Category Archives: What’s Happening

September at the RSIC

September was the seventh month that had a length of 30 days in the Roman calendar. It became the ninth month with a length of 29 days when King Numa Pompilius reformed the calendar and added the months of January and February.

September starts on the same day of the week as December every year, but does not end on the same day of the week as any other month in the year.The birthstone for September is the sapphire which means clear thinking.

September is also the name of probably the most beloved song by American funk band Earth Wind & Fire, was released by the nine-member group in 1978.

Tai Chi with Christian, 3NWC, Noon
Spartan Training, 3NWC, 5 p.m.
Hungry Valley Handgames, Pow Wow Grounds, 6 p.m.
Numaga Indian Days Pow Wow, Hungry Valley, 7 p.m.

Warrior Mountain Run, Hungry Valley Rec Center, 7:30 a.m.
Numaga 3 Mile Walk/Run, Hungry Valley Rec Center, 7:30 a.m.
Hungry Valley Handgames, Pow Wow Grounds, 11 a.m.
Numaga Indian Days Pow Wow, Hungry Valley, Noon

Hungry Valley Handgames, Pow Wow Grounds, 11 a.m.
Numaga Indian Days Pow Wow, Hungry Valley, Noon

Labor DayRSIC Administration Offices Closed

Elder Aquacize, 55-years+, Alf Sorensen, 1400 Baring Blvd., Sparks, 9 a.m.
Senior Advisory Committee meeting, Senior Center, 10 a.m.
Grocery Store Tour, RSTHC, 1:30 p.m.

Day at the Museum, THPO/Cultural Resource Program,6:45 a.m.
Cardio Kickboxing, 3NWC, 12:15 p.m.
Senior Numa (Paiute) Language Class, RSIC Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Great Basin Native Artists Reception & Artists’ Talk, TMCC, 5 p.m.
Law & Order Committee, Tribal Court, 6 p.m.
POSTPONED Re-Scheduled Economic Development Meeting, 6 p.m. 
CANCELED Confidence Health Resources PCS Caregivers Hiring Event, 34 Res. Rd., 6 p.m.

Elder Aquacize, 55-years+, Alf Sorensen, 1400 Baring Blvd., Sparks, 9 a.m.
CANCELED Confidence Health Resources PCS Caregivers Event, Rec Center, 6 p.m.
RSIC Pow Wow Club, RSTHC, 6 p.m.
Re-Scheduled Economic Development Meeting, Hungry Valley Rec Center, 6 p.m.

Native Art Classes, RSTHC Behavioral Health, 9 a.m.
Tai Chi with Christian, 3NWC, Noon
Fit For Life, Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Spartan Training, 3NWC, 5 p.m.

Education Advisory Committee meeting, Education Conference Room, Noon
Fit For Life, Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Senior Advisory Committee meeting, Senior Center, 1 p.m.
Enrollment Advisory Committee meeting, Enrollment Office, 5:30 p.m.
RSIC Pow Wow Club, RSTHC, 6 p.m.

Elder Aquacize, 55-years+, Alf Sorensen, 1400 Baring Blvd., Sparks, 9 a.m.
Grocery Store Tour, RSTHC, 5:30 p.m.
Drug Endangered Children Information Evening, Hungry Valley, 6 p.m.

Cardio Kickboxing, 3NWC, 12:15 p.m.
Senior Numa (Paiute) Language Class, RSIC Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Suicide Prevention Training, RSTHC, 4 p.m.
Tribal Council Meeting, 34 Reservation Rd., 6 p.m.

Elder Hot Springs, Carson Hot Spring, 9 a.m.
Yoga, 3NWC, 12:10 p.m.
Healing to Wellness Court Alumni Meeting, Tribal Court Room, 5 p.m.
Cardio Kickboxing, 3NWC, 5:30 p.m.

Native Art Classes, RSTHC Behavioral al Health, 9 a.m.
Tai Chi with Christian, 3NWC, Noon
Fit For Life, Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Spartan Training, 3NWC, 5 p.m.

