A black and white photograph of two Nuwuvi women standing by a rock with petroglyphs.

The Nuwuvi, or Southern Paiute peoples (the people), are also known as Nuwu. The Southern Paiute language originates from the uto-aztecan family of languages. Many different dialects are spoken, but there are many similarities between each language.

UNLV, and the wider Las Vegas area, stands on Southern Paiute land. Historically, Southern Paiutes were hunter-gatherers and lived in small family units. Prior to colonial influence, their territory spanned across what is today Southeastern California, Southern Nevada, Northern Arizona, and Southern Utah. Within this territory, many of the Paiutes would roam the land moving from place to place. Often there was never really a significant homebase. The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe (LVPT) mentions that, “Outsiders who came to the Paiutes' territory often described the land as harsh, arid and barren; however, the Paiutes developed a culture suited to the diverse land and its resources.”

Throughout the history of the Southern Paiute people, there was often peace and calm times. Other than occasional conflicts with nearby tribes, the Southern Paiutes now had to endure conflict from White settlers in the 1800s. Their way of life was now changed with the onset of construction for the Transcontinental railroad and its completion. Among other changes to the land, the LVPT also said, “In 1826, trappers and traders began crossing Paiute land, and these crossings became known in 1829 as the Old Spanish Trail (a trade route from New Mexico to California). In 1848, the United States government assumed control over the area.”

A black and white photograph of four Southern Paiute women.

The local tribe within the area is the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe (LVPT), their ancestors were known as the Tudinu (Desert People). However, other Southern Paiute tribes are Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Cedar City Band of Paiutes, Kanosh Band of Paiutes, Koosharem Band of Paiutes, Indian Peaks Band of Paiutes, Shivwits Band of Paiutes, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Pahrump Band of Paiutes, and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe of Arizona.

The Las Vegas Paiute tribe is where it is today due to Helen J. Stewert who, in 1911, sold 10 acres of her land for $500 to be deeded for the use of the Paiutes. However, it wasn’t until July 22, 1970 that the tribe was finally acknowledged by the U.S. government as a sovereign nation. This occurred as a result of the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934 and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Constitution according to the LVPT.

A green and yellow Joshua tree logo for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Fast forward to the present and quite a lot has changed. The LVPT also has a reservation by Snow Mountain. Much of their income comes from the local facilities they have set up and a golf course on the outskirts of Las Vegas. According to the LVPT, they began plans in 1991 to expand business into a resort focused on golf and with the U.S. 95 passing right by it was the perfect opportunity. The golf course is also known as the Nu-Wav Kaiv Course, designed by Pete Dye, and officially opened on March 1st, 1995. The LVPT mentions that the course “has a par-72, a 7,159-yard layout and will have a permanent 42,100 square-foot clubhouse.” The reasoning behind having a golf course was to ensure that the tribe could remain in control of the underground water reservoirs. If the water was not used, it would be under control of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Beyond the Land Acknowledgement

“Acknowledgment by itself is a small gesture. It becomes meaningful when coupled with authentic relationships and informed action. But this beginning can be an opening to greater public consciousness of Native sovereignty and cultural rights, a step toward equitable relationship and reconciliation.” (USDAC 2017, 3)

A land acknowledgement is an important first step that provides a long overdue appreciation to the land we occupy and its inhabitants. However, more is needed to support the Indigenous communities and to help correct the colonial narrative that has resulted in the attempted erasure of Native peoples across the country. We recommend researching, contextualizing, and examining the purpose of an acknowledgement when engaging in this practice. Offering a land acknowledgement serves as a call to action for everyone at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. We encourage departments, offices, and individuals to engage with these words and use these statements in meaningful ways. UNLV is one of the most diverse institutions in the country and we must educate ourselves and reflect a genuine commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Here is what you can do to begin the ongoing and continual process of acting in solidarity with Indigenous folx (please note this is not a comprehensive list):

  • Find out if there are active Native groups or organizations in or near your community. Learn about their work and see how you can support them.
  • Be in touch with local Native community members to discern how to best introduce the practice of acknowledgment and explore how that might lead to further dialogue and collaboration.
  • Look around and ask yourself: are there Native folks present at your events? On your team? On your board? If not, what would it take to begin building those relationships? How might you move from acknowledgement into relationship? If your role involves programming at a cultural or educational institution, how might you ensure that the programming itself represents a commitment to Native voices, stories, and perspectives?
  • Follow Indigenous leadership on efforts to resist destruction of land and life. Read this powerful call to action from Indigenous Women Rising.