Native American Heritage Month Spotlight Ralph Burns




This month, in celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we will be highlighting some of the many remarkable contributors to Indian country. In no way is this list comprehensive or extensive. For the next 30 days we will present a brief biography a day.

Ralph Burns, Veteran, and Numu language instructor and storyteller.

Ralph Burns grew up on the Pyramid Lake reservation speaking Numu because he grandmother knew very little English.

After high school Ralph worked as a house painter until he was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve in the Vietnam war.

Ralph moved back to Pyramid lake in 1997. There he found few members still fluent in the Numu language and most of those over the age of 65. Since then, Ralph has dedicated his life to teaching the language and customs of his people. In his work at the tribal museum and cultural center on the reservation, he assists with collections and exhibits and shares Paiute language, stories and dance. He has also taught in public schools and at the University of Nevada. Working with a linguist, Burns developed a written Numu language. Though he received no formal training as a teacher, he has a gift for connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds, using humor and patience.

Watch him tell the story of Stone Mother in Numu here

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