Paiute Family Video
In the past the NCPC has helped to fund a video project entitled "Following the Seasons" to videotape the stories of the Paiute elders...

About the Paiute Family Video Project

Randy BurnsThe NCPC has helped to fund a video project entitled "Following the Seasons" that videotaped the stories of the Paiute elders. Says Randy Burns, a Northern Paiute: "From our old people, our grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents, we’ve heard stories that we remember. These ancient stories taught us to listen, be respectful of all living things placed on Mother Earth. These stories were usually told at bedtime, and we heard these stories over and over. It is always a joy to hear them be told in our Paiute language. All these stories made us who we are today. They made us listen, be respectful and this goes on today."

Randy is concerned that these stories, the old ways will be lost to the younger generation. Randy writes: "As family elders we acknowledge our ever changing family unit (MTV, gangs, hip hop culture). Many of our young don’t want to learn about our history, culture and are even too embarrassed if our Paiute language is spoken at home or in public, which is sad to say the least. It is our family goal to leave behind our rich heritage for the young ones who in their own time will learn and listen to our life stories based on our teachings."

The filming began in April 2006, starting with forty questions for the elders. So far they have videotaped nine Paiute stories at local family gatherings. The project was supported with a grant from the NCPC.

Randy Burns writes:

"As teachers we must continue to teach and show our children the old ways. Let them remember the old days of hardship and share with your children how our Grandparents had to survive on so little. Show them where our old people camped out to hunt rabbit, groundhog and deer, where the old people gathered acorn, pine nut, choke cherry, wild plum and where they gathered native plants. Most of all share the stories that our old people taught us on how to preserve; how to respect and dress a deer, clean and store pinenuts, properly pick and prepare acorn. As teachers, we must share these stories like it was yesterday. We must not give up hope as teacher to our children and their children.

"As elders, we must tell our children about our relationships; so our young people won't marry their cousins or relatives. All these teachings of our family history help preserve our traditional moral values and help our younger generation understand the meaning of life. The value and the importance of hard work our parents instilled in us have proven to be a survival skill that will carry us through life. I remember my mother telling me about getting a good education, because she said, "My son, you have to live in the two worlds (White and Indian) but always remember who you are and never forget where you came from.

"In our own lives, we may have experienced hardship and now we could look back on how we survived and what made us more determinate to be proud native individuals. All these values and beliefs will follow us through life, as we journey into the unknown..."

About Randy Burns:

Randy Burns is a Northern Paiute native American and a member of the Pyramid Lake Indian Tribe. In July of 1975, along with the late Barbara Cameron, Burns founded Gay American Indians, an organization that serves the Gay and Lesbian Native American community.

Randy Burns' activist career started as an outspoken student leader while attending San Francisco State University. He then became an activist while still as a student, he interviewed with the Nevada State Journal. Randy has also written some of his own editorials, including the introductions to such books as "Living The Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology," "Changing Ones" and "Third and Fourth Genders in Native North Americans." Burns plans to publish his own full work of literature in the near future entitled "You Never Heard Me Sing", a portrait of two-spirit people.

Included on Burns' long list of activist work are positions on some prominent local government advisory committees. Over the years, Randy has volunteered his services to various nonprofit agencies and worked with many Native American programs in the California Bay Area.