Health Fair, RSTHC, 10 a.m.
Car Seat Checkpoint, RSTHC, 10 a.m.
Military Appreciation Day, National Championship Air Races, Stead Air Field

Fit For Life, Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Spaghetti Bowl Reconfiguration Public Meeting, 34 Reservation Rd., 5 p.m.
Executive Health Board meeting, RSTHC, 5:30 p.m.
Miniature Golf, Wild Island, 6 p.m.

Commodity Distribution, Senior Center, 8 a.m.
Elder Aquacize, 55-years+, Alf Sorensen, 1400 Baring Blvd., Sparks, 9 a.m.
After School Tutoring Program, Reno & Hungry Valley, 2 p.m.
Drug Endangered Children Information Evening, RSIC, 5:30 p.m.
Yoga, 3NWC, 5:30 p.m.

Cardio Kickboxing, 3NWC, 12:15 p.m.
Senior Numa (Paiute) Language Class, RSIC Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Family Hand Drum Making, 34 Reservation Rd., 6 p.m.

Elder Aquacize, 55-years+, Alf Sorensen, 1400 Baring Blvd., Sparks, 9 a.m.
Yoga, 3NWC, 12:10 p.m.
Cardio Kickboxing, 3NWC, 5:30 p.m.
Youth Hand Drum Contest, 34 Reservation Rd., 6 p.m.

Native American Day, RSIC Administration Offices Closed
Native American Day Celebration, 34 Reservation Rd., 4 p.m.

Fit For Life, Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Grocery Store Tour, RSTHC, 5:30 p.m.
Housing Advisory Board Meeting, 34 Reservation Rd., 6 p.m.

Elder Aquacize, 55-years+, Alf Sorensen, 1400 Baring Blvd., Sparks, 9 a.m.
Yoga, 3NWC, 5:30 p.m.

Adult Kickboxing, 3NWC, 12:15 p.m.
Senior Numa (Paiute) Language Class, RSIC Senior Center, 12:30 p.m.
Healthy Aging Bingo, RSTHC, 5:30 p.m.
Economic Development Meeting, 34 Reservation Rd., 6 p.m.

Elder Hot Springs, Carson Hot Spring, 9 a.m.
Yoga, 3NWC, 12:10 p.m.
Cardio Kickboxing, 3NWC, 5:30 p.m.
Talking Circle, RSTHC Behavioral al Health, 4 p.m.

Native Art Classes, RSTHC Behavioral Health, 9 a.m.
Tai Chi with Christian, 3NWC, Noon
Spartan Training, 3NWC, 5 p.m.
Tobacco Lunch & Learn , RSTHC, 11:30 a.m.

Truckee River Cleanup Day, RSTHC, 9 a.m.
Kids Cooking Class, Nothing to It! Culinary Center, 10 a.m.



Annual Senior Fun Day Bonds Elders, Community

In Native American tribal communities, elders are the wisdom-keepers as they know our history, know our culture and educate the next generation.

For the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe people, elders are held in the highest regard.

Nowhere was that more evident than at the recent Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Senior Fun Day.

Organized and managed by the RSIC Senior Program, the annual event drew over 350 participants from as far away as Bishop, Calif., and Fort McDermitt, which straddles the Oregon-Nevada border.

Teresa Bill, one of the RSIC staff members who helps orchestrate the event, said that the mission for Senior Fun Day is simple.

“We have elders from so many different reservations this gives them an chance to see family and friends and catch up,” Bill said. “When we come together, we learn more and really, it is just to have fun.”

That sentiment was echoed and celebrated from 10 a.m., until the last visitor left the RSIC Gym at 3 p.m.

Plus, it was the principle of Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) Chairman Arlan D. Melendez’s welcoming remarks.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, we are all Native, and we are all family,” Chairman Melendez said. “Today’s event shows that right here.”

Besides meeting and greeting friends from afar, the participants showed off their personalities by wearing unique hats that culminated with a hat contest via loudest applause.

Many of the elders played chair volleyball. Everyone enjoyed the catered lunch compliments of Bertha Miranda’s Mexican Food Restaurant and Cantina. There also was bingo with prizes as well as many information booths with souvenirs and important materials to take home.

