A Story of Encounters: Political and Legal Efforts

The establishment of Indian reservations and colonies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave some of Nevada’s tribes greater autonomy, but did not resolve many longstanding inequities. Circumstances improved with the advent of voting rights and citizenship for tribal members, the passage of the federal Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, and the broader recognition of Nevada’s tribes as sovereign nations.

The formation of organizations including the Nevada Indian Commission and the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada brought Nevadans of all backgrounds together to enhance opportunities for members of the state’s federally recognized tribes and to improve communication between tribes, local and state governments, and other agencies.

Other political and legal efforts concerned indigenous rights to land, the repercussions of the Nevada Test Site, and water rights. The formation of the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) in 1946 inspired tribes including the Washoe to pursue compensation for the loss of traditional lands and resources.


John Dressler: Recollections of a Washoe Statesman
John Dressler, a Washoe, was born in 1916, entered Stewart Indian School around 1922, and graduated around 1935. He became a leader of the Washoe in Nevada, working in leadership positions for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Inter Tribal Council of Nevada, and Nevada Indian Affairs Commission. Interviewed in 1970, he discusses the lives of his grandparents and parents and his own experiences working as a ranch hand, welder, and iron worker, and as a leader in the Boy Scouts and Baptist Church.

Phyllis J. Walsh: From Lorgnettes to Lariats – In Loving Recollection of the S Bar S Ranch, Where Work Hardened Our Hands, While Visitors Lightened Our Hearts
Born in 1897 in Philadelphia, Phyllis J. Walsh moved to Nevada in the 1930s to assist in the management of the S Bar S Ranch, located along the Truckee River within the boundaries of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation. Interviewed in 1971, she discusses her experiences as a non-Indian living on the reservation, her work as one of the first members of the Nevada Indian Affairs Commission and her interactions with many tribal members throughout the state.

Articles reprinted with permission from the Nevada Historical Society. Select a link to open a pdf copy of the article.

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