BBQ is at the heart of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, and it has been for decades
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The Walker River Paiute Tribe held its Pinenut Festival on Sept. 15-18. The annual event was a time for horseshoe contests, kids’ games, and a pit-style barbecue.
Mike Lowery leads the construction crew for the Walker River Paiute Tribe. During the day, he and his crew make sure home maintenance on the reservation is up to date.
But during the Pinenut Festival, they stood in front of a large pit of logs engulfed in flames. They prepared the pit for 500 pounds of beef that were lowered in around midnight.
“When you see it feed the community, it’s awesome.” Lowery said, “Then teaching these guys how to do it all – that’s a blast, too.”
First, they threw in enough logs to create a pile of coals nearly knee-high. After that, they put the seasoned beef on a giant metal rack that’s roughly the size of a small compact truck. That was lowered into the ground and covered by a metal sheet. Then more coals were made, and then it was buried.
“Most of it is watching and making sure you don’t have logs there because if you have logs in there, it’ll burn the meat,” he said.
The tradition of pit-style BBQ runs deep for members of the Paiute Tribe, including elder Togo Victor Williams.
He’s a retired veteran but at one point it was his job to get the pits ready for the festival.
Ever since it was a colony, he said, there’s always been someone cooking for guests, like his great-grandmother. She would go out with a rifle.
“She would come home with a wagon load of rabbits,” Williams said, “I’m assuming that was how the barbecue started because, you know, they had to feed a lot of people, so she had to get a lot of rabbits.”
The custom is that anytime there are visitors, you offer them food and water. The Pinenut Festival also brings in dancers, family, vendors, and plenty of visitors.
“They come from throughout Nevada, California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, because the Paiute people, they’re pretty scattered throughout the western United States,” he said.
The festival started out small, but with more and more visitors coming each year, they never run out of food and hospitality.