would come out, so we would hide the belt.

PETERSON:         How old were you when your grandmother died?

STIRNEMANN:  I was in Reno then. I don't know how old I was. Nobody told me anything about it until my girlfriend that I was living with in Reno--when I came home from work, she said, "Inabelle, did you know your grandma Alice died?" I says, "No."

PETERSON:         Nobody told you?

STIRNEMANN:  Nobody told me.

PETERSON:         How much time had passed?

STIRNEMANN:  She just read it in the newspaper that day. She had already been buried and stuff. She died in Schurz, and they said they tried to get a hold of me, but they didn't know where to get a hold of me, so I was never told until afterwards.

PETERSON:         Do you regret not having been there at the funeral?

STIRNEMANN:  Yeah. Always regretted that because she was always my favorite. Then, too, remember I told you that she put us on the map? She was no dummy. She was a smart lady. Real smart lady to me. Have you ever seen this book? [showing In the Shadow of Fox Peak, by Catherine Fowler] The best times that I remember my grandma is when we used to go to bed at night, and she would sleep on the floor. We'd all be sleeping on the floor, and she'd tell us Indian stories. We used to say, "Then what?" and she would tell us stories. And when there’s no more “then whats” then she would go to sleep. It's not like now. Nowadays a lot of the grandmas, "Well, you just have to wait till I'm ready," but not with her. She always put us first.

PETERSON:         What kinds of stories did she tell you? [End of tape 1]

STIRNEMANN:  She told us Indian stories, and she would tell us until everybody went to sleep. We'd all sleep. We'd all be laying around her on the floor. Then we'd say, "Then what?" And then there's no more "then whats" and then she would go to sleep. But that's where she always put us first. She'd never say, "No, I don't feel like it," or "I'll do it later." Lot of times, stories she repeated over and over night after night.

PETERSON:         Can you tell me some of those?

STIRNEMANN:  No, [sighing] 'cause I don't remember them that well now, and besides that Auntie Helen told it better than I can, but she had to translate it. It's good, but it's not as good as it was being in our own language because in our own language there was a lot of different things that you could say that you can't say in English 'cause it would make it to be a dirty story.

PETERSON:         Right. Right. Was there anything about certain animals?

STIRNEMANN:  Oh, animals, bears, owls, magpie, how the pine nuts got here and the magpie, they're all brothers and sisters. They all talked and everything. They were all at a gathering, and he pretended like he was sick or his knees hurt him, but anyway he took that pine nut, and he stuck it in his knees, and that's how the pine nuts got over here. They hid it.

PETERSON:         The male magpie?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't know what magpie it was. It was a magpie or a crow. But that’s how the pinenuts got here.

PETERSON:         Interesting. Wow! What about stories about coyotes?

STIRNEMANN:  The coyotes are crazy people. There's all kinds of coyote stories.

PETERSON:         Tell me the one you remember best?

STIRNEMANN:  Oh, no. [laughing] That's a dirty one. Well, not really dirty. Auntie Helen tells in there about this coyote. He was at a thing, and I don't remember why he did it, but all I remember is that he turned noho [egg] into a baby. He had it in a basket, and he had it all covered, and he says, "Let me see your baby." "No, my baby's asleep. You can't see it, because he made his penis into a baby." But, that's how the coyote are. They can do anything.

PETERSON:         Interesting. I heard somewhere that the coyote is almost like a portent to death. Is that correct?

STIRNEMANN:  I heard that, too, because when Leonard died, his mother had said there was two coyotes that ran in front of us this week. Leonard [Harrison] died, I think, it was on a Friday night, and we never paid attention to it.

PETERSON:         Who was Leonard?

