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With 27 federally recognized tribes, Nevada's Native American influence is statewide.
Photo: PR (Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation)
Unique among Nevada’s six territories, Indian Territory is not bound by county lines, highways, or historical trails. Reservations, colonies, and other communities dot the countryside, but in truth, the entire state is Indian Territory, the ancestral lands of the Goshute, Mojave, Northern and Southern Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe who have called the Great Basin and desert southwest home for thousands of years. From city-bound enclaves such as the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony to the vast picturesque Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation and world-class Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, Nevada’s Indian Territory is a collection of diverse places where the state’s native past, present, and potential seamlessly coexist.PYRAMID LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION
Unlike many reservations across the country, Pyramid Lake is one of few that was established on traditional tribal lands. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has occupied the region and survived from the resources of the lake (according to ancient tribal legend) since the beginning of the tribe’s existence.
Fossilized human remains found in the region have been dated to more than 9,000 years old, and barely a spot along its shore—from the Pyramid, Stone Mother, and Marble Bluff on the southeast coast, to the Needles in the north—does not hold spiritual significance to the tribe.
Following much strife brought on by the influx of California Gold Rushers and Comstock Lode miners in the mid-1800s—including the bloody Pyramid Lake War of 1860—the nearly 750-square-mile reservation was created in 1874. Today, about 2,500 tribal members live in the reservation’s three towns of Nixon, Sutcliffe, and Wadsworth.
The lake is a popular watersports destination, boasts world-class fishing, supports a large migratory population of nesting American white pelicans, and is home to the country’s first scenic byway on tribal lands—traits that help the reservation draw more than 150,000 annual visitors from around the world.
Camping, fishing, and day-use permits account for much of the reservation’s economy, and the tribal-owned Nixon Store and I-80 Smokeshop (in Nixon and Wadsworth, respectively) also contribute to the tribe’s income. Just in time for the Fourth of July, the two stores recently were approved to sell fireworks.
The Pyramid Lake Museum and Visitors Center—which was designed by the late Native American architect Dennis Numkena to resemble a tepee—is a treasure-trove of Paiute artifacts and history. Traditional jewelry and crafts made by tribal members are available in the gift shop.
Events throughout the year draw visitors and American Indian participants from all around the West. Wadsworth’s Sacred Visions Powwow, July 22-24, features traditional dance and music and native arts, crafts, and food vendors. On August 6, the USA Triathlon-sanctioned Pyramid Lake Sprint Triathlon includes a half-mile swim, 14-mile bike ride, and three-mile run.
WORTH A CLICK
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
WORTH A VISIT
Pyramid Lake Museum and Visitors Center
709 State St., Nixon
Pyramid Lake’s unique fish rely on protection from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
Testament to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s strong ties to the austere desert lake, the people are known as Cui-ui Ticutta, or “Cui-ui eaters,” in their native language. Cui-ui are a large species of suckerfish found nowhere else in the world. Another fish found only in a handful of Nevada waterways, the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, also holds great importance to the Cui-ui Ticutta. These fish that have helped a people survive for generations now depend on those people for their own survival.
In recent decades, the tribe has played a crucial role in protecting both fish, gaining endangered-species status in 1973 for the Cui-uiand continually fighting for water rights to preserve Pyramid Lake’s water quality and protect habitat for both species.
Three fish hatcheries, Big Bend, Dunn, and Numaga, are dedicated to ensuring the survival of Cui-ui and cutthroat and are responsible for what Pyramid Lake Fisheries Director Albert John says are increasingly robust and healthy populations of both fish. In addition to their cultural significance to the tribe, cutthroat draw thousands of anglers who account for about $500,000 annually (primarily through the purchase of the required tribal fishing permits) for the local economy, according to John.
DUCK VALLEY INDIAN RESERVATION
Like much of present-day northern and central Nevada, the region that is home to Duck Valley Indian Reservation has been inhabited by both Paiute and Shoshone people for millennia. When the reservation was established in 1877, the land was chosen at the suggestion of Shoshone leader Captain Sam, who felt the area’s good hunting and foraging, abundant water, and fertile soil held a promising future for his people.
