Remembering the life of Harold Earl Miller (June 14, 1927 – Dec. 26, 2018)
RENO, Nev. — My name is Raynell Miller, and I am a member of the Trout Eater People of the Walker River Paiute Tribe. My parents are Irwin and Karen Miller. My paternal grandparents are William Bill Miller and Nellie Sides Miller. My maternal grandparents are Henry Tom and Christine Celestine Tom.
I am writing to share some of the stories of my uncle, Harold Earl Miller.
“Pah Tsenu Gwa,” which means “Blowing Sand,” was his given Indian name, which he inherited from his Grandfather, Pah Tsenu Gwa, as he was the oldest born son. Harold shared that he was born by Wilson Canyon around the area of Nordyke. His grandfather Pah Tsenu Gwa (aka Johnny Miller) was from Schurz (Agai Dicutta Numu – Walker River Paiute Tribe). His family supported themselves by working at different ranches while his Grandfather worked at the Mason Valley Ranch. That’s where he inherited his English name, “Johnny Miller.”
They mostly lived off the land, by hunting wild game and picking pine nuts, berries and whatever was available. Harold also worked on some of the ranches doing ranch work and then worked in construction.
Harold attended the Walker River School, then went to the Pyramid Lake School, then back to Schurz, then to Stewart Indian School (aka Beans College), then on to the University of Nevada, Reno under its culture program.
Harold wanted people to remember him for his culture with the Native Songs and our Native Language. He grew up with his grandparents and always spoke Paiute. He was mixed with different Tribes — Kuizatika’ah Numu-Mono Lake, Northern Paiute (Agai Dicutta Numu) and Mason Valley Paiute (Taboosee Dicutta Numu).
When asked what was your best accomplishment in life, Harold answered, “Just to be alive,” and that he helped write two books on the Paiute Language.
Harold’s one piece of advice that he would like to pass on is: “Don’t forget your culture and native language.” If you know your culture and your native language, you will never be lost. The main thing he would like to see for the future of Schurz is for everyone be knowledgeable of their culture and native language. Schurz was and will forever be home.
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Harold signed up for the U.S. Marines when he was 17 years of age He lied so he could serve. His dad, William Bill Miller, signed the paper. He served in the Marines in Japan and Iwo Jima. He was wounded in Iwo Jima during the World War II.
He enlisted in San Francisco on the second day of September 1943. At that time, he was an expert rifle man, and his service area was the Pacific Area from Dec. 6, 1943 to Dec. 3, 1945. He was wounded in action on July 21, 1944, and he received his Honorable Discharge from the Marines in San Diego as a Corporal on the 20th of December 1945.
Years later, following his discharge, Harold loaned his military uniform to his buddy, the late Mr. Frances Allen of Bishop, California, to use in a parade. Some time following the parade, Allen’s house burned down, along with Harold’s military uniform and his medals.
He hadn’t seen his medals that he earned for his service in the Marines since November 1963. However, on his 90th birthday, family and friends joined in celebration of the Return of Harold Miller’s Military Medals on a special day June 14, 2016, at the Walker River Paiute Tribe’s Community Center in Schurz.
Ms. Shundean Emm sang the National Anthem; the VFW Post #6825 and Ladies Auxiliary conducted the ceremony and the Miss Indian Walker River and Lil Miss Pinenut Festival presented the medals. The Agai Dicutta Tuamuhvi Nobe (Trout Eater Children’s House, aka Youth Center) children held hands and danced the friendship circle dance in Harold’s honor.
In later life, Harold taught the Paiute Language and Culture. For a period of time, he taught classes at the University of Nevada Reno, where in his ‘70s he was certified as an instructor. Other places that he taught were at the Walker River Paiute Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
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I would like to share some of the our many conversations Harold and I had over the years.
One day, Harold was at the Agai Dicutta Elders Center where he frequented to visit and partake in the elder lunch. He was always giving us orders, and on this day the topic was of his funeral was discussed.
He said that he would put Alberta “Cookie” Quintero in charge of the cry dance. Cookie joked with him that it’s too cold to die and the ground is too hard and they both laughed. Lorren Sammaripa was given the task of digging the grave. When Harold told him that was what he was supposed to do, Lorren and Harold chuckled.
