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Though they were the first people here, the cultural and political issues impacting indigenous people in Nevada have been overlooked for decades. 

Nevada is home to 27 different tribes. Their numbers are growing. So, in many cases, is their economic power with that comes political influence. 

Votes by Native Americans were considered crucial to candidate Joe Biden in both Wisconsin and Arizona and, to some degree, Nevada. 

State of Nevada will be looking into many of these issues over the next several weeks and months with a new podcast series, “Native Nevada.” 

“I hope that the public just takes it in and listens to it and listens to it in-depth because this is really one of the first times that Native voices are being publicly out there on these issues that we are highlighting,” said associate producer on the podcast Avory Wyatt.

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Wyatt is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno and grew up on the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.

He believes many of the issues covered by the podcast are “pushed under the rug” and the voices of Native Americans aren’t part of national discussions.

His fellow associate producer on the project Jarrette Werk agreed.

“History is typically through the lens of a white man and that’s not necessarily the accurate history,” he said, “So, this is kind of an opportunity for us to re-write the narrative and share stories that are accurate and do come from an indigenous people through an indigenous perspective.”

Wyatt and Werk used their lived experience to inform how they covered certain topics. For instance, the renaming of Olympic Valley.

“That was something that we always knew was a bad thing,” Wyatt said, “These names that we hear often are not good names and they are racist names, but it is almost like it is shoved under the table.”

Producer Heidi Kyser said the use of certain words and the trauma that can bring is just one of the many things she learned working on the project.

“We talk about these things in a certain way as non-natives,” she said, “I think it will be a valuable experience for listeners to hear Natives themselves talk about what these memories and experiences mean to them right now today.”

She said she also gained a better understanding of intergenerational trauma and the practice of extractive journalism.

“The bad habits that we have as non-natives of going into communities taking stories, using them for our audiences and then just abandoning the people who have told us those stories. That has come up again and again,” she said.

Kyser said she hopes that listeners of the podcast learn that Nevada’s Native communities are not frozen in time.

“I hope that they’ll have a better understanding that Natives in Nevada are a vibrant community of people that live and work and play among us,” she said.

The narrator for the series Richard Boland hopes for the same thing.

“I hope they have a greater appreciation for the state’s tribes and the fact that they are still here. The Southwest has a huge population of Native people and a lot of folks don’t recognize that,” he said.

Boland recently retired from Lee’s Business School at UNLV, and before that, he spent decades working to protect the ancestral homelands of the Timbisha Shoshone, which he is a member of

He believes the new podcast has the potential to really educate people.

“Native American history is American history,” he said, “It’s an untold history so hopefully people will hear new stories and take an interest and look further into the issues.”

Since each episode is about 20 minutes, he said listeners should do their own research into Native American history and the issues tribes face today.

One of the biggest issues, which has not received a lot of notice, is the surprising number of indigenous women and girls who disappear each year.

Senator Catherin Cortez Masto, D-NV., has been working on that issue in Congress. She helped get two important pieces of legislation through to help address the problem.

One is Savanna’s Law and the other is the Not Invisible Act.

“Taken together, the two laws will make sure that the federal government does much more to create a genuine strategy to handle cases of missing, murdered and trafficked Native American women and girls,” Cortez Masto said.

She said the laws will start to collect data on the problem and then come up with the best ways to address it.

Cortez Masto said she has been working on the issue of sex trafficking and Native communities for a long time and has heard directly from survivors, families, law enforcement and tribal leaders about how to address it.

The senator also credited the new Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American to serve as secretary, with moving to implement requirements of the law, including a joint task force to address the issue with the Department of Justice.

“She has been vital in the progress on this issue,” she said.

The senator believes Nevada’s Native communities have been ignored for far too long. She hopes to change that with her work on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

The series was made possible with support from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. 

Guests

Heidi Kyser, producer, Native Nevada; Avory Wyatt, associate producer, Native Nevada; Jarrette Werk, associate producer, Native Nevada; Richard Boland, narrator, Native Nevada; Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV

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