STIRNEMANN:  That was Tulsa's dad. They had said something else, too. But remember I told you, well, Glenda was the one that was reminding me. She said, "Tell her about that one where they gave Leonard . . ." Leonard's mom and aunt cleansed Leonard's body. They gave him his bath and everything, and they dressed him. A lot of times when you go to a funeral, you touch them to say goodbye, and his mother was standing guard. She said, "No, don't touch him because he's all clean. We don't want no bad spirits to go with him." So, everybody didn't bother to touch him or anything. A lot of them wanted to. They tried, but Leonard's mom says, "No." So everybody didn't do it. I guess that's a Navajo's way. Then, too, that last night, the Navajos don't believe, if there's death in their immediate family like Leonard was, nobody in that family will cook. They had people come in and do the cooking for them. Their friends or something, and if it wasn't for the [Mormon] church I would have been in a real big mess, but the church volunteered for three meals a day. They all rotated, and they did a real good job doing that.

PETERSON:         So Leonard was Navajo?


PETERSON:         And how did he die?

STIRNEMANN:  In a car wreck.

PETERSON:         Very sad.

STIRNEMANN:  Yup. Then when they went, we had to stay up there three nights, and they didn't have to take a bath for five days. And everybody said, "Oh, I can't wait till the fifth day. I want to take a shower. I feel so dirty." The last night everybody stayed up all night telling stories about Leonard and what they did. Somewheres in the middle of the night, I don't remember what time it was, there were two great big screams twice, and then later on, his dad said that was Leonard saying goodbye. I guess his aunt--I don't know how she did it. Maybe she did it through him or what, but anyway she said that was Leonard saying goodbye.

PETERSON:         What did the screams sound like?

STIRNEMANN:  Just a scream. A real high pitched scream, and we says, "Oh, oh, somebody must be out celebrating." That's what we all said. And then later on, Leonard's dad said, "No, that was Leonard."

PETERSON:         So when you think about some of your relatives that have died, including your grandmother Alice and her friend, Wuzzie George, where do you think they are right now?

STIRNEMANN:  Hmm… I think they're in heaven.

PETERSON:         Do you think they're together still?

STIRNEMANN:  Everybody's together. There's no more fighting. There's no more anything. I think everybody's happy. That's what I believe. I think everybody is happy where they're at.

PETERSON:         Can you think for a moment about your direct descendants, the people who will come after you? Let's say, those who will be alive in a hundred years. Does it matter to you whether they're Indian or non-Indian?

STIRNEMANN:  It'd be nice if they would be Indians, but it's not going to happen. My grandson already has white girlfriends. My kids got white girlfriends. My oldest daughter married an Indian, and Robin's living with an Indian, so it really don't matter. I don't think it matters. I think it matters how they treat each other. If they're going to be good to each other, then that's fine.

PETERSON:         If you could tell these descendants one thing, what would it be?

STIRNEMANN:  To be good to one another. In this time right now, things are so bad down here. This reservation's got such real bad feelings right now, and I wish it would go away. I wish we could go back even fifty years where there's not so much frictions and jealousies and greed. I think the money is behind this whole thing. The money that we got paid to start our own businesses and stuff. Everybody wants a part of that. Everybody wants to be the one to say, "Well, I did this, and I did that." And hiding things--it really is bad right now. Have you heard?

PETERSON:         [nods yes] Can you tell me something that your grandmother Alice told you that you still remember?

STIRNEMANN:  She said, "What are you going to be?" I said, "I'm going to be a nurse." She said, "Well, you're going to be a nurse all right. You'll be nursing your baby." [laughing]

PETERSON:         Inabelle, I'd like to thank you so much for this interview on behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project.

STIRNEMANN:  You're welcome.

* * * * * * * * *

PETERSON:         This is Marianne Peterson of the Churchill County Oral History Project follow-up interviewing Inabelle Stirnemann at her home at 2500 Agency Road, Fallon, Nevada. The date is January 28, 1999. Inabelle, thank you for allowing me back into your home, and I'm going to ask you four more questions. First, what memories do you have of somebody that you called Hube? Annie Hickley?

