Tribal Member Opens Alluring Beauty

For years, Johni Bill has wanted to help people with an issue she encountered as a teen—skin health. Now, as the owner/operator of Alluring Beauty, Bill is not just providing aesthetician services, but she is a role model for other budding entrepreneurs.

“I’m still learning, but I am really excited,” Bill said. “Becoming a business owner is a big step for me.”

Her business, located at 1962 Pyramid Hwy, in a shared space with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s Smoke Shop V, focuses on waxing, tinting and eyelash extensions and Bill plans to offer facials soon.

Since high school when Bill herself dealt with problem skin, she has explored the field of cosmetology and has had an interest in being a hair and makeup artist.

It was this ambition which led her to a Jan. 30 grand opening of her open salon.

“Johni had a vision and has stepped forward to be one of our small business pioneers,” Chairman Arlan D. Melendez told the crowd of about 20 which gathered for the celebration. “When you really think about self-determination, a term that we talk about a lot in Indian Country, Johni is showing us a real example.”

Bill said that she does feel a little pressure, but she is excited to show other people that operating a business is a worthy, attainable goal for anyone at the RSIC willing to work hard.

“There are a lot of laws and rules, and that is a good thing,” Bill said. “Creating a business plan and a safety manual took a lot.”

According to Steve Moran, the director of the RSIC Economic Development and Business Enterprises Department, one of the goals of the RSIC Tribal Council is to offer more help to tribal members who want to go into business for him/herself.

In addition to providing information about local resources which can help an entrepreneur secure funding, write a business plan, file for a business license, and the like, the Colony has partnered with other agencies to hold workshops to assist small business owners.

In the case of Alluring Beauty, the RSIC’s operation of a business incubator—retail space for multiple users-—allows the tribe to offer low start up costs to help Bill get her business started.

Chairman Melendez said that because Bill has the tenacity to be independent and not totally dependent on the tribe, she is fulfilling an important role for the entire community.

“We recognize that we need more small businesses,” Melendez said. “That will take leaders in our community and we congratulate and thank Johni for taking on that responsibility.”

Alluring Beauty is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m., until 7 p.m. Bill can be reached at 775/722-4880.

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Tribal member Johni Bill celebrated the grand opening of her new business located at 1962 Pyramid Hwy, Suite B, next to Smoke Shop V. Specializing in aesthetician services like waxing, tinting and eyelash extensions, call 722-4880 for an appointment.


Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Gives Nearly $500,000 to Washoe Schools

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) commemorated its first revenue sharing payment to the Washoe County School District with a ceremonial “big check” handover today at the Colony’s health center.

“We are proud to publicly reinforce our commitment to educating all Washoe County school children,” said Arlan D. Melendez, Chairman of the RSIC. “Our leadership is committed to the academic advancement of not just our Native American students, but to all area youth.”

This nearly half-a-million-dollar contribution is the final step in a 15-year-project between Washoe County, the State of Nevada and the RSIC.

“This collaboration was designed to benefit all parties, most importantly our children,” Chairman Melendez said. “Thanks to the success of our retail operations with our increased tax revenue, the entire region is enjoying new community amenities, increased urban development, private partnerships and of course, revenue sharing for education.”

In accordance with Assembly Bill 299 which unanimously passed the Nevada Legislature in 2005, the RSIC proposed to share sales tax revenue from its retail project near Highway 395 and East Second Street to benefit the Washoe County School District. Using tribal tax revenues and a 1995 tribal municipal bond, the Colony purchased multiple properties and amassed 22-acres just east of its downtown land base. However, because the properties had been the site of several industrial businesses, the RSIC partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nevada Division of Environment Protection, to remove soil contaminated with pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, and nitrogen.

After the environmental cleanup, the RSIC worked with the Washoe County Flood Control Project, the Washoe County Public Works Department, the Nevada Departments of State Lands, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Wal-Mart to construct a quarter-mile floodwall and levee along the south bank of the Truckee River between 1-580 and the Glendale bridge.

Furthermore, the Colony also worked with the Nevada Division of Public Works to design and construct a state-of-the art facility for the Department of Corrections. Upon completion, the Colony and the State Lands swapped the former Northern Nevada Restitution Center (2595 E. 2nd St.) and the site of the new facility (225 Sunshine Ln.).

This dynamic, multifaceted public-private collaboration sprung from a need to expand health services to the RSIC’s 1,143 tribal members as well as the Northern Nevada Urban Indian population.  Besides diversifying the Colony’s tax base from sole reliance on tobacco sales, the RSIC retail operations accounted for the construction of a $20 million health center.

In fact, last July, the RSIC celebrated its seventh year of operation of the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, a direct result of this multi-agency collaboration. The 65,000 square-foot health center not only provides medical care for the RSIC tribal members, but for an additional 6,000 Northern Nevada Urban Indians.


Access to National Crime Database Coming to RSIC

Eleven Native American tribes, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, are getting access to national crime information databases already used by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

“The RSIC will benefit enormously from the program,” said Edward Reina, RSIC Tribal Administrator. “Indian Country law enforcement has struggled for decades, to gain access to and have the ability to enter criminal justice information into a national data base, a practice enjoyed by every non-Tribal law enforcement agency in the United States.”

The Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information or TAP, will provided a state- of-the-art biometric/biographic computer workstation to the RSIC that will allow tribal police to process finger and palm prints, take mugshots and submit records to national databases.

Furthermore, the RSIC will also be able to access the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service systems for criminal and civil purposes.

In addition, TAP will provide specialized training and assistance to RSIC staff.

“Not only is TAPS helpful from law enforcements ability to enter criminally linked information, but also our human services, housing, education, and human resources will be able to make criminal history inquiries,” Reina said.

Throughout Indian Country, criminal background checks for potential employees, volunteers as well as people of interest takes weeks and often months to receive.

With TAP, reports will take minutes or a few hours to retrieve. This will expedite the processing of emergency foster care placements, volunteers that work with children, applicants for housing, and the like.

Each of these capabilities enhances protection of children and families, and adds an important resource for law enforcement.

“Central to this program is our ability to share information between law enforcement agencies throughout Indian Country,” Reina said. “This is particularly critical in this era when information sharing has neglected the importance of Indian Country’s criminal intelligence information.”

TAP is a shortcut as it allows tribes to bypass state and local agencies and go directly into federal databases according to Alfred Urbina, the attorney general for the Pascua Yaqui Nation.
The Pascua Yaqui Nation was one of the first tribes to participate in the program.

“There has always been a gap on information sharing with Indian Country law enforcement and other agencies,” said Edward Reina, who is also a retired police chief. “This (gap) was highlighted in our application to the DOJ as we have the unique geographic location of the RSIC, which is the urban (Reno) and rural (Hungry Valley) settings.”

According to Reina, because the RSIC has two land bases, law enforcement requires a unique approach to sharing information.

Furthermore, Reina said that the RSIC’s application for TAP also emphasized our community’s interaction with the larger metropolitan area because of the Colony’s business enterprises.

“Only eleven agencies were selected to participate in the program,” Reina said, “so we are fortunate to be chosen.” TAP enhances tribal efforts to register sex offenders pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); to have orders of protection enforced off-reservation; to protect children; to keep firearms away from persons who are disqualified from receiving them; to improve the safety of public housing, and to allow tribes to enter their arrests and convictions into national databases.

TAP supports tribes in analyzing their needs for national crime information and includes appropriate solutions. TAP, which is managed by the DOJ Chief Information Officer, provides specialized training and assistance for participating tribes, including computer-based training and on-site instruction, as well as a 24/7 help desk.

“Since its launch in 2015, this project has not only helped law enforcement locate suspects, rescue victims and extradite captured fugitives, but it’s also made it easier for civil courts to enter and enforce orders of protection for domestic violence victims,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates.  “I’m proud that our Justice Department is continuing to act as a responsible partner with tribal governments in this landmark effort, which strengthens both sovereignty and safety for American Indian people.”

This access is vital as Native American women face the highest rates of violence and sexual assault in the United States, but orders of protection, restraining orders courts can issue to protect victims of domestic abuse or harassment, are unenforceable. “If law enforcement officials on and off the reservation can’t confirm restraining orders exist in other jurisdictions, legally, nothing can be done,” said Alfred Urbina, the attorney general for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona,  one of the first tribes to participate in the program.

In the fall of 2015, the department selected a dozen tribes to participate in the initial user feedback phase of TAP.  This partnership focused on testing the department’s technology solution and training support and it also enabled tribes to identify and share best practices regarding the use of national crime information databases   to strengthen public safety.

Phase two of TAP will grant access to national crime information databases and technical support to the RSIC as well as the following tribes:   Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Island Reserve, Alaska; Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico & Utah; Pueblo of Laguna of New Mexico; Yurok Tribe of California; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North & South Dakota; the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona; Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota; Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana; the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin; and the Makah Indian Tribe of Washington state.

The Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART), and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funded the second phase of tap as each provided $1 million in prior fiscal year funding towards the expansion, which will be used for the 11 kiosks. The Department of Justice Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) provided technical assistance.

“TAP enhances protection of our children and families, and adds an important resource for law enforcement,” Reina said. “As the RSIC is one of the first Indian country law enforcement agencies to begin an era of information sharing with our partners outside of Indian Country, this program recognizes that Indian Country law enforcement is integral to the protection of, our community, the State of Nevada and the United States. ”

For more information on TAP, visit

For more information about the DOJ, tribal justice and public safety issues, visit:

For more information about the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, visit

Editor’s Note: Information for this story was provided by the United States Department of Justice Public Affairs.







Spirit of Holiday Giving Sweeps Community

If the old adage “It’s better to give than receive,” is correct, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony might be one of the best places to be this holiday season.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our community,” said Michelle Leon. “When everyone is so willing to pitch in and make others happy, it’s a win-win for all of us.”

Leon’s summation is not only accurate, but rooted in scientific fact.

According to a recent study by psychologists at the University of British Columbia, human beings are all happier, especially young children—when we give rather than receive.

Author Lara Aknin, a professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, has found that the joy of helping others is an inherent part of human nature.

