By Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
Members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, along with members of other southwest tribal nations, completed a 58 mile, three day ‘cultural healing’ march last weekend in celebration of Earth Day. The march began early Friday morning at the tribal building on the Moapa Indian Reservation and ended on Sunday afternoon with a rally at the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas.
Moapa Band Environmental Director, Darren Daboda said that planning for the march had started as a protest against the environmental affects of Reid Gardner Station coal powered plant which is located only a few hundred yards away from some reservation residents. But the event had broadened into a more general appeal from Native American tribes in the region to respect the environment.
“We talk a lot about the pollution and the damaging effects of our actions to the environment,” Daboda said. “But to us there is a much deeper cultural affect. These are tribal lands and our people have lived and sustained ourselves here for hundreds of years. They are vitally important to our culture as a nation.”
About two dozen participants gathered Friday at the Tribal Offices at around 6:30 a.m. to set out on the journey. The path went across the fields of the reservation and then climbed up onto the rocky desert connecting with the Union Pacific railroad and running parallel to the tracks. The first day the group walked about 16 miles to the Paiute Travel Plaza at exit 75 of the I-15.
Leading the march were two tribal members. David Lee, a Moapa Paiute veteran, proudly carried the U.S. Flag. Tyler Samson carried the Moapa Tribal Flag. The two set a brisk pace. By lunchtime they had arrived near the I-15 Ute exit.
“This is a good thing to see,” said Dwayne Etsitty, a Paiute elder. “Nowhere but in this country is something like this possible. If we were in Syria or Afghanistan we’d probably have people shooting at us.”
The group stayed the night at the Veteran’s Park across the highway from the Paiute Travel Plaza.
The numbers of the group increased on Saturday and Sunday as more tribal members were off work and were able to participate. Paiutes from neighboring tribes also joined with the Moapa Band including members from the Las Vegas band, Cedar City band, the Shivwitts of Southern Utah, and the Hualapai of Arizona.
At the end of the day Saturday, the group had made it as far as the Speedway in the North Las Vegas. On Sunday morning they continued the journey where they had left off.
Participants followed Las Vegas Boulevard into downtown Las Vegas on Sunday and ended their march at the courthouse. At the rally, members of the various tribes joined with members of the Sierra Club in an Earth Day rally. Over 100 people were in attendance at the rally event.
The rally was focused on calling attention to the plight of the Moapa Paiutes who claim to have suffered ill effects from pollution at Reid Gardner plant. It included traditional Tribal victory dance and song, and Tribal members telling the story of the health and social toll of Reid Gardner.
“Air pollution has caused a great concern for tribal members on the reservation,” said Moapa Band of Paiutes Chairman William Anderson. “We need action from the federal government to protect native people and all Americans from harmful pollution.”
“This Earth Day, we proudly rally alongside the Moapa Band of Paiutes and our other partners for environmental and social justice,” said Lynn Goya, Sierra Club Organizing Representative. “Here in Nevada, that means retiring the dirty Reid Gardner coal plant and replacing it with clean, renewable local energy sources like solar and wind.”