STIRNEMANN:  My hube, Annie Hickley. They lived across the road from us. She lived with her daughter, Nellie Slaven, Joe Slaven. They were just regular typical Indian family. You'd go over there, and they'd feed you. When I start getting older, I always remember when to go over to go visit 'cause they'd be all ready to eat. I spent a lot of time walkin' over there, or sometimes they'd come over here to visit. Her and my grandma Nellie they used to braid rugs. I don't have that patience to sit down and do something like that that they would sit there, get all their rags and make rag rugs. I guess that's about all I can remember. remember a lot of little odds and ends.

PETERSON:         What kinds of rags did they use?

STIRNEMANN:  Just your cotton old clothes.

PETERSON:         And they would weave them together?

STIRNEMANN:  They'd tear it into strips, and they'd sew it up, and then they'd sit there and braid it. They'd make oval rugs, and a lot of times they'd put it on the loom and braid in and out on the big loom and they'd make sort of an oblong rug.

PETERSON:         Is Annie Hickley related to you on your mother's side or your father's side?

STIRNEMANN:  My mother's side.

PETERSON:         And who is your grandma? Nellie?

STIRNEMANN:  Grandma Nellie is my hube's daughter.

PETERSON:         How did your brother, Russell, help your father after he came out of school?

STIRNEMANN:  Helped irrigating. Just a typical farm boy come home and do the chores. When he got out of the Army, he came home and lived with my mom and dad. Somewhere along the line he met Iris, or he went to school with Iris, and then he started courting her. They got married, and they had two daughters. Right after the youngest daughter was born, Iris died. One of the main blood vessels in her ruptured. She went unconscious. She was like that till she died. The baby was born the third of July, and Iris died the eleventh of July. They had her on an iron lung to breathe on, and my mom and Russell would go up there to visit with her, try to go see her and everything, and she was just out of it. She had her baby early in the morning, I guess, and my mom and Russell took her up there. They said, "Well, we didn't bring any baby clothes, so we're going to go home and get the baby clothes." So they started back to Fallon, and when they got back to Fallon, the police were waiting for them on the highway and told them that his wife was in a coma.

PETERSON:         Oh, how terrible.

STIRNEMANN:  She was like that till the eleventh, and she passed away.

PETERSON:         What was Iris's maiden name?

STIRNEMANN:  Dann. She's one of the Danns from Beowawe. The Shoshone Indians with their claim. They're the ones that have the suit with the government. It's about twenty years old. It's been going on for years and years and years, but those two sisters are really strong blooded because they just have not buckled down to the government at all.

PETERSON:         Where did you go to collect magpie eggs?

STIRNEMANN:  Oh, everywhere down here. Did you ever see a magpie's nest?

PETERSON:         No.

STIRNEMANN:  There's one back here in this locust tree, and they use all kinds of twigs and leaves and whatever to make their nests. Some of them are pretty big, but that's where they make their nests. You climb up in the tree, and you steal their eggs. I used to sell them to the extension office, and they used to pay me ten cents an egg. They said magpies were a nuisance.

PETERSON:         How many eggs were usually in one nest?

STIRNEMANN:  Umm, maybe six. I don't really remember. That's been so long ago. There's magpie nests all over on this reservation, and we used to just stop and see a nest. "Let's go stop in there." Except one time a snake beat me to it, and I stuck my hand in there. Ahhhhhhhhhh! My auntie Eva took me. We were off the reservation. "Oh, this is not very high. I can lift you." So, started in there, and there was a snake in it. [laughing]

PETERSON:         How old were you then?

STIRNEMANN:  Maybe about ten.

PETERSON:         Do you know what kind of snake it was?

STIRNEMANN:  Probably a gopher snake. We have no poisonous snakes around here.

PETERSON:         Do you still enjoy drawing?

STIRNEMANN:  I do, but I haven't done anymore of it. I keep saying I'm going to get started.

