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.
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:
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.