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Remembering Woodfords’ original residents – the Hung-a-lel-ti band of the Washoe Tribe

WOODFORDS, Calif. — They lived in balance with these mountains. The rivers were filled with the native Lahontan cutthroat trout, called K’ik’idi in Washoe. Edible plants and berries grew in abundance.

Today it is called Woodfords, a small unincorporated community located in California’s Alpine County near Markleeville, roughly 20 minutes south of Minden-Gardnerville and a half-hour southeast of Lake Tahoe.

Before the arrival of people seeking to find the riches of gold and silver, it was part of the land that provided sustenance and life to the Hung-a-lel-ti band of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. They were undisturbed and stable here for uncounted generations.

Their lands were much larger than the borders of what is now Alpine County. With so many immigrants, gold seekers and settlers coming through, their way of life could no longer be supported.

Using a cycle that meshed harmoniously with the seasons, the Washoe people were able to live here by hunting and gathering.

By 1849, trading posts were set up on their land. Settlers most often chose to live on parcels with abundant game and edible plants that were depended on by the tribe. Within a decade in the mid 19th century, everything about their existence and territory changed completely.

After gold was found in California, silver was discovered in Virginia City, and the Comstock bonanza lured those seeking riches onto Washoe terrain. The settlers viewed the land as an object of financial opportunity. In a very short time, pine nuts, seeds, game and fish had been overused. The harmonious rhythm that the Washoe had maintained was broken.

Settlers and miners cut down trees, including the sacred Piñon pine that was used to build structures, support mine shafts and even burn as fuel. The Piñon pine woodlands that had once provided the Washoe with more than enough pine nuts became barren hillsides. Lahontan cutthroat trout disappeared from the region’s waters after over harvesting. Today, there are efforts being made to reintroduce the fish into Alpine’s rivers and lakes.

The Washoe hunted sage hens, deer and many other local animals, all of which were plentiful. Each year, their rabbit drive was a huge event. Rabbits provided fur for winter warmth and were another staple of the Washoe people’s diet.

The wagon trains came by the hundreds, though, and traveled the trails that had previously been used by the Washoe for hunting and gathering. It completely disrupted their way of life. All of this happened less than 10 years after John Fremont led his exploratory mission through what is now Alpine County in 1844.

The Dawes Act of 1887 broke up Washoe land into individual allotments. Cattle ranchers also leased Washoe land. The tribe gained federal recognition in 1936, and filed a claim in 1951 asking for reparation for fishing and hunting rights, minerals, timber and land that had been wrongly taken. They settled in 1970, but there was no amount of money that could replace their lost way of life or change the suffering that stemmed from that loss.

In 1970, a special act of Congress granted 80 acres to the tribe. This is now known as Hung-a-lel-ti. It is nowhere near enough land to support their previous way of living. Their ancient traditions included seasonal migration to the shores of Lake Tahoe, and encampment locations along the rivers and streams that were revisited each year. These special areas were chosen for specific access to hunting or for plants that were ready to harvest.

The Washoe people loved and still love this land, and respect the importance of every tree, animal and plant. Each inch counts. It is possible to perceive evidence of the way it was for the people who had their beginnings on this exact spot if you know how to look. These rivers run like the blood through their veins.

Lisa Gavon is a freelance writer covering Alpine County. This article originally published July 12 in The Record-Courier.

‘The people come first’ – WWII vet Beatrice Thayer (Paiute, Shoshone) reflects on military life and beyond

A locomotive chugs to a stop, hissing steam, at the Reno train station. Thousands of flat cars line the tracks, strapped with military equipment of all sizes — guns, jeeps, trucks, cannons, tanks. Hundreds of railcars, meanwhile, are filled with uniformed U.S. Army soldiers. It’s 1941, two years into World War II, and a United States Armed Forces “troop train” is making one of its many railway stops dotted across the country as it mobilizes soldiers.

Reno-area residents look on as service men and women from Northern Nevada board the train. One of those onlookers in the crowd is 14-year-old Beatrice (Coffey) Thayer, a Native American with Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone heritage.

Along with her parents, Thayer is paying special attention to her fellow Native soldiers who are stepping into the railcars — soldiers who, the young Thayer recognizes, are preparing to fight not only for their country, but also for their tribes, their people.

Nearly four years later, in early 1945, with the war still raging on, a 17-year-old Thayer joined them.

“Since I was in school, not doing too good, and we were always hungry, I decided, well, maybe I can help a little bit,” Thayer, now 92, recalls. “I didn’t want to be a housekeeper the rest of my life, because that’s the only job I could get at that time.”

Thayer pauses, considering what else compelled her to enlist in the U.S. Army during WWII.

“I mainly did it because I remember the old people (who came before me) — they had a worse time than we did,” she adds.

The eldest elder of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Thayer is recounting her journey in the military while attending the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2019 Mid Year Conference in late June at the Nugget Casino in Sparks.

