Searching for trade beads in NE Nevada

Shoshone Moccasins, 1878, with seed beads decoration

Shoshone Moccasins, 1878, with seed beads decoration

Shoshone Moccasins from 1922 with quill work and seed beads

Shoshone Moccasins from 1922 with quill work and seed beads

While traveling anywhere, but this time west through the state of Nevada, Owen and I like to check out local museums and I’m always on the search for trade bead collections whenever there’s a display about the Indians native to that area.  The Shoshone Indians ranged down into eastern Nevada to hunt Elk and trade. The NE Nevada Museum had a pretty good display by the Shoshone Indians but since all of the display was modern material we didn’t see anything historical. There was quite a lot of modern seed beads used in the display.  I know that although some tribes preferred small pony or little seed beads there were larger trade beads traded with the Shoshones.  There is a wonderful website on Shoshone beadwork with lots of pictures of the old works of art.  http://www.windriverhistory.org   I didn’t see the dentalium shell “beads” that I thought I would since I do know that they were traded east to the Shoshone from the coast tribes.  We’re still on the Trade bead history search and lovin’ it.

Will James, And Rough is a Might Tame Name, 1928  Pencil illustration for All in a Day's Riding. The Hays Collection)

Will James, And Rough is a Might Tame Name, 1928 Pencil illustration for All in a Day’s Riding. The Hays Collection)

Since I come from long-time Cowboy stock I like to hear and read everything I can about Cowboys and one of the best known and famous Cowboy storyteller /artists was Will James (1892-1942).  Owen & I learned of a fabulous collection of Will James’ art being shown in a museum in Elko Nevada and took an opportunity to search it out. We found the collection at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in downtown Elko, NV. The collection of drawings and paintings along with sketches from letters he wrote and notes he took was awesome! On display also were a large collection of books and stories he’d written.  In my opinion, the guy was prolific as he’s written 24 books and a huge amount of illustrations, drawings and paintings. I love his style of drawing, the incredible single strong lines and the ability to capture the action and posture of both men and animals with the least amount of fuss!  On the site www.willjames.org  it’s stated, “His words and pictures touched the hearts and minds of youths and adults alike. His life and stories prompted many young men to follow their own dreams in the great American West.”  Owen’s step dad was one of them, but that’s another story.

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3 Responses to “Searching for trade beads in NE Nevada”

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  1. Mario says:

    Great post, loved the link to know something about Will James

  2. Owen says:

    I will have to tell some Elko stories, although they have nothing to do with trade beads. I visited Elko twice in my younger days and my car broke down there both times, so I got superstitious about the place and tried to avoid traveling through there if I could. In the early 1980’s we were living in Pleasant Grove UT, and my step father asked me to help him survey some mining claims in Nevada. We left very early in the morning and stopped for lunch in Elko, so I was telling Dad my hard luck Elko stories while we ate lunch. He was not impressed.
    He told me that he was not very fond of Elko either. The story goes that when he was a lad of 17 or 18 he, like every kid in America, wanted to be a cowboy. Now Dad ran away from home when he was 13, so he was very good at riding freight trains and Hoboing around, and he had read some of Will James books, then he learned that Will James had a big ranch near Elko, so he was going to get a job on his ranch and be a real cowboy. While riding in a boxcar he met another man who was older than he, and they talked away the long slow hours. He seemed to be a very nice man.
    When they arrived in Elko the older man said “C’mon I’ll buy you a drink.” They went into a bar where the man proceeded to slam down shot after shot of whiskey, until he could hardly sit the bar stool. Finally the bartender told him he could have no more whiskey as he was too drunk, at which point the man pulled out a gun and shot the bartender in the face! Dad realized he had been seen by many coming in with this man, and would be wanted and maybe hung right along with him so he bolted. He managed to get on a train, but not in a car he got “on the rods”, which are the steel rods underneath the box car, a very dangerous place to ride! Then he told me he did not come back to Elko for about 40 years!

    • Janet Walker says:

      Oh Yeah! Holy Crow! Those were tough times. It was probably what year, Owen? After Prohibition, ya think? (Movin’ kinda’ fast ya don’t suppose he saw any trade beads or Will James do ya! Ha-ha:) !

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