The below article was published in the Nevada Appeal on October 15th, 2020:
“An open letter to Senator Cortez Masto from the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe
Last week, you rolled out legislation directly related to our community, our culture, our livelihood, and our future. The bill, the Northern Nevada Rural Land Management, Conservation, and Military Readiness Act, plans on quadrupling the size of the Naval Air Station Fallon, so that it covers more than 800,000 acres of our ancestral lands. These are the lands where we have hunted, prayed, and sought medicine for more than 10,000 years, and your legislation would allow the Navy to use them for bombing and war games. With the legislation, you published a piece, here, in the Nevada Appeal. You touted this draft bill as a great success, and stated that you “prioritized . . . tribal governments seeking assistance, economic investment, and compensation from both the federal government and the military.”
While your bill includes payments to one tribe for historical harm from Navy bombing, the whole truth is, all the other tribes in Nevada oppose the expansion. Our Tribe was given a last-minute take it or leave it offer with no room for discussion and no chance to review the legislation. Our core concern was the Navy expansion, and your bill gives the Navy nearly everything it asked for. Respectfully, that does not feel like prioritizing tribal interests.
The United States government provided our Tribe a small Reservation that constituted a tiny fraction of our lands. When the Newlands Project was built, we were moved to a yet smaller Reservation. This is now our government center and where we live, but our home is in the rich public lands that surround Fallon. Our people were born on Fox Peak. We lived for thousands of years in and around Carson Sink, the Stillwater Mountains, Dixie Valley, and the Dead Camels. Your bill feels very personal because it takes away our home. It is difficult to hear you present it as a “win-win” solution. We need our homelands to remain public and protected so that we can continue our way of life, our culture, and our religion.
Since 2016, the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe has been advocating for ourselves to ensure protection over our cultural sites and access to our land. We have done everything asked of us: submitted rounds of comments, attended meeting after meeting, call after call, drafted compromise legislation that would have authorized renewal of the existing large base without expansion, and even gave Navy leaders a personal tour of our lands and an explanation of why they are so important. We have made good faith efforts to work with all stakeholders, and trusted in the public process. And bipartisan bills out of both the House and Senate provided for renewal of the existing base with no expansion. It is hard to see how slipping in last minute legislation with nearly full expansion prioritizes the public interest or tribal interests.
You commemorated Indigenous Peoples’ Day by assuring your Twitter followers that you are, “committed to reflecting on the proud heritage and honoring the rich legacy of indigenous communities all across our state and country.” Senator, please live up to these words. If you must promote legislation concerning NAS Fallon, work with the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe and other tribes to truly prioritize tribal interests.
Chairman Len George
Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe”