Pyramid Lake 1

Production Date: 
Run Time: 

Establishing shot:
Named locations:
Pyramid Lake, the Truckee River (Dabayóduwe in Washo), the Carson River (Watahshemu in Washo) (NOTE: Other locations may have been named, but, if so, they are inaudible. See "Named Individuals.")
Major themes covered: Maintenance of Pyramid Lake after the diversion of the Truckee river was discontinued; Paiute rights to Pyramid Lake; Paiute regulation of Pyramid Lake (recreation, fishing, etc.)

Print Resources:

Bath, Joyce and Catherine Fowler. "Pyramid Lake Northern Paiute Fishing: The Ethnographic Record." Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, 3.2 (Winter 1981): 176-186. Print.

*This essay documents the several ways in which the water, and in particular, Pyramid Lake, plays a role in the subsistence practices of Northern Paiute tribes. The essay provides information about the materials used for the fishing, the types of fishes and animals that play a significant role in Paiute subsistence, and the geographical conditions of the lands and waters inhabited by the Northern Paiute. This essay is contemporary with the production of the Pyramid Lake films and it complements the perspectives and views expressed in the films.


Grayson, Donald. The Great Basin: A Natural Prehistory. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2011. Print.

*"The Great Basin, centering on Nevada and including substantial parts of California, Oregon, and Utah, gets its name from the fact that none of its rivers or streams flow to the sea. This book synthesizes the past 25,000 years of the natural history of this vast region."

Hermann, Ruth. The Paiutes of Pyramid Lake: A Narrative Concerning A Western Nevada Indian Tribe. San Jose, CA: Harlan-Young Press, 1972. Print.

*This source provides a comprehensive history of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe. The book was published shortly before the Pyramid Lake films were produced and accurately reflects and challenges the views expressed in the films.


Liebling, A. J. A Reporter at Large: Dateline: Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Ed. Elmer Rusco. Reno: Univ. of Nevada Press, 2000. Print.

*"In 1949, journalist A.J. Liebling stayed at a guest ranch on the shores of Pyramid Lake, a beautiful desert lake surrounded by the reservation of the Paiute Indians, and became fascinated by the colorful ambiance of Nevada. His reporter's curiosity was engaged by a bitter dispute then raging between the Paiutes and non-Indian squatters who had settled on and were claiming the most agriculturally productive lands of the reservation and the waters feeding the lake that was the economic and spiritual heart of the Paiutes' ancient culture." "A Reporter at Large is a record of one of Nevada's most enduring and significant debates over the uses of the land and the precious water that nourishes it."

[retrieved from

Online Resources:

*This is the official website for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. This website contains a wide range of information about the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the relationship between subsistence practices and Pyramid Lake.

*This is the Government's website for the State of Nevada. This particular link leads to information about the history and physical properties of the Truckee River. The Truckee River is the source of Pyramid Lake, and it consists primarily of the run-off from the Lake Tahoe area.

*The National Park Service's page for Pyramid Lake and the Pyramid Lake Paiute.

*This is the Special Collections website for the University of Nevada, Reno. This particular link provides information about the Guide to the Records of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Collection No. NC16. The link provides basic information about the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, as well as an extensive list of sources housed at the University of Nevada, Reno. The records of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe were donated to the Special Collections Department at the University's library in 1964.

*This is a link to the journalist, John Pilger's website. This particular link leads to a film produced around the same time as the Pyramid Lake films were likely to have been produced. The film provides another perspective on the Pyramid Lake crisis, a slightly exaggerated version of the perspective documented in the Pyramid Lake films. Nevertheless, this source provides important historical background on Pyramid Lake and the rerouting of the Truckee River. The film also features interviews with Paiute people and other interested parties.

*This is the final report of the Truckee-Carson River Basin Study, which was made to the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission by Jeremy Pratt of Clearwater Consulting Corporation in 1997. This report provides detailed information about the history of the river and the history of the controversy over water resources in the area. The Truckee River was once rerouted, forcing Pyramid Lake and the Paiute Tribe to suffer the loss of valuable resources associated with the health of the Lake. The river has since been restored to its original course.

*This is another source for those interested in perusing the legal history associated with the production of the Pyramid Lake films. From the report:

"The Newlands Project Planning Study (Study) Special Report is a study conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). The Study’s intent is to formulate, develop, and evaluate a range of alternatives to deliver water to Newlands Project (Project) water rights holders while also reducing risk to local communities from operating the Project’s Truckee Canal. The purpose of this Special Report is to describe that process and present Study findings.

Planning studies help identify and evaluate different ways to address a problem or issue in a manner that could be supported by decision makers, stakeholders, and Congress before funding more detailed studies or projects. Thus, the results of this Study may be used to inform decisions regarding the Newlands Project, including the extent of repairs to the Truckee Canal and its future operation; the report is informational only and is not intended to provide a specific recommended action. If Congress chooses to authorize and appropriate funds in the future for a feasibility study, construction, or other activities, this report would provide important context and guidance for undertaking those activities and any related environmental reviews."

*This is a short piece on the environmental significance of terminal lakes, and, in particular, the environmental and communal significance of Pyramid Lake. Written by Mike Strobel.

*A link to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' news page. This particular link leads to a few stories that surrounded the signing of the Truckee River Operating Agreement in 2008. There is also a video embedded on the site that documents the signing ceremony.

*This is the Truckee River Operating Agreement from 2008. Again, this source/document will be valuable for those interested in charting the history of the exploitation and reclamation of water resources in the Truckee River Basin/Pyramid Lake region(s).

*A link to the Comprehensive Resource Management Plan for Washoe County, Nevada. This document was prepared by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2005.

*This link provides information about a talk given at the 2011 Vine Deloria, Jr. Distinguished Scholars Series by Karletta Chief of the Dept. of Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona. Dr. Chief presented “The Vulnerability of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Water Resources to Climate Change: Analysis of Perception, Power, and Influence.” This link also provides a short synopsis of her study and contact information for Dr. Chief.

*This is a recent web article from Hatch Magazine discussing the current state of the Lahontan Trout and Pyramid Lake. The Lahontan Trout were thought to be extinct during the time that the Truckee River was rerouted, but they have since made a comeback and are now (close to) thriving in Pyramid Lake. This species of trout is indigenous to Pyramid Lake and during ancient times other Indian tribes would travel from far and wide to fish for Lahontan in the springtime.

*A link to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's website. This particular link provides a scientific profile of the Lahontan cutthroat trout.

*This is the website for the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the U.S. Department of the Interior). This particular link provides information about the status of Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-cui, another type of fish that is unique to Pyramid Lake.

*This is a link to several articles that have appeared on the Indian Country website about the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

*A link to an article in the New York Times from April 2013. The article discusses the current status of the Lahontan cutthroat trout and fishing at Pyramid Lake.

*The website for Pyramid Lake Fisheries.

--Emily Thomas, 2013