Staff Sgt. Beatrice (Coffey) Thayer, U.S. Army Air Corps.
Courtesy photo

Her service as a Staff Sgt. in the U.S. Army Air Corps (1945-1948) and U.S. Air Force (1948-1958) — and later the Nevada Army National Guard (1973-1982) — took her everywhere from the Deep South to the East Coast to West Germany.

She saw the Berlin Wall go up; she jumped out of a malfunctioning helicopter as it was touching down; she taught herself how to type and earned a promotion; and she got married twice in one hour (more on that later).

Above all, as Thayer puts it, she “worked, worked and worked” — for her country, for her tribes and for her family.

“I was supporting my mother and father,” Thayer says during an interview from the Nugget with First Nation’s Focus. “I sent them money, whatever I could. I saved it up until I had two, three hundred (dollars) and I would send it home. I just kept what I needed.”

LIVING IN POVERTY, FACING RACISM

Raised on the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Thayer, like many Natives, grew up in extreme poverty. Born in Camino, Calif., roughly 120 miles southwest of Reno, Thayer and her family migrated to Northern Nevada when she was about 4 years old.

“I just remember we didn’t have anything,” Thayer says with a shrug. “I was always hungry. I used to go to school and drink water to try to keep my stomach quiet for a few minutes.”

What’s more, she grew up during a time when racism toward American Indians was present everywhere she looked outside of the reservation — back when establishments in Reno hung “No Indians Allowed” signs right next to “No Dogs Allowed” signs, she recalls.  

“At that time, we were not allowed in any of the restaurants or swimming pools or whatever they had in (Reno),” Thayer says. “We had to be out of town at 9 o’clock at night — otherwise they would pick you up and you’d get beat up or thrown back out to the colony.”

Beatrice Thayer sits in front of a chapel where she was a chaplain’s assistant from 1947-1949.
Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel

Little changed when Thayer entered the service. She’d feel hateful glares and hear racial slurs from fellow troops. On the rare times she took leave, the bigotry off the military base was worse. Thayer recalled a time when she went on leave with a friend who was visiting a priest. The priest, Thayer found, quickly revealed his prejudice toward Native Americans.

“He was not very pleasant to me,” Thayer remembers. “He called me ‘Minnehaha.’ … And I had to share a bed with my friend and he said to her, ‘Are you going to sleep with that?’

“It was very, very hard to be a Native in the service,” she continues. “It was real hard at times, and I put up with a lot. But, to me, they weren’t worth talking to. They thought we were wagon burners and we took their ranches away from them. But they didn’t know — they didn’t know anything.”

This ignorance was widespread despite the fact Thayer was one of more than 44,000 American Indians — out of a total Native population in the U.S. of less than 350,000 — who served with distinction between 1941 and 1945 in both European and Pacific theaters of WWII.

In fact, American Indians have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In all, there are more than 190,000 Native American military veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

‘DUTY FIRST’

Looking back, Thayer says she didn’t let the hate speech deter and distract her from her objective: She was an American Indian warrior helping defend her homeland and provide for her family.

“I didn’t have time to think of that stuff because … duty first,” she said. “And I had to take care of my mother and father.”

Beatrice Thayer, far left, stands with fellow Native American veterans in front of the RSIC Veterans Memorial in the Hungry Valley Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019.
Courtesy RSIC

Thayer was a Medical Corpsman during her first two years in service, working at various military base hospitals. She remembers working in the 3rd Air Force Base hospital in Gulfport, Miss., on the day Japan surrendered to bring WWII to a close.

“Everybody was celebrating, but I had duty at 11 o’clock at night,” she remembers. “I worked. I couldn’t leave.”

While in the service, showing a tireless work ethic, Thayer was motivated to learn new skills and take on more responsibility, even if she had to teach herself.

As a chaplain’s assistant in South Carolina at the Greenville Air Force Base, for example, Thayer taught herself to play the piano, organ and accordion. She sang, too. Later, at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, she taught herself how to type.

“I was a medic and wanted to do something else,” she says. “So I taught myself how to type when I was working nights. They had a typewriter in the orderly room, so when I had night duty, I just typed and typed and typed. So I got pretty good and somehow somebody found out about it.”

FOUR YEARS IN GERMANY

This led to Thayer’s first experience overseas. In 1952, she was promoted and transferred to the 12th Air Force Base in Wiesbaden, West Germany, to serve as a senior clerk.

She proved to be an incredibly valuable asset. In fact, documents Thayer shared with First Nation’s Focus stated the following:

“SSGT Thayer had various clerical duties and delivered important war correspondence to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Forces in Europe.”

Beatrice Thayer, right, looks at the names of the 96 fallen RSIC American Indian soldiers who served in the armed forces during the unveiling of the RSIC Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019.
Courtesy RSIC

While serving in Germany, Thayer was even selected to attend the Inter-Allied Moral Leadership Conference for Women in Uniform hosted by the Netherlands Royal Air Force. In her downtime, she did things like explore museums in Holland and watch professional skiing in Austria.

She also met her eventual husband, who she exchanged vows with twice in one hour — first by the Burgomaster in Wiesbaden, then by the chaplain at the base. They were married for seven years and had two sons, Daniel and David.