PETERSON:         Did you do the pictures on the wall? [referring to one painting of a pheasant and one of a horse and man]


PETERSON:         Those are beautiful.

STIRNEMANN:  My kids have bought every one of my paintings that I've done, but I just haven't got into it again.

PETERSON:         You just don't have the time?

STIRNEMANN:  I'm just not making the time, because when I was into that I was making time. I just forgot everything else and was doing it. When we took the thing, there was a lady [Pat Ladd] in town that was teaching painting, so I took the painting class from her. She had all kinds of pictures and stuff. Instead of making it exactly like the picture, I would reverse the pictures around so it doesn't look like I copied from anybody else's. I entered one in our county fair, and I got a purple ribbon on it. When I went to pick it up, I said, "Where's my picture at?" She says, "Oh, we got it hid. A lady offered to buy it." I said, "I'm sorry." One of my best friends worked at the bank, and Mamie had just retired, so I gave it to Mamie as a retirement present. Like I said, I don't make it exactly like somebody else' painting. I just make changes here and there so they don't look identical, you know. This lady she says, "Oh, that's so beautiful." She wanted to buy it. I was really kind of proud of myself because somebody wanted to buy it.

PETERSON:         Oh, definitely. Do you remember what year that was?

STIRNEMANN:  Oh, probably ten, fifteen years ago. Then I also painted a milk can that I got a purple thing on. That was for home decoration painting. I painted a farm scene around the big ten-gallon milk can. My brother has that one. I gave it to him.

PETERSON:         Who was Mamie?

STIRNEMANN:  Mamie Buhlig. She worked for First National Bank of Nevada for years, and then she retired. That's who I gave that picture to 'cause she was a good friend of mine.

PETERSON:         Did you ever help to make a rabbit blanket?

STIRNEMANN:  No, but I've slept under one. My Grandma Alice used to make them.

PETERSON:         You mentioned your dad doing things for the betterment of not just himself, but everyone. Can you give me an example of that?

STIRNEMANN:  He used to work for everybody doing farm work, but on the reservation for a long time he was a tribal chairman. In those days they never got paid for doing tribal chairman or anything like that. Anybody that sat on it. They got voted in, but they didn't get paid like they do now. I can't remember all the stuff that he's done. He used to love to play hand game. He played hand game all over. Him and my mom they'd go gambling. They'd go to Bishop or anywheres just to play hand game. My dad had a beautiful voice, and then he was also a cowboy. My mom used to tell us, "What did you see in the Boss, anyway? You should have seen your dad. He was so handsome." She says that's how come she fell in love with him because he was so handsome.

PETERSON:         Oh, that's sweet.

STIRNEMANN:  And he's always bringing somebody home. He'd meet somebody in town and bring them home. They'd stay here and they'd eat here. They would help him for a bit, and then they'd get tired and they'd move on some place else. He just did a lot of things. Right now when you asked me, my mind went blank, but I know he did a lot of things.

PETERSON: Do you remember the name of the man who performed your brother's funeral?

STIRNEMANN: The guy that said the prayer is Popeye McCloud. Manuel McCloud. He died about a year ago.

PETERSON:         When did your brother die?

STIRNEMANN:  Probably like four years ago now. Might be even five.

PETERSON:         What was it about your brother's funeral that really touched your heart?

STIRNEMANN:  When Popeye talked Paiute. I think Popeye was about from here to you. Everything he said was in Paiute. We were all taught when we were younger until we started going to school, then we started losing our language. We understand, all of us, my brothers that are gone and the ones that I've got left, we understand everything if an old person can talk to us. We understand what they're saying, and nowadays these kids don't understand anything. We've lost that. I try. Sometimes I'll talk, and they laugh. They have a relative over in Schurz that every time I see him, he started making me talk, and I make all kinds of mistakes. I know in my mind how to say it, but sometimes I have a hard time spitting it out. You know, you don't say it for a long time, and if you don't say it right, it means something else.