Today, the more than 450-square-mile colony straddling the Nevada-Idaho line is home to about 2,300 tribal members. Owyhee, 95 miles north of Elko via State Route 225, is the reservation’s only town and primary population center with more than 1,000 residents.
Farming and ranching are the economic mainstays of the reservation, which is also a popular fishing destination with abundant waters such as Lake Billy Shaw, Owyhee River, and Mountain View and Sheep Creek Reservoirs. Fishing permits are available at the tribal-owned Tammen Temeeh Kahni, “our store” in Owyhee, which also carries typical grocery-store offerings.
Guided antelope hunts are offered from July through October. The 4th of July Rodeo and Powwow, July 1-4, is among the reservation’s biggest events, mingling two western cultures—native and pioneer—into a weekend-long celebration. The Duck Valley Veterans Day Powwow in November is also popular.
Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute Tribes
DUCKWATER INDIAN RESERVATION
The Duckwater Shoshones, Newe (Newe translates to “the people” in the Shoshone language and generally refers to all Shoshones), have occupied central Nevada for centuries. The tribe lived in the valleys during the summer to gather roots and berries and hunt wildlife that congregated near spring-fed wetlands. In the fall, the Shoshones moved to the mountains to hunt for big game and gather pine nuts.
Duckwater Indian Reservation was established in 1940 and today is home to about 130 tribal members, a grade school, senior center, and health clinic. The Duckwater Shoshone Tribe was awarded the 2010 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Program Recovery Champion Award for restoring critical habitat for and reintroducing the endangered Railroad Valley springfish.
The Duckwater Spring Festival powwow and barbecue in June is the community’s most celebrated gathering.
Duckwater Shoshone Tribe
ELY INDIAN COLONY
The Ely Shoshone Tribe acquired its colony in four parts, starting with the acquisition of 10 acres in 1934, an 11-acre portion of an Ely subdivision in ’73, 90 acres south of town in ’77, and a large tract (3,500 acres) of former Bureau of Land Management property that is used for ceremonial and recreational purposes.
The tribe consists of about 500 members, and tribal lands include a preschool, medical clinic, and Silver Sage Travel Center convenience store and gas station. The White Pine Public Museum in Ely contains some artifacts left in the Steptoe Valley by the tribe’s ancestors.
The Ely Shoshone Tribe Fandango, July 29-31, is a celebration of traditional culture and dance. Six members from the Ely Shoshone Tribe took part in a display of traditional dance at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Ely Shoshone Tribe
16 Shoshone Cir., Ely
WORTH A VISIT
White Pine Public Museum
2000 Aultman St., Ely
FALLON INDIAN COLONY & RESERVATION
The ancestors of Fallon’s Paiute-Shoshone Tribe lived around the Stillwater Marshes and Carson Sink area for thousands of years before white settlers entered the region. Their traditional name, Toi Ticutta, literally translates to “cattail eaters.”
The Toi Ticutta acquired their name because of the large role cattails played in their diets, most notably the roots, which were ground into flour and used to make sweet cakes. The 5,500-acre reservation was established in 1906, and the tribe’s headquarters are located on the colony in Fallon.
The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe operates two Fox Peak Station convenience stores in Fallon. Twelve miles east of town via U.S. Highway 50, Grimes Point Archaeological Area is home to petroglyphs left by the region’s ancient inhabitants up to 9,000 years ago. Nearby Hidden Cave was used by these people as a storage area as far back as 9,000 years as well. Relics from the cave, as well as other Paiute and Shoshone artifacts such as cradleboards and arrowheads, are on display at Fallon’s Churchill County Museum.
Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe
565 Rio Vista Dr., Fallon
WORTH A VISIT
Churchill County Museum
1050 S. Maine St., Fallon
FORT McDERMITT INDIAN RESERVATION
The Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, near the town of McDermitt on the Nevada-Oregon border and along a section of the Quinn River, is among the state’s oldest government-sanctioned sites of Native American relocation.