Thayer returned to the states in 1956. Two years later, she was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in October 1958.

Thayer’s time in the service, however, proved to be far from over.

BACK AFTER 15-YEAR GAP

In 1973, 15 years after leaving the Air Force, Thayer, at age 48, reenlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard. This came on the heels of trying to join the Air National Guard but being told she had been out too long and would have to take basic training all over again.

“So I went over to the Army (National) Guard and they were happy to get me, I couldn’t believe it,” Thayer says with a laugh.

The Nevada Appeal published a story on Dec. 18, 1973, reporting Beatrice Thayer’s return to the military after a 15-year gap.
Courtesy photo

Holding the rank of Specialist Five, Thayer was a state recruiter who was assigned to the Army Guard’s Communication Center in Carson City.

Additionally, she joined the 20th Army Band, playing the French horn and clarinet in many formal functions, including the Nevada Day Parade held in downtown Carson City.

Nine years later, in 1982, Thayer officially finished her military career after 22 years of service.

During that span, she was awarded with the following: U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal (with 5 knots); Army National Guard Achievement Medal; Women’s Army Corps Medal; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Germany Occupation Medal; National Defense Service Medal; and the Nevada Army National Guard Meritorious Service Ribbon.

Prideful of his mother’s life of service, wisdom and strength, Daniel Thayer said he “takes her everywhere,” adding: “I tell people to learn from her while she’s here … just learn from her.”

‘THE PEOPLE COME FIRST’

Yet, when asked if she takes great pride in her own military achievements, and all the injustices she’s survived throughout her life, Bea Thayer quickly shakes her head “no.”

“I’m not worthy. As a sun dancer, I’m below the people. The people come first,” notes Thayer, who started sun dancing at age 52.

She said sun dancing, which she did into her ’80s, strengthened her connection to her roots and religion.

“It brought me closer spiritually,” Thayer says. “It helped me because they (spirits) are always with me. I talk to them everyday.”

Beatrice Thayer, sitting, poses with family members, from left: Leanna Thayer (granddaughter), Lydia Thayer (Leanna’s wife), Uni Bitt (niece) and Daniel Thayer (son).
Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel

And here is when Thayer’s voice jumps an octave and a smile spreads across her face. Because being among her people in a religious ceremony — singing, dancing, drumming — is when Thayer is reminded why she stepped onto a troop train over 70 years ago.

She did it for her homeland; she did it for her people.

“It’s really something, because once you make a spiritual connection, there’s no other feeling like it at all,” she says. “Nothing compares to that connection when you connect with a spirit.

Kaleb M. Roedel is a special assignments reporter for the Sierra Nevada Media Group. Email him at kroedel@swiftcom.com.

Saundra Mitrovich (Tyme Maidu Tribe) leaving UNR for NCAI fellowship in D.C.

RENO, Nev. — Saundra Mitrovich was 13 years old when she went to her first United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) conference.

She didn’t really have a choice. Mitrovich’s mentoring aunts, Roberta, Kathy and Julie, firmly insisted she went.

“It wasn’t an option,” Mitrovich said with a laugh. “My aunties really inspired me and taught me about sovereignty and what it meant to be responsible to a community.”

The conference proved to be a seminal moment for the young Mitrovich, an enrolled member of the Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek, Rancheria, and a descendant of the Yahmonee Maidu Tribe in Quincy, Calif.

“As a youth, I remember what that (UNITY conference) meant to me and the leadership development that that taught me,” Mitrovich said. “You learned all these things in these workshops, develop these skills, and you implement them at home. It was developing a passion for working with people in community, developing a sense of civic engagement and responsibility — not just for my tribal community, but as a human being.”

She might not have known it at the time, but Mitrovich had found her calling.

Since that fateful conference, Mitrovich has been on a mission to support and empower native youth in her professional and everyday life.

Whether it’s preparing them for higher education, creating opportunities for them to participate in research and presentation, and influencing them to attend national conferences — like UNITY.

Most recently, Mitrovich did all of this and more as the outreach and retention coordinator and indigenous student services program coordinator at the University of Nevada, Reno.

After nearly seven years in her role at UNR, however, Mitrovich is moving onto a new venture on the East Coast.

Come July 22, she will be working in Washington, D.C., at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which awarded Mitrovich with the Wilma Mankiller Fellowship.

According to the NCAI website, the fellowship “provides an exceptional opportunity for emerging young professionals from across Indian Country to work side by side with national leaders in tribal policy.”

Mitrovich said following her fellowship, which is an 11-month commitment, her goal is to return to working in Northern Nevada. Her husband, Sam, and daughter, Sasha, will stay in Reno while she’s working in D.C.

“What I hope to gain is a really hearty toolkit — to bring those skills and knowledge that I acquire back home,” Mitrovich told First Nation’s Focus. “I hope to be a conduit in D.C. Anything that I can do to bring the voice of not only my home tribe that I come from inherently, but also all the Nevada tribes here that are dear to me, that’s what I’ll be there for and to do the work for.”