“Positive social behavior, include giving time volunteering, giving money to causes or giving gifts and other resources, all correlate to happiness,” Aknin said.

Leon, a certified health educator at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, is the co-organizer of the RSIC’s gift giving program, Angels for Elders.

Leon and her health center co-worker, Lynn Rodriquez, a patient transporter, came up with the idea to brighten the holidays for elders with Christmas gifts.

“Because of my job, I get to know some of our elders pretty well, and sometimes they confide in me that they might struggle sometimes,” Rodriquez said. “A lot of our elders live on fixed incomes and many don’t have family, so I thought we should do something about that.”

Leon and Rodriquez quickly identified 48 elders who wanted to be part of Angels for Elders.

Those participants provided a wish list of three gift ideas he or she wanted, and even quicker, the RSIC community responded positively.

“Immediately, we had a lot   of staff members at the health center that wanted to give presents to our elders,” Leon said. “When word got out to employees outside the health center, we were easily able to match elders and gift givers.”

However, the actual act of giving out the gifts will be doubly rewarding for Leon and Rodriquez who will personally deliver the presents before Christmas.

“That will definitely be one of the highlights,” Leon said. “We are really looking forward to fulfilling the wishes of our elders.”

Michael Ondelacy, the assistant director of business enterprises and economic development, said he had already caught the Christmas spirit, but when he heard about the opportunity to make the holidays better for RSIC elders, he jumped at the opportunity.

“This was really fun,” Ondelacy said. “It feels good to help, especially since my elder asked for such practical gifts—a sweater, gloves, and the like.”

Leon and Rodriquez confirmed that none of the gift requests from the elders were extravagant.

“Everyone wants usable, everyday-type items,”


Broad smiles, squeals of glee, and the look of wonderment are common during the holidays and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Human Services Department is out to ensure that every child has a Merry Christmas.

To that end, Adriana Botello and her staff once again teamed up with the Marines Toys For Tots Foundation to distribute brand new toys to children throughout the Colony and in Hungry Valley.

“We want to make sure every child receives a toy for Christmas,” Botello said. “Partnering with Toys for Tots coordinator Ken Santore and his volunteers is one of our highlights of our year.”

According to Santore, since 1947 Marines have been making Christmas wishes come true for children. Last year, Reno Toys For Tots raised and locally distributed over 86,600 toys for children.

Santore emphasized that all the toys collected by Reno Toys for Tots stay within Washoe County.

He said that his local team works very hard to make Toys for Tots a success, but without the help of concerned citizens and business leaders, the program wouldn’t be successful.

One of those businesses is Toys”R”Us.

Toys”R”Us is proud to work with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, a premier community action program, to bring joy to less fortunate children across the country every holiday season. As the largest retail partner in the history of Toys for Tots, Toys”R”Us, has raised nearly $48 million and collected 4 million toys since 2004 thanks to its generous customers.

“Certainly, we need the resources of Toys “R” Us, without the toys, we wouldn’t have this opportunity, plus, we also want to thank our RSIC Tribal Police Department for assisting in the home delivery of toys,” Botello said.  “We are appreciative to Chief Daryl Bill and his officers for making a difference in our community.”

Botello was also quick to acknowledge to the RSIC Tribal Court and the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center for their involvement.

“Our point of contact at the health center was Lawana Martinez who organized a food drive and collected toys, too,” Botello said.

She added that because of these RSIC departments efforts, in addition to providing gifts for the children, many of these needy households received food donations. Botello said that the tribal courts made goody bags for the children as well.

Furthermore, in addition to the human services and the police department, other staff members from tribal court, the Chairman’s office and the tribal administrator’s office, joined in the giving by wrapping over 150 gifts generously donated by Toys”R”Us.

“Certainly, our goal was on giving our needy children a brighter Christmas, but giving to others feels so good and helping children allows you to have that great feeling of putting others first.

Botello said it was an honor that the children allowed adults to enjoy their happiness.

“There is no greater reward and it is such humbling work,” Botello said. “It is an absolute privilege to be part of such a great community.”






American Indians Relish First All Native Honor Flight

Forty-three Native American Veterans have made history, again.

Last month, Honor Flight Nevada, a non-profit organization whose mission is to transport military veterans to Washington D.C., to tour our nation’s capital and visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of them and their friends, organized an all-Native trip for American Indians living in the Great Basin.

“We’ve had Native Americans on trips, but we weren’t able to show them their memorials specific for them,” said Jon Yuspa, founder of Honor Flight Nevada. “With this trip solely dedicated to Native Americans, we wanted to bring attention to their service and show the rest of the nation that they should be doing the same thing.”

Though it is well documented that based on our overall population and the percentage of volunteers, American Indians have a served in the United States Military more than any other ethnicity or gender, many Americans do not know about the long history of service by Native Americans.

This three-day trip certainly helped get that message out while reminding the veterans in what high esteem they are held.

Retired four-star General and former presidential candidate, Barry McCaffrey, who was the keynote speaker at the Vietnam Memorial Wall Ceremony held every Veterans Day, recognized the all-Native American Honor Flight within the first minutes of his speech.