“It overwhelms me and I feel so good in my heart to see so many family and friends,” said Reynelda James, an elder from Pyramid Lake. “We don’t see everyone that often so this is a blessing.”

Furthermore, two elders from faraway Bridgeport, Calif., not only participated in all the Senior Fun Day activities, but 94-year-old Madeline Stevens Lundy and 91-year-old Joyce Glazier took in an art exhibit: The Culture of Weaving: Traditional Baskets in Transition, Paiute, Shoshone & Washoe Baskets which is housed through the end of the month by the RSIC Cultural Resources Program/THPO.

Bill, who often identifies and organizes outings for the RSIC Senior Program, explained that the coming to Reno adds a special dimension to the day.
“Since the RSIC senior center is so centralized, many of the elders take the opportunity to shop and see things in the city,” Bill said. “That helps us get so many people to attend.”

Certainly, Tribes are in the best position to provide services to Native elders, and considering the future growing population of older Americans, that is not an easy job.

According to a November 2015 report by the American Association of Retired Person’s Public Policy Institute, by 2050, the number of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) ages 65 and older will more than triple, and the number of those 85 and older will increase sevenfold–from 42,000 in 2012 to 300,000 in 2050.

Today, more than 5.2 million United States citizens identify as American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/ AN), either alone or combined with other races.

Heartbreakingly, almost twice as many older AI/ANs are uninsured than are people in the same-age US population (16 percent versus 8.5 percent). A larger percentage of AI/ANs ages 50-plus receive Medicaid or use Veterans Affairs coverage, and 22 percent receive care provided by the Indian Health Service.

In areas like Reno-Sparks, the number and proportion of AI/ANs (of all ages) who reside in urban areas have increased 34 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Today, 44 percent of AI/ANs ages 50 and over reside on tribal lands. Alaska has the highest proportion of AI/ANs ages 50 and over (14 percent), followed by Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Montana. California has the most AI/ANs ages 50 and over (nearly 172,000), followed by Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

Of course, the federal government has a trust responsibility to AI/ANs that includes a legal obligation to protect treaty rights, lands, assets, and resources, plus a duty to carry out the mandates of federal law to AI/ AN people, and our elders are at the core of our communities. However, these same elders comprise the most economically disadvantaged group in the nation and are at increasing risk of financial exploitation and neglect.

To combat this crisis, the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) was established in 1976 by Tribal Leaders to advocate for improved comprehensive health, social services and economic wellbeing for our elders.

“In our culture, we hold our elders in the highest regard,” said Brendan Able, the RSIC Senior Center Activities Coordinator. “Typically, our youth have the energy while the elders exercise their wisdom, which guides us all.”

Able said that an elder–man or woman–is not elected or appointed, but always is widely recognized and highly respected for their wisdom and spiritual leadership.

“Our elders often are known for being the kind of people who have paid attention and gaining knowledge and wisdom from life,” Abel said. “Certainly, we feel that on Senior Fun Day.”


Wildfires Sear Northern Nevada, Edge Hungry Valley

It has been called a wildfire season on steroids, and Hungry Valley Volunteer Fire Management Coordinator Lance Chantler agrees that 2017 has been like no other.

“There are so many volatile fuels—cheat grass, sage brush, even juniper, which can start a fire very easily,” Chantler said. “All conditions indicate that in the coming weeks and months, conditions will remain very dry and any spark can start a fire, so we will remain vigilante.”

Indeed, residents of Hungry Valley saw firsthand the uncertainty and daunting anxiety which accompanies wildfire as the Long Valley Fire skirted our tribal community last month.

Sparked on July 11, the Long Valley Fire took 10 days of intense firefighting against unpredictable winds, extremely high temperatures, and saturating humidity finally to control the blaze which burnt  83,733 acres, or about 131 square miles.

For the Hungry Valley residents, besides the plumes of smoke, the glow of the Long Valley Fire could be seen after sundown which added to the unease.

