Meeting the Paiutes 2 – Nixon, PyramidLake Reservation.

First view of the lake The church and church hall The cemetery The memorial to war veterans. Myself by one of the few remaining crosses Gareth put up around the reservation. The church – another of Gareth’s crosses in front Church interior. The notice board.

On our return from McDermitt we stayed, for a couple of days, at Fernley, the largest town within striking distance of Nixon and Wadsworth, where Gareth had spent most of his time. It was to Fernley that he had to go to collect his mail and to access any reasonable source of supplies. It took around 25 minutes to drive to Nixon, which sits at the bottom end of Pyramid Lake. Our first view of the lake was breathtaking, even from a distance. We crested small hill and there, at the end of a long, straight road, was this wonderful expanse of water, surrounded by rugged mountains. The road seemed to be pointing at Anaho island in the lake. The Paiute people believe the lake to be spiritual and the mountains are known as “the ancient ones”.

I had arranged our meeting with Lorraine Wadsworth. Lorraine and I had become friends over the years, writing to each other and telephoning. I had contributed to “St Mary’s the Virgin”, a centennial celebration project charting the history of the church from 1892 to 1992, compiled by Lorraine, Betty Aleck, Renelda James and Dorothy and Sherry Ely. I had also been happy to contribute to the fund to raise a memorial in the cemetary to commemmorate those Paiute Tribe veterans who had fallen in the Indian Wars, the first and second world wars and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Recognition of tribal members who had served in the armed forces and fallen was something Brother David had always involved himself in.

Lorraine introduced us to Dorothy Ely, Rosemary Joe, Gwenn Pancho and other members of their families. It being Sunday, we began our meeting by attending a short service in the church, after which we retired to the Church Hall for lunch. Generously, a lunch had been prepared for us and,  as we enjoyed Paiute hospitality, we chatted and looked at old photographs. The room we were in was the one in which Brother David had distrubuted the clothing donated by his Hollywood friends and where he would run film shows and organise club activities. After lunch we recorded the interviews which you can see on the Media page. Surprisingly to us, the priest currently attached to the church declined to meet us.

I took a moment to visit the cemetary and to look at the War Veterans Memorial to which I had contributed. It was a beautiful cemetary – colourful and peaceful. As I walked around I saw many names which had featured in letters between Brother David and his beloved Paiute people. I was especially sad to see the grave of Elizabeth Lawery. Elizabeth had been a special friend of Brother David and he had tried his hardest to protect and help her vulnerable son, Theodore a boy who by his writing appears to have been simple or retarded. Brother David could so easily have been buried here and he would have wanted that. Sadly it did not happen. Why? You’ll have to read my book to find out!

The testimony we heard that day was powerful indeed and moving. It was extraordinary that such thoughts and feelings were being expressed forty-five years after Brother David had left Nixon. It was no less extraordinary to find a glass fronted notice board the baize of which was covered with cuttings and photographs of Brother David. A wall hanging which bore the legend “Bisha Num”, Paiute for “A good feeling”, summed up the experience.


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