“Native Americans enlist in greater numbers than the rest of the population and they move to the front areas of the combat zone,” General McCaffrey told thousands of onlookers. “They have suffered huge casualties, so there’s a special debt of gratitude we owe to them.”

In addition, the group got special, up close seating and participated in the prestigious Vietnam Wall ceremony.

Veteran Grizz Hilpert, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe who helped lay the wreath, was touched by the quick recognition and the inclusion.

“We weren’t last for a change,” Hilpert said. “That sounds funny, but we’re used to kind of being sent out back.”

However, this historic experience was totally different. Nothing during the trip was second class according to Gary McCloud of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. “We were treated better than dignitaries,” McCloud said.

And accolades like McCloud’s were plentiful.

“It was a million dollar trip,” said John Smith, a 95-year-old, World War II Veteran and the eldest participant. Smith, who lives on the Walker River Paiute Reservation said that the group shared so many laughs, it was just a priceless trip.

Certainly, one of factors which made the experience so unique, was the spirited, spontaneous greetings and the magnificent welcomes the group enjoyed beginning with their departure from the Reno Tahoe International Airport and ending with their return to the same spot.

The veterans relished their complimentary flight aboard Battle Born Nevada One, a Southwest Airlines custom designed and painted 737 aircraft.

At every turn of the trip, crowds greeted the veterans with applause, thanks, cheers and sometimes tears.

“People—a lot of little kids, too—lined up to shake our hands and thank us for our service,” said Harvey Merino, a Veteran who did four tours in Vietnam. “People shook our hands starting in Reno at the airport, and it continued in Washington, D.C., at all the memorial sites, and until we got home.”

For many of the veterans, like Robert Tillman, also known as Truckee Bob, the rousing greetings from complete strangers were noteworthy.

“The last time I was in Washington D.C., after the war, people greeted me with jeers and threw fruit at us,” said Tillman, a Paiute Indian who heads up the Pyramid Lake Veterans and Warriors Organization or the Numa Tookwasu.

Even though returning home from war should have been one of the highlights of military service, because the Vietnam Conflict was so controversial, many soldiers were met with hostility by the general public.

“This was worth waiting 48 years for,” said Ray Harrison, a Sioux who lives in the Elko area. “I don’t think I’ve ever been treated better.”

In addition to several special surprises, the All-Native Honor Flight Nevada, visited several monuments including: the United States Navy Memorial, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and Iwo Jima Marine Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial.

The All-Native Honor Flight Nevada included two stops at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, a tour of Arlington National Cemetery, also with VIP seating at the changing of the guard.

At the American Indian Museum, the veterans were treated to lunch with a Navajo Code Talker, Thomas H. Begay.

During World War II, radio transmission was the fastest way to deliver commands overseas.

In 1942, Marines from the Navajo tribe began to send voice transmissions in their Native language. It was impossible for the enemy to interpret or gain intelligence from these messages even if they were able to intercept the information.

Besides sharing his personal stories as a Navajo Code Talker, Begay sang the Marines’ Hymn in Navajo which was a thrill to all the veterans, but especially to the six fellow Marines.

During another museum visit, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald gave his personal regards to the veterans during a private reception. McDonald presented each Native Veteran with a commemorative Department of Veterans Affairs coin.

Furthermore, with a police escort during the entire stay, the veterans were treated to ideal vantage points of the White House, the Capital Building, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Old Post Office Washington D.C., now Trump Hotel. To see these sites, the group did not even de-board their luxury coach.

Honor Flight is a nationwide program and in Nevada, it has organized flights since 2012. The Veterans trip expenses are paid for thanks to monetary donations as well as donated plane tickets compliments of Southwest Airlines.

One of three female veterans on the trip, Jeanine Paul said that Honor Flight Nevada made all the veterans feel special and important.

“From the initial briefing to the massive return celebration at the airport, we were so touched,” Paul said.

Michael Moreno is from a Southwest tribe who resides in Northern Nevada, agreed with Paul.

“I feel good in my heart,” he said.




RSIC Planner Named Contributor / Supporter of the Year

The Nevada Indian Commission has announced its 2016 American Indian Achievement Award winners and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s Scott Nebesky is among the honorees.

Nebesky, who has worked for the RSIC for 16 years, spearheaded the American Indians’ interest in the Nevada Native Nations Lands Act. The bill, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama last month, transferred more than 71,000 acres of aboriginal territorial lands back to six Nevada Tribes.

Nebesky facilitated and presented to city, county and state governments, neighborhood and citizen advisory boards, recreational groups and political organizations, and outlined the needs and strategy not just for the RSIC, but for the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Tribe, the Ft. McDermitt Shoshone-Paiute Tribe, the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.


Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Planner Scott Nebesky was named the Nevada Indian Commission’s 2016 Contributor of the Year for his work on the Nevada Native Nations Land Act.

Other awardees for the year include:

American Indian Community Leader of the Year:
Ralph Burns, Jimmie James and Johnny Williams, Jr.

