After votes in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature, tribal elders and leaders released the following statements after the Senate passage of AB171 and AJR4, legislation to protect the Bahsahwahbee sacred tribal site in rural Nevada.
- AB171 offers new state-level protections for a specific stand of trees, known as the Swamp Cedars, in a remote valley that Western Shoshone and Goshute people hold sacred. The legislation must still be signed by Governor Sisolak.
- AJR4 requests that Congress and the President designate greater federal protections for Bahsahwahbee. It does not require the Governor’s signature.
The legislation, steered by Assemblyman Howard Watts, is an important milestone for Western Shoshone and Goshute leaders who have long sought greater protections for the site. The bills recognize spiritual, cultural and historic hallmarks of Indigenous Peoples in the Great Basin, shining an important light on topics and issues relating to life in the region before and after Western Expansion. The site was home to three massacres of Native Peoples between 1850 and 1900. Prior to that, it was a hub of religious and cultural ceremony for Newe people. The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Ely Shoshone and the Duckwater Shoshone worked with Assemblyman Watts in crafting the legislation.
CHAIRMAN RUPERT STEELE, CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF THE GOSHUTE RESERVATION
“We go to Bahsahwahbee to visit our ancestors, participate in ceremonies, and receive medicine from Mother Earth and Grandfather Sun. Development, climate change and water conflicts all jeopardize such an important place. These bills help ensure that we’re doing all we can to preserve lands and waters that my people have been using since time immemorial. I want to thank Assemblyman Watts for his work and the Legislature for its commitment. We look forward to working with DCNR and officials in Washington D.C. as we continue our efforts to preserve Bahsahwahbee in perpetuity.”
ASSEMBLYMAN HOWARD WATTS
DELAINE SPILSBURY, TRIBAL ELDER, ELY SHOSHONE
“My family’s ties to Bahsahwahbee go back thousands of years. While native people do not live at the site, we still use it and we want future generations to have the same opportunities. But man-made and natural threats jeopardize Bahsahwahbee’s future. That is why we asked lawmakers to act. Growing up, I never could have imagined the Nevada Legislature recognizing my family’s history and spirituality in this way. We have come a long way. But we have further to go.”
RICK SPILSBURY, TRIBAL ELDER, ELY SHOSHONE.
“If anything were to happen to Bahsahwahbee it would be my own personal extinction event. The site embodies who I am as a native man. It represents what it means to be Indigenous. We have long worked to protect the resources of Bahsahwahbee, and we hope to continue doing so with the tools that the Legislature provided via AB171 and AJR4.”
SHANIA MARQUES, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION SPECIALIST, ELY SHOSHONE
“Elders and leaders at the Tribe have worked tirelessly to ensure Bahsahwahbee gets the recognition it deserves. Thanks to their work, myself and forthcoming generations of Shoshone people will have the ability to continue preserving Bahsahwahbee and benefiting from it.”
MONTE SANFORD, CONSULTANT FOR TRIBES
“It’s a great day for the Tribes and the people of Nevada. The Nevada Legislature has chosen to protect a sacred grove of trees so indigenous people can continue to carry on their spiritual and traditional practices. While the bills are intended to protect the trees, it is also the first time in Nevada’s history where the legislature has chosen to right the wrongs of the past. We can all take pride in the fact that we are uplifting a group of people who are still living in the aftermath of the centuries-long Native American holocaust. We are thankful to everyone who has supported this effort, which ultimately helps the Tribes preserve a few surviving remnants of indigenous history, culture, and religion.”