Nevada governor signs 3 bills benefiting Native Americans

Geoff Dornan
Nevada Appeal
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (sitting) during a bill-signing ceremony Friday in Carson City. (Geoff Dornan / Nevada Appeal)

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday signed three bills designed to benefit Nevada’s Native American population — including one that could silence the Miden siren and another that waives registration, per credit and other fees for members of federally-recognized tribes to attend the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Addressing the young people in the crowd, Sisolak said, “It’s extremely important you take advantage of it.”

Assemblywoman Natha Anderson, D-Sparks, sponsored the tuition waiver bill, AB262.

In addition to the tuition waiver, he signed AB88 that is designed to eliminate racist or insensitive sports team names and geographic place names in the state.

The third measure, AB270, sets up a system to hold special events at the school complex and credits any revenue received from special events to the Indian Commission’s Gift Fund. The money can be used for programs to preserve and maintain the buildings and grounds at the school.

Sisolak signed the measures into law in a ceremony on the grounds of the Stewart Indian School complex at Carson City’s southern border before tribal members, elders and others.

“This will profoundly change the quality of life for our 27 tribes,” said Nevada Indian Commission Director Stacey Montooth.

P.K. O’Neill, R-Carson City, sponsored AB270. He said the bill is designed to allow both the school complex and historic Nevada State Prison on 5th Street to start generating some money to improve the properties. He told the crowd that in a sense, the Stewart Indian School was much like the old prison since it was designed to force the assimilation of young Native Americans from across the west into white society.

The federal government operated the Stewart Indian School from 1890 to 1980.

Assemblyman Howard Watts, D-Las Vegas, authored AB88 to eliminate racially inappropriate sports team names and rename geographical places across the state that are offensive to Native American people. He said the naming of many places in Nevada and the racially discriminatory names given sports teams are evidence of a “deeply troubled history.” He said it’s time Nevadans confronted those issues.

The Minden siren sounds every day at noon and 6 p.m.

An August 2020 letter from Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey asked that the county silence the siren, recognizing the history of the sundown ordinances ordering Indians to be out of Minden and Gardnerville by 6:30 p.m.

Last Saturday, May 29, a group of around 50 supporters turned out in Minden Park to protest the siren that the Washoe contend is a symbol of the town’s sundowner past.

The meeting in the park was the opening to a bike ride over the Carson Range to Lake Tahoe.

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