“As per our protocols, we were in direct communication with the Long Valley Command Post,” Chantler said. “We have great partners in the SoCal Fire, Bureau of Land Management and all the area agencies which were equipped and ready had the fire remained dynamic and reached our trigger point, which it never did.”

In addition to the fire department, other Reno-Sparks Indian Colony representatives attended the daily operational briefings and the planning briefings. Throughout the active event, RSIC Emergency Management Services including law enforcement, public works, housing and public information personnel were on call.

The Long Valley Fire started near the California / Nevada border town of Doyle and travelled southeast toward Moonstone and Winnemucca Ranch roads.

The fire burned into the north end of Spanish Springs, and in its later stages, the fire moved eastward toward Pyramid Lake. Advisory evacuation orders were issued for Sutcliff, Grass Valley and Palomino Valley.

At one point Pyramid Highway, SR 445, was closed in both directions just north of SR 446 before the fire was contained on Tule Ridge and Dogskin Mountains.

Since the Long Valley Fire in late July, the Hungry Valley Fire Department was first on the scene and the lead agency, at two small fires, one on and one off the Hungry Valley land base.

“Our crew did an excellent job in especially difficult conditions, containing a 13.62 acre fire on the reservation,” Chantler said. “Since we had been working nearly two straight weeks, this effort was especially significant.”


With continued high temperatures, winds and low humidity, Northern Nevada and much of the entire western part of the United States has endured several red flag warning days.

A Red Flag Warning is a forecast warning issued by the United States National Weather Service to inform area firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion, and rapid spread.

See the following link for red flag warnings:

In addition, warnings and updates about regional wildfires will be sent via the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s emergency alert system, via employee email, and at the Colony’s website.

Please remember, wildfire conditions can change quickly without warning and human interference can threaten lives.

“We have had reports of people parking on Eagle Canyon road to watch the fires,” said RSIC / Hungry Valley Fire Management Coordinator Lance Chantler.  “Blocking access roads is a hazard to responders and ultimately, the community.

He said that during the nearby Prater Fire in Sparks, so many cars blocked the road that law enforcement had to assist.

Chantler also emphasized that drones complicate and disrupt emergency efforts. â

“Drone use during a fire needs to stop,” Chantler said. “A drone anywhere in the Valley could hamper firefighting aircraft.”

Residents living in or around a fire area like Hungry Valley, can monitor conditions at the following link:

Also KOH AM radio 780 is our civil alert emergency radio. Tune in to get breaking news.

Finally, to sign up for alerts, contact RSIC Emergency Services Manager, David Hunkup at or by phone at: (775) 997-3524.

The cause of the Long Valley Fire is still under investigation.




Native Culture, Artown Create Closing Night Nationhood

The mission of Artown is to create a climate for the cultural rebirth of our region, the closing night of the month-long celebration was a microcosm of that goal.
To warmup 1,000-plus spectators, attendees were treated to dances and songs which have been handed down from generation-to-generation for thousands of years compliments of Lois Kane and the Eagle Wing Pageant Dancers.

Toddlers, teens, and award winning pow wow dancers dazzled the crowd with colorful regalia and energetic moves all in sync with two astounding drum groups: local talent Young Chiefs and the all-women drum group The Mankillers.

Plus the food options were notable—Indian Tacos or pine nut ice cream with Espresso, plus typical fair treats and several beverages to keep hydrated during the 101 degree heat.

All the while, an abundance of Native fine art, Native crafts, and Native merchandise beckoned visitors to explore the vendor booths which were filled with cultural treasures created with inspiration from the rich, matchless Native American culture that has flourished for millennia.

While the crowd jockeyed for optimal seating for the night’s finale, the next 15 people honored by the Reno People Project were introduced (see page 8 for complete biographies). The ceremony held on the Wingfield park stage, was part of the City of Reno’s year-long celebration of its 150th birthday.

Following the Native way, the free public event paused for Pyramid Lake elder Charlotte Harry to offer a prayer in her Paiute language.  Also, her son, Norman Harry, who is on Artown’s Board of Directors, played his hand drum and sang before introducing the main event, A Tribe Called Red.

