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LFLS 005: Grower’s Spotlight with Richard Wilder

For episode 005, we are visiting with Paiute Elder Richard Wilder from the Fort Independence Paiute Tribe.

We sat down at the Community Garden in Independence, CA that he has been maintaining for the past 11 years.

Richard shares knowledge, stories and wisdom from his time growing up on the reservation among his elders, moving to Manzanar as a teen, (the Japanese-American Concentration Camp used to incarcerate over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II), which is located just several miles up the road from the reservation and then leaving the Owens Valley for the Navy and coming back later in his life.

With a keen sense of humanity and humor, Richard implores us to get up, get out, get involved in your community and help each other.

I know I enjoyed speaking with Richard and I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to him too.

Thank you to Richard Wilder for taking the time to do this interview.

Like all episodes, today’s show is brought to you by

the Community Wellness Program

at Toiyabe Indian Health Project, Inc.


the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Visit our sponsors at

The goal of the Community Wellness Program is to reduce and prevent chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease
within the Toiyabe service area.

We work to create healthier communities by making healthy living easier and more affordable where people work, live, learn, and play.

The Community Wellness Program promotes health and wellness with community-based strategies that focus on:

  • Healthy Eating
  • Active Living
  • Commercial Tobacco-Free Living

“Caring For Our Communities”

And the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention at


Now on to the show notes…

Show Notes for LFLS 005:

Interview with Paiute Elder, Richard Wilder

at Fort Independence Community Garden

Richard Wilder shows off the orchard at the Fort Independence Paiute Tribe’s Community Garden

Richard Wilder says he has always had a garden, all of his life, wherever he went. It always gave him something to do and fresh food and vegetables to eat.

When he grew up there was no standing around, being bored. He says life is not boring.

“Boring is not life. You are the boring one.”

“There’s so many things out there for us to do. That we need to do.”

“I see a lot of change on all the reservations.”

The young people that are going off and getting educated and then coming back to help their communities. It’s doing a lot of good.

“We’ve come to a point where we think we can do everything ourselves.

And we got away from helping one another, learning from each other. So we’ve run away from each other.”

“We don’t mingle with each other as much as we should, to learn our different ways.”

“Every little bit helps. Whatever you can do. To help those that are in need. Cause there’s a lot of people in need out there.”

“If you help people, then it seems to come back to you.”

“The more you help, the better off you are.”

Richard has been taking care of the community garden “since ’95 or ’97.”

It began with a G.A.P. (General Assistance Program) grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

He has been working in the garden for at least the past 11 years.

So what’s going on at Fort Independence Community Garden?

They have an orchard with

  • 50 fruit trees
  • 30+ grape vines
  • “Ta-boo-see”, a native nutgrass that grows like a weed in the garden, a traditional food source that is rarely harvested today.

“You start watering a piece of land around here and you’ll have taboose growing.”

On Culture:

“It’s something that should never go away and it won’t go away.”

“Every year, I’m picking up hand stones and grinding stones that come up in the garden.”

On the resilience and innovation of Native people:

“It never stops, we just keep going on.”

“I’m just glad there are people out there bringing our culture and keeping it alive”

“People say we don’t need it. Yes, we do. That’s who we are.”

“And if we don’t bring it and keep it alive, then we die. Then we might as well as just melt into the society.”

“Sometimes it’s easier. That’s why we have such issues with our young people.”

“I just know, we have to keep who we are going.”

“Everything that belongs to us, was taken from us.”

“I just know our young people need to know what we were about; what we ARE about”


“Cowboys, Indians, Aliens and Ninjas”

Written and Performed by Kwaz E. Bishop

Produced by Spoke

I was once a ninja warrior, raised as a Paiute boy, yea
I used to fight off aliens, disguised as a cowboy, uh huh
They invaded the Owens Valley
resolved to get our paya (water)
They marched our people out, they threatened us with fiyah (fire), uh-huh
They put us on the reservations, tried to douse out our spirits
But the Numa are strong, resilient people of the land, we feel it, ugh
And when the Ancestors talk, when the Ancestors talk,We listen (We listen)
And when the spirit says dance, when the spirit says dance,we steppin.
These days, these days, everybody wanna be an inspiration, yep
These days, these days, everybody, everybody, everybody looking for inspiration, yep
To inspire the next generation of writers and thinkers, doers and shakers
movers and makers, of big things, big dreams
who bringin’ a new world with old dreams.
I was raised among the rule breakers
and the risk takers on the reservation taken
learning ways ancient,
yet ageless as the present moment,
hold it, in your awareness, don’t be careless
we can never own it, maybe they’ll clone it
or just record it
and that’s as close as
your children will get
or your grandchildren not yet born
Good morning
Good day and
Good night

We are at the halfway point of our show, so let me remind our listeners that we are currently speaking with Richard Wilder, an elder from the Fort Independence Paiute Tribe in the Owens Valley of California.

Richard oversees and maintains the community garden in his community and we are speaking about his time growing up in the Valley and why growing a garden is such an important part of his life.

Our interview takes place at the community garden at the Fort Independence Reservation and we are leaving off with a walking tour of the garden.

The plants at this garden are watered through irrigation ditches running straight off of Oak Creek, which runs out of the Sierra Nevada mountains directly West of the reservation.

In this way, Richard is an active, living link to the ancient method of agriculture the Paiute people have practiced for time immemorial.

Richard and an irrigation ditch coming from Oak Creek which is fed by the Sierra Nevada snow pack in the distance.

Through the construction of a complex irrigation network making optimal use of the snow-fed streams flowing from the peaks above, the Paiute, or Numa, cultivated the land and plants in their homelands which in turn provided abundance in the form of seeds, tubers, and nutgrass, attracting a variety of animals.

Most of which remained staple Paiute foods until the introduction of cattle grazing and property ownership dramatically altered the Paiute way of life after the settlement of the Owens Valley by non-Indians.

Richard’s thoughts on the drought and Sierra Nevada snow melt:

“This year we are doing good. And we still have time for more storms.”

“We’ll get through this year with no problems.”

What do you picture for the future of this garden:

“More orchards.”

“Just keep growing. There’s no reason not to.”

“We gotta get the young people involved”

“It doesn’t grow by itself.”

“Someone needs to water it.”


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