American Indian Youth Services/Role Model of the Year:
Patricia Williams Hicks

American Indian Youth Ambassador of the Year:
Sierra Reel

The American Indian Community Leader of the Year has been awarded to Ralph Burns, Robert James, and Johnnie Williams These three veterans of the United States Armed Forces recently successfully sued the Nevada Secretary of State and Washoe and Mineral counties under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute and the Walker River Paiute tribes, these respected elders asserted that under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, their civil rights have been violated for decades.

As the plaintiffs in the case Sanchez vs. Cegavske these Native warriors asked that Washoe and Mineral counties install and operate early in-person voting for their tribal communities as well as Election Day in-person voting on the Pyramid Lake reservation.

Furthermore, thanks to their litigation, Burns, James, and Williams have laid the foundation for another 1.7 million American Indian people to finally enjoy this essential right. Because this legal decision took place in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, this powerful injunction will reverberate in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Washington, Idaho, Hawaii, Montana and Oregon, home to 172 federally recognized tribes.

Hicks spoke Shoshone and Paiute growing up in Hawthorne and moving to Schurz as a teen. She was a legal secretary for the Nevada attorney general, and as tribal chairman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe worked hard to preserve American Indian life. She has spent her life teaching traditional Paiute songs and dances to tribal youth.

Reel is from the Moapa Band of the Paiute Tribe in Southern Nevada. She continues Paiute traditions, language and dance. She has served nationally as an activist on American Indian issues and causes, including protecting the traditional homeland of Gold Butte.

The event helps raise funds to support establishing a cultural center at the former Stewart Indian School, according to Sherry Rupert, the longest serving executive director of the commission.

The Nevada Indian Commission selected the 2016 award recipients. The group’s mission is to ensure the well-being of Nevada’s American Indians, through development and enhancement of the government to government relationship between the State of Nevada and Indian tribes, and through education for a greater cultural understanding of the state’s first citizens.

Former Governor Grant Sawyer and Assemblyman Ernie Johnson introduced legislation to create the Nevada Indian Commission in 1965, and the 12 executive directors and many commissioners along the way were instrumental in building the foundation of the organization.


It’s Official: President signs Nevada Native Nations Land Act

Calling it the greatest development for today’s generation, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Chairman Arlan D. Melendez expressed delight as the Colony learned on Friday morning that President Barack Obama has signed to the Nevada Native Nations Lands Act.

“All parties in the local and surrounding areas will benefit from this legislation,” Chairman Melendez said.

Last week, Congress voted to approve H.R. 2455.  This federal law will transfer about 71,000 acres of land that is currently under federal control to six Great Basin Indian Tribes.

The tribes have been working with Nevada’s Congressional delegation for four years on this legislation. The idea for this transfer commenced when Congressman Mark Amodei brought Indian Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Don Young to Nevada and the tribes discussed with Amodei and Young their need for more land.

The coalition of tribes in Nevada have some of the smallest land bases in Indian country and this important legislation will add land to their reservations which will be put to beneficial use for housing, economic development and cultural activities.

Chairman Melendez whole-heartily agrees.

“Currently, we are completely landlocked,” Chairman Melendez said. “We cannot build one more house on our original 20 acres.”

However, Chairman Melendez believes housing is just one of many benefits the transfer of land provides.

The Nevada Native Nations Lands Act gives the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony jurisdiction of 13,434 continuing acreage to its Hungry Valley land base.

The Senators Reid and Heller navigated S.1436 through the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on October 21, 2015 and to Senate passage on April 14, 2016. Nevada Congressmen Mark Amodei, Joe Heck, and Cresent Hardy introduced the House companion (H.R.2733), and navigated it to House-passage on June 7, 2016. On Sept. 29, the Senate passed the Nevada Native Nations Lands Act via a hotline vote.

Senator Reid played a key role in negotiating with Bureau of Land Management and helping to fine tune the legislation and Senator Heller worked with his Republican colleagues to ensure passage.

“All the tribes greatly appreciate the hard work on the part of the Nevada Congressional delegation in getting this bill to final passage,” Chairman Melendez said. “This is a truly historic time for our tribes and a federal law which will benefit our people for years to come.”

Currently, the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service administers nearly 48 million acres of public lands in Nevada.  The acreage the six tribes are asking to be transferred is just 0.17 percent of the over 80 percent of the land in Nevada which is owned by the federal government.

Chairman Melendez said that the RSIC and all the tribes look forward to working with their partners in local government   to ensure the best use of this land to benefit tribal and neighboring communities.

“Native people are one with the land and it raises our spirit,” Chairman Melendez said.  “We appreciate that our national leaders, Congressman Mark Amodei, Senator Dean Heller, Senator Harry Reid—they understanding that.”

In addition, the land the RSIC hopes to transfer also holds cultural significance with several landscape features which are used for traditional religious practices and a source of medicinal plants.

Chairman Melendez said that securing the additional acreage in Hungry Valley will allow the tribe—Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe people, to teach their children their spiritual heritage in an appropriate setting.

“We want to teach our children our values by using the land like it is supposed to be used.”

