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Desert Song, The Nevada Public Radio 2018 Design from Artist in Residence- Fawn Douglas

Nuwu Artist, Fawn Douglas, Captures the Song of the Southwest


There are 4 states that NPR has listeners: Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California.  These four states of the Southwest are also part of the Salt Song Trail. Salt songs are very important to our Nuwuvi, The Southern Paiute people. The songs are a part of our culture. We sing the songs during ceremony when someone passes away or when we are remembering our people during memorials. Bird Songs are also sung. The bird songs are not only used at ceremonies but in social settings too. Throughout the southwest the songs echo through our landscape telling stories of the mountains, the animals, the plants and all things sacred. 


I call my NPR artwork Desert Song. The instrument used for salt songs and bird songs is a gourd. Some singers will paint their gourds in different colors and designs inspired by the landscape around them. I have included different elements of our shared landscape in the gourd. A crescent moon frames the gourd to remind me of the time I camped at “Mah’ha gah-do”, Paiute ancestral land known as Gold Butte. The crescent moon illuminated the desert that night and inspired other art works. Within the crescent moon is a design from my Great Grandma Topsy Swain’s basket pattern. She was a master basket weaver and Moapa Paiute. I honor her memory and my Moapa Paiute roots by including a piece of her, and a piece of that place. There is also a rock formation found at Mah’ha gah-do. The red sandstone rock formation looks like a coyote looking into the water with its reflection staring back.


There are other desert elements that adorn the gourd rattle design. I have included the big horn sheep, known to our people as the “Nah’ Gah”. Many years ago, the Nah’ Gah had sacrificed itself so that our people can live. In return we honor the Nah’ Gah through songs, dance and protecting the lands in which it lives. The largest population the Nah’Gah are in southern Nevada at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. 


Wind, rain and fire are also within. The fire is meant to resemble the sunrise when the tip of the sun pokes up to the Mountain, looking like a dancing flame. The eagle looking towards the right resembling the darker colored rock side that lets you know that you have entered the Moapa Paiute  reservation. All of these elements make us who we are. We care about our ancestral lands. And now we share these lands with others. I hope that our NPR listeners will take a moment to understand our heart and care about their public lands as we do. To enjoy my Desert Song and share it.