Harold would share many stories with all who would listen. Even during sad times, he would remind us all to try hard. He said, “when the old ones come for me, don’t cry, as I have lived a long full life. I am ready to go to the spirit world, I am waiting for the old ones to come for me.”
He gave me the assignment of telling the story of the Milky Way. There are many versions of the story of the Milky Way, but, Harold wanted me to read it aloud for the Little Indians (the grandkids) to always remember.
Harold has shared the story of the Milky Way many different times. He says that the old ones told him that when our family and friends pass on and we begin our journey to the spirit world at night, you look up into the sky and see the Milky Way, where there is a big celebration. All the sickness is gone, and everyone is dancing, celebrating and greeting those who have passed to this wonderful place.
When you see the Milky Way, you send your prayers to your family and friends who are all gathered celebrating at the Milky Way. Hence, all the clusters of stars and light are the dust of our family and friends that are singing and dancing in the sky.
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Harold missed his paternal grandparents, Pah Tsenu Gwa (Blowing Sand) and Tsi’a’bi’ba wu’nuu (Stand By The Wild Rose); his siblings on his mother’s side, Kathryn Moser, Oscar Moser, Elvira Moser, Edward Emm, Vivian Emm Whitney, Elwood Emm, Sr., Carol Emm Rambeau and Eugene Jody Emm Sr.; and his baby brother on his father’s side, Irwin Landis Miller.
He made many visits to the Schurz Cemetery to visit Irwin, and at times he would be found sitting in his recliner looking out the window with tears.
He truly loved his boys, William “Billy” Miller and Kenneth “Kenny” Miller. They were always in his thoughts. He loved his sister Margaret Emm, whom he talked about often of going to stay in Reno to visit.
He was thankful to Daryl Wadsworth, his nephew, for harvesting his Toza. He loved his people and spoke about how we need to be strong to protect the Numu.
Harold did not like it when ladies and young girls would use the drum to sing their songs. As he was taught, that is what causes sickness among the people. The only time a female is to use the drum is when her father or her husband passes away and the drum is handed down or she takes his place at the drum.
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Harold spoke about how the land near Sparks is Indian land. There used to be a lot of Indian camps along the hillside and river. The old ones would harvest the red paint medicine near that area and would paint themselves and their horses for protection.
Harold explained, “Our native language is medicine. We need to be very careful when we speak it. Speak it slowly. When you speak, the old ones will come. They will be with you. The old ones are like nosy little kids they will come when you speak the language. When you speak your Paiute language you honor me.”
Daryl Wadsworth, Harold’s nephew shared that Uncle Harold taught me how to harvest the Toza. Uncle Sparky was getting up in age and he needed someone to get the medicine root because it grows on the side of a mountain in the most hardness areas. He told me how to identify and dig out the root. He told me to pray and give thanks for receiving this root.
Harold always shared many stories about many different things. As a young girl, I looked forward to hearing what he was going to tell me. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized they were not just stories — they were teachings from the old times. I will forever treasure his time, his teachings and will honor him by sharing the teachings with the family and friends he so dearly loved.
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The Family would like to send their sincere thank you to everyone whom sent cards, flowers and traveled to Schurz to help us send Pah Tsenu Gwa on his way.
The Family would like to thank newly elected Nevada Gov. Mr. Steve Sisolak for meeting with Harold Earl Miller’s family members to recognize Harold for his service to this Country.
We would like to thank the Agai Dicutta Elders Staff for everything they do for our Elders. We would like to thank the Four Seasons Market staff for lending a hand to Harold in filling his mug with muddy water (coffee). We would like to thank the Staff of the Walker River Paiute Tribe for honoring Harold, and we would also like to thank Mr. Roy Enochson for sharing the notes to children, and the information of August 19, 2011, with the family.
On Oct. 15, Hung A Lel Ti Chairman Irvin Jim Jr. spoke at the dedication of a five-mile stretch of Highway 88 from the California state line in Alpine County to veterans of the Vietnam War.