PETERSON:         Right. Do you recall how old you were the day you met Margaret? You said that she came with her van and her daughter.

STIRNEMANN:  This house was being built. That must have been about 1969. We were living--it wasn't that trailer, but we had one over there when she came out with her stuff. She had a recorder like this, and she had my grandmother talking, but it was done with a car battery. The one she played for us that day was between her and Wuzzie George, and she said, "Well, you can tell who the strongest person in there is," because Wuzzie would say something, and my grandma would say, "No, that's not it. It's this." Anytime that Wuzzie said something, and it wasn't right, my grandmother would argue with her and tell her it wasn't right.

PETERSON:         Can you recall which area of the mountains you went pine nutting in?

STIRNEMANN:  Probably just east of here. We go down here in the Stillwater Mountains. I barely remember that. My dad used to get an old flatbed truck, and he'd take the old ladies. Sometimes when he was just going to take them over the weekend, then we'd all go. He dropped them off, and they'd have food for maybe a week, maybe two weeks depending on how long they're going to be out there. We used to go east like toward East Gate, Carroll Summitt. They have a name for all those places in Paiute where they used to go. I know there was one place they call poa aba, and it's wormy water, but I don't know where that's at. I just remember poa aba.

PETERSON:         Where did you meet your first husband?


PETERSON:         And what was the date that you first married?

STIRNEMANN:  I don't remember that. We weren't married very long. About a year.

PETERSON:         Do you recall the names of your first husband's parents?

STIRNEMANN:  Lucy Lawry was his mother, and Bert Numan was his father.

PETERSON:         Where did you meet your second husband?

STIRNEMANN:  In a bar downtown. [laughing]

PETERSON:         Here in Fallon?


PETERSON:         Do you recall the date of your marriage?

STIRNEMANN:  October 28, 1958.

PETERSON:         And where is your second husband from?

STIRNEMANN:  The Los Angeles area. Long Beach [California]. He's been in the Air Force ever since he was about seventeen. When he got out [of high school] he went right into the service, and he stayed there.

PETERSON:         Do you know the names of your husband's parents?

STIRNEMANN: John G. Stirnemann - [presumably to her husband] Isn’t that right? Wasn’t it John - and his mother's name is Lillian. She's an Irish lady. A red-headed Irish lady. Is that right or did you lie to me?

PETERSON: Somebody mentioned that you have a cousin that was a medicine man.

STIRNEMANN: Mike Kaiser and Ben Charley were medicine men. They're related to me. The one you're talking about is Audrey [Jack]. When she got growed up and everything else, she really went into the Indian stuff. They went to Indian powwows and everything else, and when they went to sweat, she would go sweat. A lot of these--I forgot what they're called--she'd go to these sun dance. They're the ones that would use peyote, and they'd have their own little meetings. Audrey got into that, so she would go sweat, and they would smoke their peyote and do whatever. Then one time, I don't know if she had a falling out with this Indian doctor or what, but her mom used to live in town there, not on the colony, but right close to the canal down there. That one year Audrey got real, real sick. She vomited and the white doctors couldn't find nothing wrong with her physically. Then she kept getting worse and worse, so they contacted some Indian doctors that travelled. That's all they do is travel from reservation to reservation. They're Indian doctors from different places. There was some in Carson [City], so they took Audrey to that Indian doctor in Carson. So he said, "Well, when you guys go home, I'll go home with you guys. Show me where you guys live." So, when they drove up, they drove in the yard, and he said he could feel it. There was a great big cottonwood tree standing here, and they had to drive like this and around like that, and the house was over on this side. When they stopped, he got out of the car and walked to the thing, he says, "There's something here by this tree." The closer he got, the more stronger feelings he would get. Then when he started looking, he found a piece of rock, and it had Audrey's hair all tied around it. Somebody had witched her. One of those Indian doctors that she had gone to before. She must have done something to make him angry to do that to her. So, anyway, this doctor he doctored her and everything else, and they got rid of that rock. Then he smoked the house, and after that she started getting better again.