This summer, Senator Reid provided a statement at the Senate Committee hearings and in his remarks he said that land is lifeblood to Native Americans and this bill provides space for housing, economic development, traditional uses and cultural protection. Senator Heller, who introduced the companion bill heard by the Senate, outlined his commitment to the tribes.

“I’m proud this important bipartisan legislation empowering Nevada’s tribal leaders to make important decisions affecting their communities will soon become law,” Senator Heller said.

The five other tribes involved are the Te-Moak, Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley, the Pyramid Lake Paiutes, the Summit Lake Paiutes and the Ft. McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.

Outline of Nevada Native Nations Land Act
Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe
Conveys 19,094 acres of BLM land to be held in trust for the tribe.

Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute Tribes
Conveys 82 acres of Forest Service land to be held in trust for the tribe.

Summit Lake Paiute Tribe
Conveys 941 acres of BLM land to be held in trust for the tribe.

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
Conveys 13,434 acres of BLM land to be held in trust for the tribe.

Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
Conveys 6,357 acres of BLM land to be held in trust for the tribe.

Duckwater Shoshone Tribe
Conveys 31,229 acres of BLM land to be held in trust for the tribe.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Meets With Native Leaders

With orders from President Barack Obama to go on a fact-finding trip, last month, Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, met with several American Indian leaders for their insight about the fight in Indian Country against drug addiction.

“There is not a clear connection between agriculture and opioid abuse,” said Arlan D. Melendez, one of the 11 tribal leaders asked to join Vilsack during his trip to Nevada.  “But it is clear, Secretary Vilsack wants to find creative ways to help Indian Country with its infrastructure and with funding for programs that will stop drug addiction.”

According to Secretary Vilsack his office primarily provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues using the best available science, and effective management.

However, since Secretary Vilsack also serves as the chair of the White House Rural Council and because he knows first-hand the chaos drug addiction can cause, Secretary Vilsack is an ideal person to lead the president’s nationwide initiative to fight opioid addiction.

Secretary Vilsack explained to the tribal leaders and another 25 people in the audience at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, that the Department of Agriculture can assist with the construction of buildings which can be used as treatment facilities, recovery centers, and transitional housing.

The former governor of Iowa, Secretary Vilsack added that the USDA also has special
programs to help tribes and other rural communities to build the physical structures needed for internet access.

Secretary Vilsack emphasized that a lot of tribes, especially those in remote areas, are looking to use the internet to connect physicians and patients.

Telemedicine, which requires a satellite or a computer, is the practice of medicine when the doctor and patient are in different locations, sometimes thousands of miles apart, using two-way voice and visual communication.  Secretary Vilsack says that telemedicine could include treatment for patients fighting addictions.

Nevada is the fourth state Vilsack has visited since May in which he has brought
together community stake-holders to address the opioid crisis.

After his roundtable discussion at the RSTHC which included area tribal chairman, Indian health care experts, addiction and recovery professionals as well as interested RSTHC staff, Secretary Vilsack and Chairman Melendez held a press conference.

While speaking to the press, Secretary Vilsack outlined four areas of focus:  prevention, treatment, criminal justice reform and economic development. “We need to give our people fighting addiction a transition,” says Secretary Vilsack, “A way of getting strong, of building resistance, if you will.”

The President’s budget is calling for more than 1.1 billion dollars to support states, like Nevada, fighting opioid abuse. Vilsack says already a $94 million grant will help build or expand 271 treatment facilities across the nation. That’s on top of millions more to help make drugs treating overdose more available.

Vilsack also called for more transitional housing and drug courts to get people long term treatment other than prison.

Finally, economic development, he says will provide hope for the people, which RSIC
Tribal Chairman Arlan Melendez agrees.

“Creating jobs and small business development—,” Chairman Melendez said, “those type of things will give people the sense of empowerment, so that they can take their rightful place in Native American communities.”

During the round table, several of the Native leaders echoed Chairman Melendez’s sentiments.

They shared stories which indicated that a bleak future because of dysfunctional family units, low academic success, and high unemployment led many Native Americans to feel hopeless.

“That despair often leads to addiction,” said Monty Williams, the director of the Statewide Native American Coalition.

According to a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, one in five American Indians 12 years and older have used illicit drugs.  Indian Health Services recently reported that the rate of drug-related deaths among American Indian and Alaska Native people is almost twice that of the general population.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that death from prescription opioid overdose among American Indian increased almost four-fold from 1999 to 2013.

Veronica Domingues-Gephart, who is the director of the behavioral health department at the RSTHC, said that in Indian Country, opioid dependency is often linked
to depression and anxiety among young people.

“What we have found is that often times the youth are suffering a lot from identity issues,” Domingues-Gephart said. “These emotional issues can eventually lead to substance and opioid abuse as a coping mechanism.”

More data from the CDC supports Domingues-Gephart’s statements.

Throughout the U.S., over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids every single day.

Two years ago, 10,500 individuals died from a heroin overdose which was a 26 percent increase from 2013.  Over 9 million children in the U.S., live with a parent or other adult who uses illegal drugs.  Even more alarming, the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children believes the numbers in Indian Country are worse.

