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Nevada governor acknowledges state's role in Native boarding schools, backs tribal communities

Stacey Montooth stands at the podium speaking on Nevada's role in Native boarding schools. She's standing at the bottom of the steps of one of their cobblestone buildings. Behind her is the governor and two chair persons, each representing a different Indigenous community.
Gustavo Sagrero
KUNR Public Radio
Stacey Montooth, executive director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, speaking at Stewart Indian School in Carson City. From left to right: Steve Sisolak, governor of Nevada; Amber Torres, chairman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe; Arlan Melendez, chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony of the Washoe, Shoshone, and Paiute people.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has apologized and acknowledged Nevada’s role in Native boarding schools.

Governor Steve Sisolak says his top priority is to back the decisions of tribal communities as the federal investigation into native boarding schools continues.

“Let me say clearly that the story of Nevada for the Native people who were here originally is grim and cannot be glossed over with mere words,” said Sisolak.

The governor made his remarks at the Stewart Indian School in Carson City. Data collected through the years on who attended this school exists, but it all resides in federal databases, he said. Tribal communities hope to gain access to this data as the investigation, run by the Department of Interior and assisted by the State of Nevada, continues.

The school was founded in 1890, funded in part by Nevada bonds being sold to bankroll the program. It operated as a boarding school up until the '80s. Now, it’s a museum and houses a law enforcement academy.

During its operation, the federal government required children born into Indigenous communities to attend schools like these with one goal in mind:

“Kill the Indian; save the man,” said Stacey Montooth, executive director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission. “That despicable policy is still impacting our tribal nations [and] our urban Indians today. There's not a Paiute, Shoshone, or Washoe person in this state who doesn't have a direct connection to this campus.”

Montooth spoke at the press conference, along with other tribal leadership. She said the origins of many modern issues of social justice can be found in how the U.S. has treated Indigenous people, including its use of boarding schools.

“It's my assertion that this is the site of the first case of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, missing and murdered Indigenous people, right? It was the federal government's policy,” she said.

Over the years, at least 20,000 Native children were separated from their families and sent to Stewart Indian School.

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Gustavo Sagrero is a former bilingual reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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