The Walker River Paiute tribe appeared before the Mineral County commissioners on June 19 to assert their land interests in the county

Victoria Guzman shows commissioners land of cultural and economic interest at the June 19 County Commission meeting. (Stephen Tool photo)

The Walker River Paiute tribe appeared before the Mineral County commissioners on June 19 to assert their land interests in the county. This included land not currently owned by the reservation.

Two members of the tribe, Elveda Martinez and Victoria Guzman, stated their case to the audience.

Martinez started her speech with a direct reference to social media and how she thought participants “tore up” the tribe online. She also accused “certain commissioners have already made their decisions. 

In fact, the commissioners were not asked to make decisions at all, and only one commissioner made a social media comment.

“We want to update you on some of the things we’re working on. We’re just here to be a good neighbor,” Martinez said before making more references to perceived slights on social media.

Martinez specifically mentioned the native lands acquisition bills introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Mark Amodei, Nevada’s 2nd district congressman, as an impetus for the tribe’s land acquisition proposal.

“Well what about us,” Martinez said. “We’ve been in contact with numerous people. We’ve been in contact with Horsford’s office, Amodei’s office, Senator Reid’s office and asked ‘What could we do’.”

Martines said the respective congressmen told the tribe to identify areas of cultural and economic development interest.

“We’re here to let the commissioners know that we’ve identified some of the areas we have identified that are important to us,” Martinez said.

The tribe also consulted with the BLM to identify grazing, water and mining rights along with the impact to the county’s PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) for each area.

At this point, Guzman pointed out over 185,000 acres of land in Mineral County with tribal cultural/historical significance on a large map at the front of the room. The tribe did not provide smaller maps for either the commissioners or the audience.

Guzman specifically stated it was not the intention of the tribe to take possession of the land and deny access to the general public. She did say the tribe considered Walker Lake as “our lake.”

After saying the tribe met with Sen. Reid’s office and Terri Knutson of the BLM to discuss their cultural and grazing interests in the land, Guzman concluded her presentation by saying, “We thought we made a good effort to come in here today and present this to the commissioners and to the community here to be transparent and to let you know what’s going on.”

Commissioner Cliff Cichowlaz asked who owned the land involved and Martinez responded that either the Army or the BLM retained control over the land. She also mentioned one particular area with great cultural significance she’d like to see put in the Department of the Interior Trust to protect it from vandalism and looting.

Much of the question and answer period that followed involved the stating of opinions on both sides.