Originally established as a military outpost and adjacent Paiute and Shoshone camp in 1865, the tract became an official reservation in 1889. The outpost was frequented by Sarah and Chief Winnemucca and others from their family in the late 1800s; Sarah even lived there on several occasions.
Every June, the reservation and nearby town of McDermitt host the annual Indian Rodeo.
Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe
FORT MOJAVE INDIAN RESERVATION
Unlike Nevada’s nomadic Great Basin tribes, the Mojave people of the like-named southwestern desert were farmers with established villages. Today, the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation occupies a patch of land south of the tribe’s sacred traditional place of origin, Spirit Mountain. About one-eighth of the reservation occupies the southern tip of Nevada along the Colorado River; the rest of the 66-square-mile colony is in Arizona and California. Founded in 1870, the reservation now supports about 1,100 tribal members.
The reservation boasts two Nevada-style gambling establishments, the 455-room Avi Resort & Casino in Nevada and the smaller Spirit Mountain Casino in Mojave Valley, Arizona. Avi Resort includes an RV park, pool and beach, movie theater, and numerous restaurants. The adjacent Mojave Resort Golf Club has a four-star rating from Golf Digest.
The Avi Kwa Ame Powwow at the Avi Resort in February celebrates Mojave culture and traditions and includes dance and music competitions between tribes from across the country.
Fort Mojave Indian Tribe
WORTH A VISIT
Avi Resort & Casino
10000 Aha Macav Pkwy., Laughlin
Mojave Resort Golf Club
9905 Aha Macav Pkwy., Laughlin
GOSHUTE INDIAN RESERVATION
The Goshute Indian Reservation, about 70 miles south of West Wendover on the Nevada-Utah border, is Nevada’s sole colony dedicated to people of Goshute descent. Goshutes—who call themselves “desert people,” Kutsipiuti in their native tongue—share many cultural similarities with other Great Basin tribes, especially the Shoshone. The 176-square-mile reservation (about half of which is in Nevada) is technically inhabited by the Shoshone-Goshute Tribe.
In 1863, the tribe agreed to forego their traditional nomadic lifestyle and take up farming near the town of Ibapah, Utah. The Goshute Indian Reservation was established in 1914 and was extended several times in the following 70 years. The reservation’s location amid iconic, unspoiled Great Basin country affords the tribe the opportunity to lead guided hunts for antelope, elk, deer, mountain lions, and turkeys.
The tribe’s annual Goshute Powwow, August 5-6 in Ibapah, celebrates traditional Goshute and Shoshone culture and dance.
Goshute Business Council
LAS VEGAS PAIUTE COLONY & SNOW MOUNTAIN INDIAN RESERVATION
The springs that led to the birth—and name—of Las Vegas supported the Tudinu (desert people) for generations. Beyond the Las Vegas Valley, Southern Paiutes utilized all they could in the hot, arid expanses of Southern Nevada, California, and Utah. In 1911, the Paiutes, who once were free to move around the desert as they wished, were given a 10-acre plot in downtown Las Vegas, establishing the Las Vegas Paiute Colony.
In 1983, the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe was granted the six-square-mile Snow Mountain Indian Reservation northwest of the city by an act of Congress.
The downtown colony is home to Southern Nevada’s largest smoke shop, complete with a walk-in humidor. It is Las Vegas’ only smoke shop with a drive-thru window. The Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort (see photo at right) on the Snow Mountain Indian Reservation is on par with the rest of Las Vegas’ world-class resorts, and its three courses—Snow Mountain, Sun Mountain, and Wolf—have each received four-and-a-half-star ratings from Golf Digest. The 50,000-square-foot clubhouse features a full restaurant and bar and includes the largest golf shop in the state. The reservation is also home to a smoke shop and gas station.
The annual Snow Mountain Powwow, on Memorial Day Weekend, celebrates the culture, music, and dance of the Southern Paiute people.
