In celebration of Earth Day, Southern Paiute activists from Moapa and Las Vegas hosted an 11-mile culture walk into Gold Butte in an annual attempt to spread awareness about the need to establish a National Monument for Gold Butte, a sacred area to the Southern Paiute people.
Over 100 people participated in a cultural walk to Gold Butte, Nevada which is 15 miles northeast of Las Vegas and 60 miles from the Moapa Band of Paiutes Reservation. In the early 1900’s Gold Butte became a mining town but today it is long abandoned and visitors come to the area for recreational purposes.
However, according to tribal residents, visitors have been desecrating the area.
“It is such a beautiful place and people are over-running it,” said Annette Magnus-Marquart, Executive Director of Battle Born Progress who helped promote the cultural walk. “People are making their own trails, cutting down Joshua trees, shooting things that shouldn’t be shot at like petroglyphs and stealing them.”
The walk was 11.5 miles long and there were 66 individuals who made the trek.
“We want to keep on spreading the word as much as we can,” said Fawn Douglas, a tribal member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and one of the event organizers. “I think people need to speak up, tell their stories, tell why it (Gold Butte) is special and, why it needs to be protected.”
Gold Butte is a sacred site to the Southern Paiute Tribes due to the petroglyphs, rock shelters, large roasting pots, middens of charcoal, pieces of pottery, discarded stone tools and Mojave Desert Tortoises.
Gold Butte was once part of the Moapa Band of Paiutes Reservation which in 1874 consisted of two million acres. However, in 1876 it was reduced to a thousand acres. In December 1980, under Jimmy Carter’s Administration, an additional 70,000 acres were provided and today their total land base is 71,954 acres, according to Moapa Paiutes’ website.
There has been an on-going effort for about 10 years to get Gold Butte protected. Douglas and William Anderson, former chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes have started helping with the movement to let the Native voice be heard.
Douglas, Williams and three other individuals came up with the idea to have the cultural walk to Gold Butte. In previous years Anderson has organized other cultural walks but this was the first to Gold Butte.
The walk was 11.5 miles long and there were 66 individuals who made the trek while others were bussed into Gold Butte. There was also a group of Maori people from New Zealand who came to the cultural walk to show their support.
“To me it was a huge success to have all different tribes represented including the Maori,” Anderson said. “I thought it was so cool they showed up, it was very unexpected. Also, the Friends of Gold Butte, Sierra Club and people who have been following our story came to see how they can show us support which was great.”
The walk started with a morning prayer before people were taken to the starting location and they began their walk. Individuals carried their tribal flags and Koda Anderson who is a Shivwits Tribal youth member was the only child to carry a flag start to finish, according to Douglas. Douglas also carried her tribal flag for about nine miles before her daughter Sol Martinez took over.
Once everyone came together at the end of the walk, there were Indian Tacos served, round dancing and Chemehuevi Bird Singers sang for everyone. There were also elders who shared stories.
“There was an elder who told us about a Paiute that was born at Gold Butte and from start to finish there were positive energy,” Douglas said.
Douglas, Anderson and Magnus-Marquar all want to make sure Gold Butte will continue to be here for future generations.
“It is our land, it is all Native land,” Anderson said. “It is up to us to let the politicians, the President and people understand that.”