‘A tremendous asset’

During her time working at UNR, Mitrovich was an integral voice for native youth and tribal communities across the Silver State, said Jose Miguel Pulido Leon, director of The Center at UNR. He pointed to the fact that Mitrovich managed to build close relationships with all 27 federally recognized tribal communities in Nevada.

“She made sure to the best of her ability that they were consulted on anything that would impact them,” he said, “and be connected to important issues that effect tribal communities in the state of Nevada.”

Not to mention, the support and opportunities Mitrovich gave UNR students, whether they were getting their undergraduate, master’s or doctoral degree.

“She ran all of these programs for students,” he continued. “And she was their central resource for indigenous students on campus to ensure that they got close to graduate and crossed the finish line.

“She basically balanced two jobs. She’s been a tremendous asset to the institution.”

One of her most recent contributions was the creation of UNR’s Indigenous Research Institute for Student Empowerment (IRISE) program.

Through IRISE, indigenous students are paired with graduate and faculty mentors to engage in research throughout the year and present at local, regional and national conferences.

In addition, IRISE provides monthly workshops, including a teleconference opportunity for indigenous students from Nevada attending institutions in and outside the state.

“The vision and mission for the university is to get more of our indigenous students researching, writing, publishing in their voice — and, specifically, in their academic discipline,” Mitrovich said.

And although she will soon be working on the other side of the country, 2,600 miles away from Reno, Mitrovich will hold close her experiences working with native youth and tribal communities in Northern Nevada.

“I have a strong commitment to the university and to the programs that are here, the students that are here, the communities that are here … so I don’t think that will ever go away,” she said. 

Big shoes to fill

When asked what she’s most proud of during her tenure at UNR, Mitrovich paused in reflection, a flood of memories welling her eyes with tears.

“The way the community has come together to support different initiatives, programs, activities for youth, I think that’s what I would be the most proud of,” she said. “Because I’ve never felt alone in this work. I always knew there was someone I could reach out to, both on campus and off. And that’s hard sometimes to find in community.”

With Mitrovich’s departure from UNR, Leon said the university is hoping to find someone with a similar dedication to native youth and cultural understanding.

In other words, The Center is seeking someone who can build upon Mitrovich’s indelible mark as leader. 

Leon also knows that filling Mitrovich’s shoes will be a near-impossible task.

“I don’t know if we can find another Saundra — I don’t think that’s realistic on our part,” Leon said of replacing Mitrovich. “I think it’s finding someone who is going to be the best fit to support students. And if they’re able to function on that higher level of all of the maneuvering that’s needed on a larger scale for statewide issues and tribal politics then that would be wonderful.”

With that, Leon said the university is in the early stages of conducting a nationwide search for the position.

Great Basin Native Artists Archive and Directory established in Reno

RENO, Nev. — As the inaugural 2018 Peter S. Pool Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art, Northern Paiute artist and Great Basin Native Artists Founder Melissa Melero-Moose has amplified the voices of indigenous artists working and living in the Great Basin.

In 2014, she broadened her passion to promote and preserve the work of Native American artists living and working across the Great Basin. A co-founder of the Great Basin Native Artists (GBNA) collective, Melero-Moose created a community that allows for visual artists and craftspeople to connect with each other, share ideas, and promote their work.

In 2018, Melero-Moose approached the Nevada Museum of Art with the goal of establishing a permanent, free, open and public directory and archive for GBNA. In response, the Museum awarded her the inaugural Peter S. Pool Research Fellowship at the Center for Art + Environment (CA+E) to support her ongoing commitment to Native American artists and to launch this initiative.

As a practicing Great Basin artist, Melero-Moose recognized the challenges of working in a region with a geographic scale that is vast and sometimes isolating.

To help minimize distance and bring visibility to the GBNA, she established an online directory and image gallery so that Great Basin artists have a permanent presence on the internet. Melero-Moose self-funded this initiative and continues to maintain a website where journalists, researchers, curators and collectors can locate biographical and contact information for Native artists.

In March 2019, as a direct result of the work Melero-Moose orchestrated during her CA+E Fellowship, GBNA and the Nevada Museum of Art formalized a collaboration to create the Great Basin Native Artists Archive and Directory. 

“This is a unique relationship between a Museum and Native American group of artists, and I hope this collaboration will catch on in other regions so we can all see and share the beauty of our cultures with each other through these new technologies,” Melero-Moose said. “This is such an important time for Native artists of the Great Basin.”

In coming years, the Great Basin Native Artists Archive and Directory will be permanently housed at the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art.

It will consist of physical and digital records related to individual Great Basin artists. Any living artist can contribute materials, and files are also maintained for deceased artists. The materials will be easily accessible at the Museum and will soon be available online as well. 

“Thanks to the grassroots efforts of Melissa, the art and records of Great Basin Native Artists have a permanent home in Nevada’s only art museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums,” said Ann M. Wolfe, Andrea and John C. Deane Family Senior Curator and Deputy Director for the Nevada Museum of Art.

