Wilson Wewa, an elder of the Northern Paiute tribe of the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, remembers the first time he saw a sage-grouse lek … hearing their otherworldly sound. “As a little boy of about five or six years old, I got scared!” Wewa says. “I didn’t know what it was.”
[Hear more stories from Wilson Wewa on Grouse from BirdNote Presents]
Wewa and the Grouse
Written by Ashley Ahearn
Ashley Ahearn: This is BirdNote.
Sage-grouse populations are declining across the West. The birds are known for their ornate displays at mating sites — or "leks," as they’re called.
Wilson Wewa, an elder of the Northern Paiute tribe of the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, remembers the first time he saw a sage-grouse lek:
Wilson Wewa: My grandpa and I went to get some water from the spring. And he heard … we heard that fluttering sound, kind of like a popping noise.
[Sage grouse sounds]
And as a little boy of about five or six years old, I got scared… I didn’t know what it was. But we went through that sagebrush and then we got to a place where we had a good vantage point. And we seen the sage hens doing their dance.
Ashley Ahearn: The Northern Paiute and other tribes in sagebrush country have stories, legends and dances about the sage-grouse. The birds once numbered in the millions, before European explorers and settlers arrived and the birds’ habitat came under threat.
Wilson Wewa: If they don't have the right kind of environment, they will disappear. What happens to them is what will happen to us as people.
Ashley Ahearn: You can hear more stories from Wilson Wewa on our new series Grouse. Subscribe to BirdNote Presents in your podcast app, or listen at BirdNote.org. I’m Ashley Ahearn.
Sounds recorded by Ashley Ahearn
Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote October 2020 Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
ID# GRSG-07-2020-10-06 GRSG-07