Isabel T. Kelly’s Southern Paiute Ethnographic Field Notes, 1932-1934


This publication presents the first volume (Las Vegas) of the early ethnographic field work of anthropologist Isabel T. Kelly. From 1932 to 1934, Kelly interviewed thirty Southern Paiute people from southeastern California, southern Nevada, and southern Utah about “the old ways.” During this time, she filled thirty-one notebooks, made several maps, took roughly fifty photographs, collected nearly 300 ethnobotanical specimens, purchased and shipped over 400 ethnographic artifacts to museums, and traveled more than 7,000 miles. Her notes comprise the most extensive primary ethnographic documentation of Southern Paiute/Chemehuevi lifeways of the middle to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries existing today.

Although Kelly intended to publish these notes, she was unable to before her death. Fowler and Garey-Sage have now synthesized the first set of these handwritten field notes and sketches, providing commentary and illustrations to put them in context for the modern reader. Kelly’s data, most of which could not be gathered anew today, are offered here for the use of generations to come. 


Catherine S. Fowler is professor of anthropology emerita at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Darla Garey-Sage is deputy director of the Nevada Rock Art Foundation. 


Praise and Reviews:

“Catherine Fowler and Darla Garey-Sage do a wonderful service here in compiling Kelly’s work with her Las Vegas Southern Paiute consultants into a cohesive, integrated ethnographic monograph that brings this trove of information back to life.”
—David E. Rhode, research professor of archaeology, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada 


“This publication is a significant contribution to the specialized literature on the Southern Paiutes and provides data that can no longer be duplicated.”
—Martha C. Knack, author of Boundaries Between: The Southern Paiutes, 1775–1995