PETERSON:         What was this doctor's name?

STIRNEMANN:  I have no idea. I just know he was an Indian doctor, but he wasn't from around here.

PETERSON:         When you say, "he smoked the house," can you describe that?

STIRNEMANN:  What they do, they use sweet grass or they use sagebrush, dry sagebrush, and they burn it. It wouldn't burn. It would just smoke, and they'd go around, and that's used as a medicine to ward off the evil spirits, I guess. That's what they used when they went over there. That doctor went around the house and into each room, and he got rid of the spirits, and after that Audrey started getting well again.

PETERSON:         And how old were you during this time?

STIRNEMANN:  I was already grown up. It happened maybe ten years ago, maybe fifteen years ago. It's pretty recent, before her mother moved out to Schurz.

PETERSON:         And how is Audrey related to you?

STIRNEMANN:  She's my uncle's daughter.

PETERSON:         And what is her last name?

STIRNEMANN:  Jack. That's my father's half brother.

PETERSON:         Do you remember the year that your grandmother, Alice, died?

STIRNEMANN:  I was in my early twenties, I guess. About twenty-five probably.

PETERSON:         Have you belonged to any organizations over the years?


PETERSON:         What religious beliefs do you practice today?

STIRNEMANN:  Mormon. Even though I don't go to church. They come out to see me all the time, and that's my preference.

PETERSON:         The people at the church?

STIRNEMANN:  Yeah. They're very good people. They have been to me. I've heard a lot of friends of mine, everybody talk negatively about the Mormons and stuff, but I don't believe them because I see for myself what they've done and all the people that they've helped. So I don't argue with them. I just listen to them and keep the peace.

PETERSON:         That's a good idea. Did you encounter any prejudice when you were growing up?

STIRNEMANN:  Yep. Lots of it. We were little kids then. When we were little, they used to call it the Forty-Niners. They'd have a big celebration in town. There'd be like a rodeo and parade and all that stuff. Any Indian that goes uptown, they wouldn't serve you in the restaurants. I remember my dad going to the back door. At that time, too, there used to be trees along the back alleys of the clubs and restaurants because most of the restaurants and the bars were on the other side of the street. They're still like that.

Everything's on one side. Now the town is getting deserted. A lot of them are closing up in town. Just like in Reno. A lot of the places that have been there. My dad would go in and order food, and always when we'd go we always have to take a blanket or something or else sit on the salt grass and eat our dinner because we weren't allowed inside the restaurants or bars. Then later on as we grew up, when they started getting a little bit lenient, well, then they would let . . . at that time, too, they had these booths that had you pull the curtain so they couldn't see who they were being waited on. I'd say there's still a lot of prejudice in Fallon. Especially the older white people. They can sit there and argue with you, but you know who's prejudiced and who's not by just a feeling. Even now there's still a lot of it. It's not as bad as it used to be. In fact, for my own self, when I was going to school, I very seldom ever had anybody call me a dirty little Indian, but there was one that did that I remember. This was in the sixth, seventh, eighth grade, there used to be these Portuguese boys. They used to do that, and we used to turn around and say, "You dirty old Wops," and we'd turn around and run and have to go down to the girls' bathroom. (laughs)

PETERSON:         That's a good place to hide. Going back to the medicine man for a moment, did anyone ever explain to you or to your cousin what was the significance of the rock with the hair around it?

STIRNEMANN:  Well, I guess he just witched her that way. He put a curse on her, and that was his way of doing it

PETERSON:         Well, I think this once again wraps up the interview. Inabelle, thank you again on the behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project. Thank you very much.

Original Format

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1:01:37, 11:08, 28:44

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Stirnemann, Inabelle Steve oral history transcript.docx
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Churchill County Museum Association, “Inabelle Steve Stirnemann Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed February 5, 2023,