“Opioid addiction is such a serious problem that it is impacting and affecting people in every state of the country,” Secretary Vilsack said. “…opioid abuse is an equal opportunity killer and we know that opioids are the introductory drug. Eighty percent of all heroin users begin their use with opioids.”

In addition to outlining the latest harrowing statistics about drug addiction, Secretary Vilsack also shared his own experience.

“When I was young, my mom struggled mightily with addiction,” Secretary Vilsack said. I saw a downward spiral in her life for five or six years, where she was hospitalized a couple of times and even attempted suicide.”

Mercifully, Secretary Vilsack said that his mother turned her life around, primarily because there were people to help her.

“What is painful for me to hear, is these current situations where either families do not acknowledge they need help, or when they do acknowledge it, there is no one there to provide the help and the assistance needed.”

Secretary Vilsack’s visit to the RSTHC was his first in Indian Country.

Chairman Receives Two Lifetime Achievement Awards

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s Tribal Chairman Arlan D. Melendez will be presented with two lifetime achievement awards by two different organizations this week. The Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) and the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) will each publically honor Chairman Melendez for his significant contributions to their respective national organizations.

During its 9th Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, the NAFOA recognized the distinguished achievements of Chairman Melendez. The prestigious NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an Indian Country leader who has made significant contributions to tribal economic development throughout the span of his or her career.

During the 6th Annual Heroes in Native Health Awards Gala on Wednesday, the NIHB will honor and recognize Chairman Melendez for his dedication to advancing the delivery of health care to Tribal communities.

2016 NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
RSIC Chairman Arlan D. Melendez

Chairman Melendez holds the highest elected office at the RSIC, a position he has had for over 25-years. His uninterrupted leadership is unprecedented in Indian Country as are his appointments to federal, state, and tribal government posts.

A U.S. Armed Forces veteran, Melendez served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam Era. Under his direction, the Colony has developed and maintained a strong and fiscally sound government. The RSIC has taken advantage of its strategic location within a metropolitan area to create a viable economic tax base which has helped the tribe attract business development to the reservation.

With Chairman Melendez’s leadership, the RSIC has partnered with the State of Nevada, Washoe County, the cities of Reno and Sparks, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to put 108 acres into Trust Land. This remarkable collaboration has expanded the RSIC’s total land base to over 2,000 acres.

The reservation lands consist of the original 28 acre residential Colony located in central west Reno and another 1,920 acres in Hungry Valley, which is 19 miles north of the Colony and west of Spanish Springs, Nev., nestled in scenic Eagle Canyon.

Nationally, in 2005, Chairman Melendez was appointed to a six-year-term on the United States Commission on Civil Rights by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. An independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency, the Civil Rights Commission’s mission champions the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.

In 2010, he was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval to the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee.

Last year, Chairman Melendez was appointed to serve as treasurer for the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). NCAI is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities. Today, he chairs the taxation subcommittee for the NCAI.

Chairman Melendez’s term as a volunteer on the local Selective Service Board expired in June, after a 20-year commitment.

Though Chairman Melendez works on a number of issues, he has a passion for quality health care and has been a strong advocate and voice on the local and national level for improved health care for Native people.  Of the many accomplishments, the most rewarding is the RSIC’s state-of-the art tribal health care center, which serves thousands of Native Americans in the Reno-Sparks area.

Currently, Chairman Melendez serves on the U.S. Health and Human Services’ National Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC), directed by Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell as well as the Phoenix Area Tribal Health Steering Committee.

Today, Chairman Melendez is a current Board Member of CHIEF, the Christian Hope Indian Eskimo Fellowship, which is a Native Christian outreach organization located in Phoenix. He was also a founding member of the Colony Christian Fellowship Church located on the Reno-Sparks Colony.

In addition, Chairman Melendez is the past president of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada (ITCN) and has been Western Region Vice-President of NCAI, for three different terms. Chairman Melendez lives on the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony with his wife Joyce. They have four grown children.

What other leaders are saying about Chairman Melendez:

“Chairman Melendez has provided over 25 years of stability and leadership for his tribe.  His leadership at the local level has transcended across this nation with his participation on national boards and commissions, bringing awareness to critical tribal issues.  I congratulate Chairman Melendez on this richly deserved recognition.”
Sherry Rupert, Executive Director of the Nevada Indian Commission

“Arlan Melendez has been a transformational leader not just for Reno Sparks, but for all of Indian Country. His work embodies NCAI’s mission, and we have benefitted from his steadfast and visionary leadership for many years. Arlan has been a strong friend and mentor, and his passion for advancing the rights of his tribe and all of Indian Country has been a model for me personally.”
Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians

“Chairman Melendez has been an important figure in the Reno community for a quarter century. His legacy will be marked by his important work in the legislature and advocacy for Indian people and tribal communities across the U.S., in particular our region. On behalf of the Reno City Council, I congratulate him on this impressive, well-deserved achievement.”
Hillary Schieve, Mayor of the City of Reno

