Judy Sam Trejo, 62; Helped Preserve Paiute Language

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From Staff and Wire Reports

Judy Sam Trejo, a northern Nevada Paiute who was instrumental in preserving the tribe’s native language through education, storytelling and song, died of natural causes Nov. 9 in Reno. She was 62.

Trejo, who was born in Alturas, Calif., was a member of the Walker River Paiute tribe. In 1997, she recorded “Circle Songs of the Paiute and Shoshone,” a collection of circle dance, flag and pine-nut songs that she and her daughters, Delgadina and Christina, sang in the traditional manner, in unison, with either simple drum accompaniment or a cappella.

According to Whispering Wind magazine, which reviewed the collection, Trejo’s voice on the recording was “strong and powerful; full of expression and emotion.” Songs of particular interest were tunes about the ghost dance of 1890 and a switch song, in which the dancers switch back and forth when the tempo changes.


Her second album, “Stick Game Songs of the Paiute,” was named best historical recording at the 2000 Native American Music Awards.

Trejo received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in counseling from the College of Idaho, which is now Albertson College of Idaho.

She taught first- and second-graders on the Walker River Reservation in Schurz, Nev., for more than 20 years. She also was the author of a book on medicinal and edible plants and taught Paiute at local colleges.