Las Vegas Paiute Tribe
1 Paiute Dr., Las Vegas
WORTH A VISIT
Las Vegas Indian Center
2300 W. Bonanza Rd., Las Vegas
Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort
0325 Nu-Wav Kaiv Blvd., Las Vegas
LOVELOCK INDIAN COLONY
The Lovelock Indian Colony is a small reservation—20 acres—established in 1907 in the Pershing County town of Lovelock.
The nearby Marzen House Museum contains some artifacts from Northern Paiutes (see photo at right) and ancient Native Americans, including items found at nearby Lovelock Cave.
Lovelock Paiute Tribe
WORTH A VISIT
Marzen House Museum
25 Marzen Ln., Lovelock
MOAPA RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION
Like their Las Vegas Paiute neighbors to the west, the Moapa Band of Paiutes have called the Southern Nevada desert home for generations. The Moapa River Indian Reservation was established in 1874 with 39,000 square miles of land. The following year, the reservation was drastically reduced to 1,000 acres.
Today’s reservation occupies about 110 square miles between Valley of Fire State Park—a sacred site to the Moapa Band—and Las Vegas along Interstate 15. The Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza off I-15 includes a casino, convenience store, restaurant, gas station, and the largest fireworks shop in Nevada. The nearby Muddy River Valley and its fertile land once supported the ancestors of the Moapa Band, evidenced by the extraordinary amount of artifacts found during excavations around the valley and in towns such as Glendale, Logandale, Moapa, and Overton.
Valley of Fire’s numerous petroglyph sites offer insight into the daily lives of the Southern Paiute people who once inhabited the area. The Lost City Museum in Overton houses artifacts rescued from the ancient Anasazi site of Pueblo Grande de Nevada before it was flooded by Lake Mead in the 1930s. Although not related to the Southern Paiute of the Moapa Reservation, the Anasazi artifacts are a popular draw. Southern Paiute relics are also on display at the museum.
The annual Southern Paiute Veterans Powwow in November includes traditional dance, music, and native arts, crafts, and food vendors.
Moapa Band of Paiutes
WORTH A VISIT
Lost City Museum
721 S. Moapa Valley Blvd., Overton
RENO-SPARKS INDIAN COLONY
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is comprised of an urban residential colony, the 1,960-acre rural Hungry Valley Community, north of Reno, and five smoke shops in the Truckee Meadows. In addition to their namesake products, the smoke shops also sell traditional tribal jewelry and crafts.
The colony started in the early 1900s as a neighborhood occupied primarily by American Indians who worked in and around Reno. Its 900 members are of Northern Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe descent.
The colony hosts several events, including the nationally acclaimed Numaga Indian Days Powwow at the Hungry Valley Community over Labor Day Weekend, Thanksgiving and Christmas Craft Markets, and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony New Year’s Eve Powwow.
Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
98 Colony Rd., Reno
SUMMIT LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION
Remote even by Nevada standards, Summit Lake is almost 40 miles from the nearest paved road. The almost 20-square-mile reservation was established in 1913 and sits between Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area in northwestern Nevada.
The Summit Lake Paiute Tribe—called Agai Panina Ticutta, or “Summit Lake fish eaters” in their native language—has about 120 members, many of whom do not live on the reservation due to its remoteness and primitive living conditions.
The centerpiece of the reservation, Summit Lake (pictured), has been instrumental in the survival of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, an endangered landlocked species found only in a handful of Great Basin lakes and rivers. After overfishing, pollution, and increased competition for water from the late 1800s and into the mid-1900s crippled cutthroat populations in Pyramid Lake, fish from Summit Lake were used to restock the once-bountiful waters.
Due to the reservation’s fragile ecosystem, most of it is off limits to non-tribal members.
Summit Lake Paiute Tribe
1708 H St., Sparks
TE-MOAK SHOSHONE TRIBE
The Te-Moak Shoshone tribal lands consist of colonies in Battle Mountain, Elko, and Wells, plus South Fork Indian Reservation. The separate colonies, while part of the same tribe, each reflect the variety between different bands of Te-Moak Shoshone. The tribe has about 2,100 members. The bands that make up the Te-Moak Shoshone Tribe refused to relocate to the Duck Valley Reservation when it was established in 1877, forcing the U.S. government to grant them territory closer to their ancestral tribal lands.