“I want to congratulate Chairman Arlan Melendez on his prestigious recognitions, as they are truly well deserved. Chairman Melendez is truly a lifetime leader for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony having served for 25-years, and has made a difference in the quality of life for our Native American community.  I am proud to call him a friend and grateful for his leadership and service to our state and tribe.”
Geno Martini, Mayor of the City of Sparks

“The City of Reno is fortunate to have Chairman Melendez as a friend and neighbor. Chairman Melendez’s leadership has been paramount for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. His voice and dedication has led the way for many in the community and I am privileged to have the opportunity to collaborate with him to better serve the region.”
Oscar Delgado, Vice-Mayor of the City of Reno

 “Chairman Melendez serves as an example of how Native leaders can protect the future of Indian Country by investing in the most precious resource we have- our youth. By being a strong and constant advocate, and providing support to Native organizations and Native communities, Chairman Melendez has been working for over 25 years to ensure Native communities have control over the lives and destiny of their people.”
Ahniwake Rose, National Indian Education Association Executive Director

 “As I am a young leader, Chairman Melendez goes out of his way to make me feel comfortable in any situation. He always knows the right things to say, and I could call on him today and he would always steer me in the right direction. He is definitely a leader and visionary. I admire him for the dedication and the hard work he does for the RSIC, Nevada Tribes and Tribes around the United States.”
Chairman Len George, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

“Chairman Melendez is humble, with consistent fair leadership and is on point with discussion or action items in the best interest of tribal people and operations. He is a longtime friend and inspiration for tribal leadership.”
 Chairman Lindsey Manning, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley

“I am honored to have known Chairman Melendez for many years. I have witnessed first-hand his dedication not just to his community, but to all Americans via his military service and his many national appointments including on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. These lifetime achievement awards are well-deserved.”
John Oceguera, Senior Vice-President of Strategies 360, Nevada Operations and Former Nevada State Assembly Speaker of the House

Reina returns to Colony with public service mission

During his 42-year professional career, public service has always been the focus for Edward “Ed” Reina.

His commitment to helping others could have been ignited as he was raised in a large family. His dedication to community might have started when as an adolescent he realized all people were not treated fairly.

Furthermore, Reina’s devotion to humanity probably was solidified during his two-year stint in the U.S. Army. Now as the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s Tribal Administrator, Reina’s efforts to better serve his community are even more refined.

A member of the Akimel O’Odham and Xalychidom Piipaash or Salt River Pima-Mariopa Tribe located in greater Phoenix, Reina believes that when everyone operates together, a community is better served.

“Everyone is doing great work here (at the RSIC), but our departments are working in silos,” Reina said. “We have a lot of potential to enhance our services by working together.”

Though the majority of Reina’s work history is in law enforcement, he said that his life-long philosophy—team work with a focus on public service—will remain as the tribal administrator.

“I quickly learned that in law enforcement, I could make a difference. “As chief of police, I worked with other agencies, not just locally, but county, state, and even nationally, to enhance services to our communities.”

In his capacity as tribal administrator, Reina looks for his collaborative philosophy to continue.

“When I worked (in law enforcement) I was given a great opportunity to do prevention and intervention rather than incarceration, plus I could work with other service agencies.”

Reina started at the RSIC in July. As tribal administrator, he is responsible for managing and overseeing the operations of 17 RSIC departments and several programs within those divisions.

And this isn’t Reina’s first stop at the Colony. From 1997 to 2000, Reina served as the chief of tribal police for the RSIC.

“I am looking forward to reconnect with this community,” Reina said. “I enjoyed it here.”

However, it was his commitment to his family—now six children, 22 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, which took him back to Scottsdale, Ariz.

“For me, family is a priority,” Reina said. “I had young children and grandchildren and I needed to be home and that is primarily why I left.”

After 16 years, Reina said that not a lot has changed at the RSIC, but he noted the expansion of business development. He added that the remodel of the administrative offices at 34 Reservation Rd., is very impressive.

“It means we can provide even more services and develop a coalition to better serve our community,” Reina said.

Not one to leave projects unfinished, Reina finished his bachelor’s degree online in 2016 after he started with a traditional college education in 1978.

“I hate to leave anything undone,” Reina said.

Of course, his formal college credentials came after his military service. Drafted in 1968 during the Vietnam Conflict, Reina was stationed in Germany, though he never experienced combat.

It was the military where Reina saw that teamwork or a multi-discipline approach is the best method to solve problems, especially when the aim is to serve the public.

“When helping our community, we need to include all our departments, even our faith based organizations, to develop a plan to address the underlining problem, then, hopefully, we will correct it,” Reina said. “For example, if we have a juvenile skipping school, as a coalition we can discuss the case and identify the underlying problem which may be a dysfunctional home environment, then we can effectively address the situation.”

Reina believes that the RSIC’s recently adopted strategic plan will provide excellent guidance.

In addition, he wants to incorporate Native traditions such as an elder group that might work with the tribal court, add a mentoring program for youth, and develop alternatives to incarceration.

“These methods build self-confidence,” Reina said. “My goal has always been to serve, and like all of Indian Country, we are one community, and the role of our positions is public service for our people.”

Editor’s note: Reina operates on an open door policy and invites RSIC Tribal members to visit his office.