For nearly a decade, A Tribe Called Red has been blended Native American pow wow vocals and drums with electronic dance music. Since time immemorial, Indigenous people engaged in self expression through their unique melodic songs with specific scale patterns and rhythm. From Ottawa, Canada, A Tribe Called Red has created tracks that blend traditional Native music sounds with hip hop, reggae, plus techno builds and breaks.

The fresh, electronic sounds are enough to engage the under 30-generations, however, the Native artists of the Nipissing First Nation, the Cayuga First Nation and Six Nations of the Grand River, infuse a political message with their exceedingly danceable sound.

The work of A Tribe Called Red might quite possibly be the purest, most successful blend of American Indian traditional sound with the cutting edge passion of modern day activists.

Spawned from Idle No More, fueled by the Water Protectors and the No DAPL movement, A Tribe Called Red’s skillful mix of traditional vocals with innovative, electronic compositions has never sounded better.

On July 31, the very brown crowd experiencing the final evening of Artown immediately reacted to the music.

Furthermore, the concert-goers overwhelmingly expressed their endorsement when the male trio invited three local pow wow dancers—Teresa, Tziavi and Pasutyva Melendez–to join the group on stage.

Soaring to the beat, the jingle dancer and two fancy dancers decorated the stage with additional flare and energy.

“There are a lot of like-minded people and we are trying to rally them, in the way only Indigenous people know how to rally people,” DJ NDN also called Ian Campeau told Mic, an on-line magazine.  “That’s creating nationhoods.”

And that is what Artown did in Reno on the closing night of its month-long party.


Inaugural Native American Basketball Showcase Gives Student Athletes Chance to Perform

Native American basketball showcase gives players a chance to show their skills
(click link to News 4 coverage)

In an effort to promote and show public support for young people, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony invited 50 student athletes and a dozen educators to coach these players in the 1st Annual All-Native American High School Basketball Showcase.

Among the United States’ 565 federal recognized American Indian tribes, Native Americans are the most under-represented ethnicity on college athletics teams. Despite the difficulties finding their way onto an NCAA team, let alone becoming a high profile athlete, history is dotted with famous Native Americans athletes and their noteworthy accomplishments.

In the 20th century, Jim Thorpe, a Sac & Fox Indian, won two Olympic gold medals, played professional baseball and football and became the first president of the league that would become the NFL. Billy Mills, a Sioux who came off the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, scored one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history when he won the 10,000 meters in 1964.

Just last March, the NCAA Basketball Championships featured Native American standout players including: Bronson Koenig, Derek Willis, Lindy Waters III, Caitlyn Ramirez, and Chelsea Dungee.

Locally,  MorningRose Tobey plays for the University of Nevada Women’s basketball team, while Angelica Shanrock, a 2017 graduate of Spanish Springs High, signed a letter of intent to play colligate ball at College of Skskiyous.


All My Relaytions Completes Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Relay Run

Captained by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony’s Toby Stump,  the 11-member, all Native American team, All My Relaytions completed the 178-mile run that goes around Lake Tahoe, through the Carson Valley, up to Virginia City, and back to the finish line at Idlewild Park in Reno.

In addition to the RSIC Tribal Council, several RSIC departments contributed to sponsoring the team including the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, the RSIC Education and Recreation Department.

Starting from downtown Reno on Friday at 10 a.m., the team crossed the finish line about 3 p.m., on Saturday.

Starting the run, RSIC’s Chandler Sampson, wearing headphones, starts the first leg of the  178-mile Reno Tahoe Odyssey Adventure.















Future Spaghetti Bowl Design, Construction Studied; Severe Impact at RSIC Likely

Anyone who has used the Interstate 80/Interstate 580 interchange, or the Spaghetti Bowl, knows that this area is the Achilles’ heel of Reno – Sparks roadways.

Originally constructed between 1969 and 1971 for a metropolitan population of about 130,000 people, the interchange now sees about 118,000 vehicles daily on I-80 just west of the Spaghetti Bowl, while another 102,000 travel U.S. 395 just north of the interchange, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT).