The almost 700-acre Battle Mountain Indian Colony was established in 1917. In addition to homes for the Battle Mountain Band’s members, it includes a senior center and smoke shop/convenience store that offers fireworks and traditional arts and crafts.
The Elko Indian Colony was founded near the city in 1918. The community consists of the Elko Smoke Shop and numerous tribal member homes—its location in northeastern Nevada’s largest city preempts the need for tribe-specific services. The Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko includes artifacts from Shoshone who once practiced traditional nomadic ways of life throughout the region. The Elko Band Powwow in October is among the state’s largest and includes food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and displays of traditional dancing.
The 80-acre Wells Indian Colony was established in 1977, but the Te-Moak Shoshone people had frequented the Humboldt Wells springs near the town for many centuries before Wells was founded in 1868. The community includes a small park and the Wells Smoke Shop.
At more than 20 square miles, South Fork Indian Reservation is the largest tract of Te-Moak Shoshone tribal land in the state. The reservation is at the foot of the Ruby Mountains 28 miles south of Elko via State Routes 227 and 228. Established in 1941, South Fork has been developed only lightly in the intervening decades aside from the small town of Lee, its community center, and a hay crop to feed the tribe’s cattle herd, its largest source of revenue.
Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone
525 Sunset St., Elko
WORTH A VISIT
Northeastern Nevada Museum
1515 Idaho St., Elko
Life is slow and quiet on the Te-Moak [South Fork] Reservation. Houses are dotted here and there along the creek and few cars travel the dusty road through the reservation. Visiting there on an afternoon gives a sense of finding time has stopped, or is moving in slow motion.
“Indian Sun Song”
Nevada Magazine, Winter 1979
TIMBISHA SHOSHONE TRIBE
In November 2000, 17 years after the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe gained federal recognition, the Timbisha Homeland Act provided for a reservation of about 12 square miles near the Nevada-California border in Death Valley National Park (pictured). The park is full of sites that hold cultural significance to the Timbisha Shoshone people, such as Klare Spring, where their ancestors hunted bighorn sheep and left behind centuries-old petroglyphs.
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe
WORTH A VISIT
Death Valley National Park
WALKER RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION
In a stroke of luck during an otherwise unlucky time for Nevada’s Northern Paiutes, the Walker River Paiutes were spared displacement and forced removal to the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation and granted their own reservation in their ancestral homeland north of Walker Lake in 1874. Called Agai Ticutta, “trout eaters” in their native language, the Walker River Paiute Tribe was historically very much tied to and dependent upon the fruits of the Walker River and Walker Lake.
Today, the more than 500-square-mile reservation supports about 1,200 tribal members and is anchored by the town of Schurz at the intersection of U.S. Highway 95 and Alternate 95. The reservation’s location along the lower Walker River affords fertile farmland where alfalfa is the major crop.
Despite somewhat dwindling fish populations, Walker Lake remains a regionally popular fishing destination. Weber Reservoir in the northern part of the reservation is also frequented by anglers. Four Seasons Smoke Shop & Fireworks in Schurz is operated by the tribe and provides for much of the tribe’s income, attracting fireworks aficionados from across northwestern Nevada.
The Walker River Paiute Tribe Pinenut Festival, September 15-18 in Schurz, celebrates the sacred and once-vital fall tradition of the pine-nut harvest and includes dancing and other Paiute ceremonies and contests.
Walker River Paiute Tribe
WORTH A VISIT
Four Seasons Smoke Shop & Fireworks
WASHOE TRIBAL LANDS
The Washoe—Wa She Shu—people and their ancestors have called the Lake Tahoe region (Cave Rock pictured at right) and the valleys of northwestern Nevada home for an estimated 9,000 years; according to tribal lore, the Wa She Shu have occupied the area since time began. The word Tahoe itself is a mispronunciation of Da ow, meaning “the lake” in the Washoe language. Today, Washoe tribal lands in Nevada and California include the Carson and Dresslerville Indian Colonies and the Stewart and Woodfords Indian Communities.