For the past several years, the Nevada Museum of Art has expanded its collaborations with Nevada’s Indigenous communities and has emphasized the acquisition of Native American Art.

The Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Art of the Greater West Collection at the Nevada Museum of Art aims to make connections between artistic practices and diverse cultures of the Greater West super-region — a geographic area that spans from Alaska to Patagonia, and from Australia to the American West.

The artworks included in this collection encourage conversations surrounding Indigenous cultural practices such as mark-making and mapping; visual representations of settlement and expansion; and depictions of changes to the landscape brought about by colliding cultures. 

Recent acquisitions to the Art of the Greater West Collection include works from Great Basin artists Jean LaMarr, Steve Nighthawk and Ben Aleck; photographs from Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero, known for her works from contemporary Native American perspectives about a range of present-day social and political issues; “Air 2” by Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagaana), a photograph that establishes a deliberate counter-narrative to romantic visions of Native people living in an unchanging past; several works from the “Reinterpretation” series by Tlingit artist Da-ka-xeen Mehner; and “Get Comfortable” by Tlingit/Unangax̂ artist Nicholas Galanin.

The works by Mehner and Galanin are part of the traveling exhibition “Unsettled,” originated by the Nevada Museum of Art in 2017 to highlight more than 80 artists living and/or working in the Greater West.

The Museum also recently secured the future gift of an extensive research archive focused on Native American weavers and basketry.

Dr. Marvin Cohodas, the preeminent scholar of Washoe basketry and an art historian and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, will donate his lifetime of research records to the Museum’s Research Library and Archives.

In addition to notebooks, interviews, books, and artist files, the future gift will include historic photographs and images of approximately 20,000 Washoe baskets, 5,000 Mono Lake Paiute baskets, and 2,000 Karuk baskets. 

In June 2019, the Museum organized a major retrospective of Nevada artist Jack Malotte (Western Shoshone / Washoe).

Malotte makes artworks that celebrate the landscapes of the Great Basin, with a unique focus on contemporary political issues faced by Native people seeking to protect and preserve access to their lands.

The Art of Jack Malotte (June 8 – October 20, 2019) features illustrations, drawings, sketches, prints and paintings, including a public mural. The exhibition will be accompanied by a major book.

On July 13, 2019, the Museum will once again partner with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony to celebrate Native American art culture, community and tradition during a free Artown event, “Reawakening the Great Basin: A Native American Arts and Cultural Gathering.

Melero-Moose was born in San Francisco in 1974 and spent most of her childhood living in Reno. She is a Northern Paiute enrolled with the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe located in Fallon, with ties to the Fort Bidwell Paiute Tribe in California.

She holds a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Fine Arts from Portland State University, in Portland, Oregon.

In recognition of the visionary work Melero-Moose has undertaken on behalf of Great Basin artists, she recently received a 2018 Humanities Rising Star Award from Nevada Humanities.

In addition to her work with the Museum, Melero-Moose also serves in an advisory capacity for the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum at the University of Nevada, Reno, and for the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum in Carson City, Nevada. 

Free ‘Reawakening the Great Basin’ event at Reno art museum to honor Native cultures

RENO, Nev. — For the second-straight year, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony will come together with the Nevada Museum of Art this month to celebrates Native American art, culture, community and tradition.

“Reawakening the Great Basin: A Native American Arts and Cultural Gathering” takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, July 13, at the Nevada Museum of Art, 160 West Liberty St., in downtown Reno. Admission is free.

The event is designed to bring together a variety of Native American cultural traditions, while also celebrating contemporary interpretations rooted in those traditions.

Throughout the day, numerous performing artists will demonstrate a variety of dances and songs, including the Grindstone Patwin Dancers, Pala Band of Mission Indians from Southern California, Navajo flute player Tygel Pinto, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Pow Wow Club, hoop dancer Sage Romero, and the Eagle Wing Pageant Dancers.

Traditional and contemporary musical performances, like Young Chief and the all-female drum group, The Mankillers, will inspire and excite the multigenerational, multicultural crowd.

“In our inaugural year, Reawakening flourished beyond our expectations,” said Arlan D. Melendez, Chairman of the RSIC. “By partnering with the distinguished Nevada Museum of Art, we will once again bring an authentic staging of Great Basin Native American arts and culture to thousands of attendees.”

During this free Artown event, the public is invited to meet several established and emerging Native American visual artists from across the region who will be sharing their knowledge, as well as selling their traditional and contemporary artworks, crafts, and culturally-inspired objects.

Representatives from the Great Basin Native Artists, including Ben Aleck, Topaz Jones, Jack Malotte and Melissa Melero-Moose, will join dozens of artisans in a festive marketplace in the Reynolds Grand Hall.

Handcrafted works including beaded items by Hungry Valley artisans Charlotte Frye and Sandra Talancon, silver metalwork by Ralph Thomas, and other wares by local and regional artisans will be available for purchase. Moreover, famed mouth stick painter Mack Johnson will make an appearance and sell his work.