The Washoe County Consensus Forecast, a written report of projected population, forecasted growth rate exceeding state and national averages though 2030. According to this same report, the population of Washoe County is projected to be 548,159 people in 2036.

The number of collisions at the Spaghetti Bowl nearly doubled in the last five years, growing from 598 crashes in 2011 to 1,060 in 2015.

Additionally, someone was injured in a crash near the interchange almost every day in 2015.

These alarming statics compelled Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to emphasize, during his 2017 state of state address, the need for safety measures for the interchange.

So, NDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in cooperation with the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) will be proposing improvements, specifically to reconstruct the interchange, to accommodate the future travel demands in Washoe County.

According to project’s website, the plan is expected to increase safety and improve operations for both current and future traffic needs.

However, for citizens and community members of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, this potentially $500 million project which is projected to be designed by 2020 and constructed by 2030, might mean smoother highway traffic patterns, but the reconfiguration of nearby exits might negatively impact the Tribe as well.

“For over 100 years, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony has worked to improve the quality of life for its Tribal members and to develop a self-sufficient economy,” said Chairman Arlan D. Melendez. “Our tribal members rely on the East 2nd street and Glendale avenue interchange to access their homes and to obtain government and health care services.”

Chairman Melendez explained that a closure or change in access to these critical exits / entries could negatively impact the tribal members’ ability to access areas off the reservation for employment and personal needs.

He said that increased traffic would cause a domino effect increasing traffic on Golden lane and Reservation road through established neighborhoods, educational and government facilities.

Moreover, Chairman Melendez noted that regional partners along with the RSIC have spent millions of dollars to redevelop and improve former blighted properties near the current Spaghetti Bowl. These improvements have helped advance local government plans and development goals, and federal policies toward tribes.

“The East 2nd street, Glendale avenue interchange provides critical access for customers visiting Tribal Enterprises and businesses like our smoke shops and Walmart at Three Nations Plaza,” Chairman Melendez said. “Any temporary disruption for businesses during construction activities will negatively impact our tribal government revenues.”

Chairman Melendez said that this construction along with the final design, could have a significant, long-term impact on tribal employment and future employment, which are directly tied to tribal revenues.

However, the planning design, as well as future construction for the Spaghetti Bowl requires compliance with the federal law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA requires federal agencies including the FHWA, to assess the environmental effects of a proposed project prior to making decisions. It establishes a framework for environmental review and ensures public and agency participation in the process. Finally, the federal process is intended to help agencies like NDOT and RTC, consider environmental consequences and avoid, minimize, or mitigate environmental impact. The NEPA process for the Spaghetti Bowl project began in March and is expected to continue through May 2020.

Indian Country has great concern as to the environmental impacts to the earth; but the negative social and economic impacts are just as important.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes making decisions on permit applications and constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities. The possibility of fast-tracking through the NEPA has already been suggested.

In January, a board member for NDOT asked whether the state might escape those intensive environmental studies under an executive order signed by United States President Donald Trump. The board member said that the intent of that order was that all public projects would be exempt from the environmental process.

However, NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said that he doubts the Spaghetti Bowl could be exempted because of “significant issues with the river and tribal lands…” as Interstate 80 goes over the Truckee River and the freeway passes right next to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Malfabon also told the Northern Nevada Business Weekly that federal money will finance up to 90 percent of the project and bonds should cover the rest.

Malfabon and NDOT Senior Project Manager Nick Johnson outlined seven goals for the improvements which include:

1. Accelerated Delivery: Complete NEPA in 3-and-a-half years or less
2. Long Term Relief: Develop ultimate project to meet 2040 demands
3. Public Support: Secure endorsement from local governments and a favorable opinion from the public
4. Right-of-Way: Minimize displacements
5. Safety: Prioritize project based on eliminating/reducing high accident areas
6. Operations: Create interchange system fully functional and easily navigable within project limits
7. Aesthetics: Enhance the community’s driving experience through visually appealing improvements to the project area



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.




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.

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