Contesting the commons: Race, ethnicity, class, occupation, and environment in Central Nevada, 1850-1880

Brian Wesley Frehner, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


This thesis tells a story of resource competition in central Nevada primarily between two groups--Shoshone Indians who inhabited the region for centuries and European Americans who arrived in the nineteenth century. Although people who competed for control of the region's pinion pine trees generally fell into either of these categories, the labels of Indian and European grossly oversimplify the diversity within each group. Both Shoshone and Europeans comprised a variety of sub-groupings that utilized resources in a distinct manner and for purposes that often differed from those of the larger population. A number of different Shoshone bands and families competed against each other for food resources but particularly for pine nuts. Among Europeans, a variety of different racial, ethnic, class, and occupational groups competed for the same timber resources. These included middle- and working-class Italian immigrants, upper class businessmen and industrialists, as well as miners. Conflict intensified among these diverse segments of the population and between Indians and Europeans as natural resources diminished.