Malotte will also present a talk in the theater, discussing his feature exhibition on view at the Museum, The Art of Jack Malotte. Great Basin basket weaving and Tule duck decoy construction demonstrations will take place in the Founder’s Room of the Museum, so that attendees can not only watch and learn about the practical use of these ancient items, but also purchase the authentic treasures from the weavers.

“The Nevada Museum of Art is deeply honored to once again work alongside the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony to present a very special community day,” said Nevada Museum of Art Chief Executive Officer David Walker. “Last year, more than 3,000 people from across the region participated in this important gathering, and we expect attendance to top that this year. It is a great joy to bring so many people together to honor the vibrant culture of this place, especially the culture of Nevada’s Indigenous peoples, because the story of Nevada resonates globally.”

All-ages hands-on workshops will take place all day, administered by visiting Pyramid Lake Paiute artist Sara Paschall. Other activities include RSIC Language and Culture Storytellers sharing Great Basin creation stories, pow wow royalty greeting guests, hoop making, and more.

Food and drink will be available for purchase, including Nat’s Indian Tacos and Star Village Coffee, two Native-owned small businesses.

This article was provided by the Nevada Museum of Art. Go to nevadaart.org to learn more.

First Nation’s Focus to live stream July 4 Lights on the Lake Fireworks

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The annual Lights on the Lake Fireworks display on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore is regularly recognized as one of the best Fourth of July displays in the U.S.

This year’s fireworks extravaganza will shoot off at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday, July 4.

Can’t make it in person? Whether you’re a local who doesn’t want to deal with crowds or you’re in other parts of the world and can’t be at Big Blue this Independence Day, First Nation’s Focus has the solution for you — a live stream of this year’s Lights on the Lake Fireworks display!

Starting at 8:30 p.m., we will fire up a live Facebook video feed from the beaches of Edgewood Tahoe. Fireworks start at 9:45 p.m. sharp, and you can even synchronize the video with the official 93.9 KRLT music feed.

This live stream is brought to you thanks to a sponsorship from Rackley Auto Group Reno.

Go to the event’s Facebook page to learn more, and be sure to tune in Thursday night to the First Nation’s Focus Facebook page to view this year’s sure-to-be stunning fireworks display!

Washoe Tribe awarded federal economic development grant

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The USDA Office of Rural Development in late June announced that the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California has been awarded a technical assistance grant for an unknown dollar amount to support the Tribe’s economic development planning efforts.

USDA Rural Development Nevada State Director Phil Cowee said he is pleased to have the Washoe Tribe as one of 47 communities included in the national program.

“Economic development expands beyond state borders,” Cowee said in a statement. “This project is a bi-state effort that we hope will benefit individual tribal members, the Washoe Tribe and the region.”

According to a USDA news release, the Washoe Tribe manages (self-governs) all its interests; current Tribal lands run along the eastern Sierra Mountain Range from Carson City to Woodfords, California. Four separate communities (Carson, Stewart, Dresslerville and Woodfords) are the primary residences for the Wašiw.

The assistance is being provided through the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Innovation program, which provides free technical assistance for up to two years to help rural communities create and implement economic development plans.

In September 2018, USDA awarded $1.2 million in cooperative agreements to four technical assistance providers for the REDI program. In Nevada, the technical assistance will be provided by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, (RCAC) out of West Sacramento, California.

RCAC Chief Executive Officer Stanley Keasling said the organization is excited to be working with the Washoe Tribe in beginning an economic development planning process.

“Our work will focus on identifying the Tribe’s assets and how those assets can be used to spur local economic development,” Keasling said.

Kelly Clark, Native American Outreach Coordinator for USDA Rural Development Nevada, said the exact dollar amount the Washoe Tribe will receive is not known.

“The total technical assistance budget is $1.2 million for 47 separate projects, but they will not all be divided up equally,” she said in an email to First Nation’s Focus.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto: We must prioritize tribes in the climate debate

For thousands of years, the Washoe Tribe has spent their summers in Lake Tahoe. Washoe language and culture are inextricably linked to their homeland.

The willows by Lake Tahoe are woven into their baskets. The flora and fauna around the shoreline play a vital role in traditional meals and ceremonies. But the average temperature of the Tahoe Basin is reaching record levels. In July of 2017, the surface water temperature reached 68.4 degrees, a whopping 6.1 degrees higher than surface temperatures in 2016.

New reports indicate climate change is fueling these rising temperatures, putting pressure on the lake’s ecosystem and threatening the Washoe Tribe’s way of life.

Farther north, climate change is also threatening the Summit Lake and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribes, who have cultivated deep cultural, physical and spiritual ties to the Truckee River and surrounding lakes.

Over several decades, climate change has forced the Paiute tribes to dramatically reduce fishing of the Lahontan cutthroat trout, a traditional food source and cultural centerpiece for the Paiute tribes. Drilling of the nearby McGee Mountain also infects downstream water sources like Summit Lake, killing wildlife and polluting the drinking water and ceremonial lands.

