Native American Presence in Las Vegas

By Sean Connelly 

Las Vegas a.k.a. ‘Sin City’ is known around the world for its lit up buildings and flashy neon signs. But it is also a home to various ethnicities, each with its own special presence and unique contributions to our city’s architecture and landscape. Among these minorities are the indigenous natives themselves who, according to the 2010 Census, make up nearly one percent of our city’s population. Many of these citizens descend from the tribes that once occupied Nevada, including the Paiutes and Shoshone, as well as from those which have immigrated here from other tribes throughout the country (including some members of my own family). The following is a list of buildings and structural landscapes with a strong native theme that, whether we know it or not, are important parts of the city and significant to our identity as Las Vegans.

1. The Las Vegas Indian Center

A private, non-profit organization founded by Native Americans in 1972, the Las Vegas Indian Center is one of the most significant buildings for natives in the city. Located at 2300 West Bonanza Road, it is a social services agency for natives but also for any ethnic minority in need of some help and will provide its members with the services and resources they need in order to become more self-sufficient in the city of Las Vegas. They provide assistance with employment, affordable housing, education, and emergency financial assistance. They also offer classes within the building itself on resume building and computer use.

For their Native American clients, the Center provides classes about their cultural heritage. According to its current director, a woman born of three tribes named Debra Reed, remembering one’s identity is very important because a sense of community comes out of knowing where one’s land is and where one’s people are from. There are few Native American events in this city and the broader state of Nevada, from powwows to exhibits, that don’t receive financial support from the Las Vegas Indian Center.

The Center has and continues to play an integral role in helping thousands of Las Vegans as they transition from one phase of life to the next, as well as those who just came into town without family or employment. The Center reminds us that buildings can unify cultural groups and provide necessary services.

2. Paiute Golf Resort – The Wolf Course

The Scotts may have invented golf, but it was American natives who perfected the art. Here in Las Vegas, the Paiute Tribe’s Golf Resort is a popular tourist attraction for golfers all over the country. It is home to many different courses in our city, including the infamous Wolf Course. The Wolf Course was so named for a reason; it’s designed to give even the most advanced players a run for their money on the most unforgiving landscape, and is famous for being the toughest course in the entire Southwest.

The fairways are tight, the greens are small and the natural desert wash areas are strategically laid on each hole so that there’s very little room for error. The course runs over 7,600 yards, making it the longest in Nevada. For all its frustration to those who dare test themselves here, they are treated to the stark beauty of the course and its surrounding landscape with stunning mountain views. So come and give it a try… if you dare!

The Paiute Golf Resort won a Vegas-Golfer fairway award for “Best Overall Experience” in 2004 and never lacks tourists who come to test their skills on its courses.

3. Freeway Petroglyphs

Tourists who enter Las Vegas via our freeways would be very hard pressed to miss the native theme painted and carved onto many of the over and underpasses. The symbols on the walls vary from images of desert wildlife and of humans (such as the bighorn sheep and mounted horse in the photo above) to symbols and designs based on the religion of the ancient Anasazi tribe that once settled these lands. In fact, all of the images are based on the many Anasazi petroglyphs throughout Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire.

Years ago a project undertaken by the Nevada Department of Transportation carved the images onto our city and state freeways in order to make them more aesthetically pleasing and also serve as reminders of the long lost tribe who had inhabited these lands long before we did. Because of this project by the DoT, the ancient presence of the Anasazi is now a significant part of our city landscape.

Sources

Clark County, NV. (2012). Parks and Recreation: Powwow Tradition. http://www.clarkcounty nv.gov/ Depts/parks/Pages/exhibitcontemporaryartsandcraftsfromthepowwowtradition. aspx

Las Vegas 4 Newbies. (2011). 5.3. Downtown Las Vegas. Retrieved from http://www.lasvegas4 newbies.com/chap5-3.html

Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Smoke Shop. (2011). Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Smoke Shop. Retrieved from: http://www.lvpaiutesmokeshop.com/

Nevada Commission on Tourism. (2012). Las Vegas Paiute Resort – Wolf Course. Retrieved from http://travelnevada.com/cities/info/las-vegas/things-to-do/las-vegas-paiute-resort- wolf-course/

Nevada Department of Transportation. (2010-11). Transportation Art Form. http://www.nevada dot.com/uploadedFiles/Landscape_ArtForm.pdf

United States Census Bureau. (2010). Las Vegas (city), Nevada. Retrieved from http://quickfac ts.census.gov/qfd/states/32/3240000.html

Vital, Erica. (2008, March 11). Las Vegas Indian Center provides assistance, classes. Retrieved from http://www.viewnews.com/2008/VIEW-Mar-11-Tue-2008/CentennialHills/200103 25.html

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