Carson Indian Colony was established in 1917 in Carson City and hosts various tribal events such as the La Ke Le’l Be Nevada Day Powwow in October. The Stewart Campus sits adjacent to the Stewart Community and was once occupied as the Stewart Indian School, a boarding school for American Indians from around the West from 1890 to 1980. The district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A self-guided walking tour with audio stories shares the school’s history and that of the more than 200 tribes whose children attended. The Nevada Indian Commission hosts the annual Stewart Father’s Day Powwow every June at the Stewart Campus. Photo: Rachid Dahnoun
The Dresslerville Community near Gardnerville houses most of the Washoe Tribe’s public buildings, a community center, and park. The Woodfords Community in Markleeville, California is the only Washoe colony in California. The community was established in 1970 and includes the Woodfords Indian Education Center.
Tribal-owned businesses include Washoe Tribe Smoke Shops in Carson City and Gardnerville. The tribe also operates the Silverado Smoke Shop and a weekend open-air market June through Labor Day in Minden and Meeks Bay Resort at Lake Tahoe. The resort sits on the site of a traditional Washoe gathering place and offers rooms and cabins, camping, watersports facilities and a boat ramp, white sand beaches, hiking trails, a picnic area, and a store and snack bar.
The annual Wa She Shu It Deh Native American Arts Festival at the Tallac Historic Site in South Lake Tahoe, July 23-24, features a basket-weaving competition in homage to master basket makers such as Dat So La Lee, traditional dances and music, and tribal arts, crafts, and food vendors.
Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California
919 Hwy. 395 S., Gardnerville
WORTH A VISIT
Meeks Bay Resort & Marina
7941 Emerald Bay Rd., Tahoma, California
Stewart Indian School
5500 Snyder Ave., Carson City
The campus, located on a 3,000-acre plot southeast of Carson City, is friendly and comfortable. Stone buildings mingle with modern masonry along winding streets lined by ancient Lombardy poplars. Sweeping lawns and flowering shrubs add dignity to the spacious campus.
“The Stewart Story”
Nevada Highways and Parks, Summer 1968
WINNEMUCCA INDIAN COLONY
The Winnemucca Indian Colony, established in 1917, covers 340 acres. The Humboldt Museum in Winnemucca is home to many Northern Paiute and ancient American Indian artifacts as well as findings excavated from Lovelock Cave.
Winnemucca Colony Council
WORTH A VISIT
175 Museum Dr., Winnemucca
YERINGTON INDIAN COLONY & RESERVATION
The almost 1,700-acre Yerington Indian Reservation was originally established in 1916. The reservation includes a colony in the town of Yerington and the nearby Campbell Ranch, where the Yerington Paiute Tribe grows alfalfa for commercial sale. In addition to the alfalfa crop, the Yerington Paiute Tribe Smoke Shop and Arrowhead Market provide the tribe with revenue and visitors with the opportunity to purchase traditional crafts.
The Spirit of Wovoka Days Powwow, August 26-28, celebrates Paiute culture and the historical figure and spiritual leader Wovoka, known as the Paiute Messiah and remembered fondly for his Ghost Dance movement (read more here).
Yerington Paiute Tribe
171 Campbell Ln., Yerington
YOMBA INDIAN RESERVATION
The Yomba Indian Reservation in the upper Reese River Valley was established in 1937 for the Yomba Shoshone Tribe. The 4,700-acre reservation is about 55 miles south of Austin on the western flanks of the Toiyabe Range.
Yomba Shoshone Tribe
When visiting tribal lands in Nevada and around the country, it is important to remember that such places are recognized by the U.S. Government as sovereign nations. Visitors are responsible for obtaining the permits required to camp, fish, and hunt on Native American lands and should conduct themselves in a manner befitting a guest of a foreign country.