Climate change harms indigenous communities in Nevada, and across the nation, in disproportionately intimate and intense ways by threatening not only the environment around them, but also their traditions, cultural heritage and way of life. The crisis is so dire that some communities are making the impossible decision to uproot and relocate their families, businesses and entire towns to escape harm.

But indigenous communities are also spearheading solutions to the climate crisis. In response, Nevada’s Native American communities are collaborating to study climate change. Funded through the National Science Foundation, these communities recently completed groundbreaking research on the impacts of climate change with vulnerable stakeholders like tribes at the forefront.

In addition, the Nevada’s Great Basin LCC has also formed meaningful partnerships with organizations like the Desert Research Institute to host workshops in Reno with tribal professionals on climate adaptation.

I’m confident these partnerships will lead to innovative and comprehensive solutions that respect and prioritize the will of indigenous communities like the Washoe and Paiute Tribes, whose contributions and history are intimately woven into Nevada.

After centuries of exploitation and marginalization, I’m working at the federal level to repair the government’s trust-responsibility with indigenous communities and ensure they have a seat at the table.

I recently hosted a roundtable to discuss how communities of color are uniquely impacted by climate change. I was struck by stories shared by Barbara Hartzell of Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of Lake Havasu, who lamented that indigenous communities have often been excluded and sidelined from conversations on environmental justice.

Tribal communities belong at the forefront, which is why I’m using my new appointment to the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis to amplify the voices of our most vulnerable populations.

This committee is the first of its kind, and the only body in the Senate dedicated solely to investigating and resolving the far-reaching consequences of climate change on jobs, public health and America’s economy.

Just this month, I leveraged my seat on two committees, the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Indian Affairs Committee, to send a letter to tribal leaders asking for their input and experience to guide national solutions to climate change. I also recently cosponsored the Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act.

This legislation would enable state and local health departments to conduct research and develop preparedness plans, arming communities with the knowledge and resources to handle the health impacts of climate change. I’m doing everything in my power to listen to affected communities, bring stakeholders together and fight for policies that protect our people and planet.

I’m also grateful to see meaningful legislation being discussed in Nevada to investigate the intersection of environmental justice and indigenous communities’ way of life.

Governor Sisolak just signed into law a bill that requires state agencies to consult Nevada’s tribal nations and communities in decision-making processes. From mining clean ups and groundwater rights to reclamation processes, tribal communities deserve a seat at the table as policies with far-reaching consequences are deliberated.

In this debate over climate change, we must all remember that there is no Planet B. It takes all of us working together, using our voices, to ensure that we find solutions to the crisis confronting us.

As your Senator, I’ll make sure sacred knowledge is respected and prioritized, not exploited. The climate crisis we face is severe, but I’m confident that collaboration, trust and our shared commitment to our planet’s health are the key ingredients to combating this crisis and keeping all Nevadans safe. O

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) submitted this opinion column to First Nation’s Focus for publication. Go to cortezmasto.senate.gov to learn more and to contact the senator.

Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation celebrates 2019 grads

The Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation (WSSF) and Barrick hosted its annual Graduate Reception on May 31 honoring 2019 college graduates at the Red Lion Casino and Conference Center.

Barrick signed collaborative agreements with the Tribal and Band Councils of the Western Shoshone in 2008, establishing the WSSF and outlining Barrick’s commitment to longterm higher education funding for tribal members.

Since its inaugural year, the Foundation has funded more than 1,600 higher education scholarships for Western Shoshone tribal members totaling more than $3,492,000.00. In 2019, the WSSF recognized more than 30 Western Shoshone college graduates.

“The WSSF scholarship program is an example of how we are investing in education to develop future workforce — not just for Barrick but for our community and our state. It was an honor to celebrate the 2019 graduates and induct them into the WSSF Alumni Association,” said Joseph Mike Native American Affairs Specialist for Barrick.

During the reception, Barrick recognized 2019 graduates, highlighted Western Shoshone culture and featured keynote speaker Idaho State Representative Paulette Jordan. The event also demonstrated sustainability to the relationship between scholarship recipients, the Foundation and Barrick.

“Our goal is to provide long-term and sustainable access to higher education for our Western Shoshone youth. We appreciate Barrick’s additional 10-year commitment. Education is the key to a strong future for our Western Shoshone and Northern Nevada communities,” said Alice Tybo, Vice President of the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation Board.

On June 1, the WSSF Alumni Association hosted the Alumni Professional Development Conference at the Red Lion Casino and Conference Center. The Conference featured networking opportunities, presentations on Time Management, Financial Literacy, Preparing for Employment and Interviews, and highlighted the purpose and vision of the WSSF Alumni Association.

“Anytime we can bring our WSSF Alumni together, it helps strengthen the long-term efforts and vision of the Foundation and its work to strengthen the future of Western Shoshone professionals. The Alumni Association provides opportunity for those who have benefited from the WSSF scholarship to give back to the Foundation and their communities,” stated Davanna Hooper, WSSF Alumni Task Force member.

