Nevada Tribes Legislative Day draws near |

Nevada Tribes Legislative Day draws near

By Nevada Indian Commission | Special to First Nation's Focus
Tribal members join Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison in saying the Pledge of Allegiance during the 2015 Nevada Tribes Legislative Day in Carson City.
Courtesy photo
Editor's note: This story was first published in the inaugural edition of First Nation's Focus in February 2017.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Tribes Legislative Day will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the State Legislature in Carson City.

The day is coordinated by the Nevada Indian Commission and will begin with a tour of the Stewart Indian School hosted by commission executive director, Sherry Rupert. Thereafter, Legislators and tribal leaders will meet back at the Legislative Building at noon for a traditional welcome, followed by presentations and information sharing on tribal issues, concluding with lunch. New this year is an exhibit of Notable Native Nevadans displayed in the Senate Atrium on the second floor.

The first Nevada Tribes Legislative Day was coordinated and hosted by the Nevada Indian Commission on April 11, 2011. The Nevada Indian Commission developed the Initial legislative language with input from Nevada’s tribal leadership to formally establish this special day. Legislation was approved during the 77th Legislative Session in 2013, making the second Tuesday of every session, Nevada Tribes Legislative Day.

Rupert, the executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, said the event carries great significance and is considered a major accomplishment. Nevada is one of only two states in the nation to have the day memorialized in statute.

“The whole idea behind the day is to have tribal leaders and legislators alike, meet each other and share their unique perspectives, to educate the legislative leadership on Nevada’s Tribes and issues,” Rupert said. “We wanted to make sure that the day was set aside for tribes every legislative session moving forward.”

And Rupert and her staff work diligently behind the scenes to provide networking opportunities as legislators attend the program, which includes music, food and fellowship.

The special legislative day celebrates the contributions of Nevada’s sovereign tribal governments to the state of Nevada, share tribal perspectives on topics of importance to tribal governments and their communities, along with discussions relating to how the State and tribal nations can work more meaningfully. Nevada’s American Indians are unique in that they have dual citizenship, not only are they citizens of their tribal nations, but of the United States, in addition to being residents of the state of Nevada, and eligible to vote.

In addition to hearing unique tribal perspectives from American Indian experts relating to current events and issues of importance to Natives, the day is grounded in traditions including customary blessings and greetings done in tribal languages with some participants wearing their regalia.

“The interest in this special event has grown tremendously as evidenced by the number of American Indians and legislators who have attended since 2011, along with our young people to reinforce the importance,” said Richard Arnold, chairman of the commission. “The voices of our youth are powerful as they learn from the collective wisdom of others about important issues that tribes are facing and how it will affect their future when they become our future leaders.”

The Tribal Legislative Day in the past has addressed topics such as taxes, health care, and education, while emphasizing the importance of being engaged with other governments regardless of the topic.

“We exercise and are proud of our sovereign relationship with the federal government,” Reno-Sparks Indian Colony chairman Melendez said. “However, we should not forget that what we do can impact our neighbors throughout the state of Nevada, in Washoe County and the cities of Sparks and Reno.”

Another important aspect of Nevada Tribes Legislative Day allows tribal leaders to meet one on one with their senate and assembly representatives.

One of those important topics to be discussed this year, and during the legislative session is the Stewart Indian School Living Legacy Initiative.

Mentioned by Gov. Brian Sandoval during his January 2013 State of the State Address, the Stewart Indian School Living Legacy Initiative would create a cultural heritage destination unlike any other in the United States.

The historic school located in Carson City, was established in 1890 and embodies a complex and controversial past wherein the federal government attempted to assimilate American Indian youth into mainstream society.

The school housed over 30,000 students during its 90-years of operation. Today, the campus includes over 80 buildings on 110 acres, and is owned by the State of Nevada.

Rupert believes the Stewart Indian School Living Legacy Initiative will be the catalyst to preserve the school and its rich history bringing an essential understanding about American Indians and their previous and current relationship with government and even today’s public education system.

“It is an era of our shared American history that is largely untold,” Rupert said. “Future generations, native and non-native will benefit from this project.”