During both events, Idaho State Representative Paulette Jordan provided the keynote addresses. Jordan was the first Native American woman to win a primary election and appear in a general election for Governor during the 2016 election cycle. Jordan shared her experience and personal story and challenged both groups to dream, set goals and work toward a promising and sustainable future.

The WSSF announced its application process for the Fall 2019 semester, with a deadline of June 25 for application submissions. For more information on the WSSF Fall 2019 Scholarship visit www.tr.scholarshipamerica.org/westernshoshone.

For more information about the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation or the WSSF Alumni Association please email Joseph Mike, Native American Affairs Specialist at jmike@barrick.com.

Wisdom Whisperers: Native elders share stories, advice and knowledge

RENO, Nev. — One of the greatest lessons a child can learn is to honor his or her Elders.

Our Elders have paid attention, gained knowledge and wisdom from life. During their childhood, they carefully watched and listened to ceremonies and traditions, and paid attention to the way their elders in their communities behaved. Our Elders are libraries of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, history and tradition. Learning and receiving advice from our Wisdom Keepers, Elders, is a priceless gift.

Our Native American/American Indian Elders and Ancestors persevered & prevailed through the toughest, roughest times in our history, so we, the younger generations, can live the way we do today.

Go back in time, 100 years or less or more. Imagine not being able to powwow and wear your regalia. Imagine secretively praying to Creator and speaking your traditional language in fear that you might be killed or imprisoned for doing so.

Imagine being forcibly removed from your family/community to attend Indian Boarding Schools to learn a new language, religion, and way of life. Imagine drinking from a segregated water fountain that was specified for “Indians Only.”

Imagine not being able to eat at a restaurant. Imagine running from the Calvary for your life, starving, having no rights until 1924, etc.

Our elders and ancestors endured, fought and survived for our future. They deserve to be respected and honored.

Read words of Wisdom from local Native American elders below.

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Edith Eben (Mitchell)

Tribal Affiliation: Yerington Paiute

From: Yerington, Nevada

Age: 80+ years

Parents: Dowdy Mitchell & Rosie Williams

What have you been taught about respecting/listening to your elders? “I didn’t know anything but to respect your elders. My parents instilled that in me from the time I was born. Nowadays, it’s rare parents teach the youth about respecting elders.”

Do you have any stories or advice you’d like to share with our youth? “It’s your home life that teaches you about respect and the old ways, especially language. All tribes have different dialects depending on where you’re from, like Northern and Southern Paiutes. But it still comes down, again, to where your family is specifically from. Learn your Tribe’s language wherever you come from.”

What can the youth do better? “It starts with your home life. Monkey see, monkey do. Teach your children the old ways and ask your elders questions if you don’t know where to start. Work hard, show respect, give love and be yourself. Learn your language and traditions.”

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Arthur Shaw

Tribal Affiliation: Reno-Sparks Indian Colony & Great Basin Nations

From: Bishop, California

Age: Between 50 & 100 years

Parents: N/A

What have you been taught about respecting/listening to your elders? “When Elders speak you look them in the eyes and listen. If you do not, you will miss a name of a relative or a special place where your family(s) meet and gather; like a pinenut picking spot, powwow, ceremony place, etc…”

Do you have any stories or advice you’d like to share with our youth? “Our stories of the past are not written down. As a youth myself, my ears were dead to my elders and they stopped talking to me. I lost a lot of family news and stories about my family’s history. So open your ears to elders. In my day, everyday was an event of survival. Protect our females in the tribe. Our females are our nation’s future.”

What can the youth do better? “Stay strong, be proud. When we speak, you listen. We do not put our stories in black and white. We have tried only to have other people change our words. We are not a boring Nation. We excite other Nations and people around the World.”

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James Jergon Thomas

Tribal Affiliation: Reno-Sparks Indian Colony

From: Born in Schurz hospital 7/2/47. Grew up in Mina, Nevada, until age 3, then moved to Reno

Age: 71

Parents: Eddie Thomas (Berlin, Nevada) & Helen Thomas (Mina, Nevada)

Grandparents: Charles Bell (Bishop, California) & Mamie Robinson (Shurz, Nevada)

What have you been taught about respecting/listening to your elders? “Treat with respect and be good to them. Help them and listen to their stories so you will know about Indians and the old ways and where they or you came from.”

Do you have any stories or advice you’d like to share with our youth? “Stay in school and especially learn American History and if there’s a class available in American Indian History take that class too. You will be very proud of being an American in this country and proud of being an American Indian in this great country that was build by the people who come on the boats from Europe. My ancestors seen the First Europeans that traveled to what is now Nevada. I’m very proud of this fact, as told by my grandparents.”

What can the youth do better? “Respect elders, help them, take care of them. Stay in school, make something good out of your life to make your elders proud of you. Don’t drink or do drugs. They will destroy your life and make you very unhappy because no one will want to be around you when you act in ways that are not respecting yourself. Nothing makes us elders more proud of our people when we see the young folks doing good things in their life. And that makes us elders strong and proud knowing we may have had some influence.”