Nevada Day organizers have strict rules about political campaigning in their annual parade through Carson City, but that hasn't stopped the 61-year tradition from becoming embroiled in a political controversy.
The Affiliated Obsidian Nation, a 20-year-old California-based American Indian support network, has threatened to protest at the parade if chairman of the Washoe Tribal Council Brian Wallace serves as one of four grand marshals.
The parade theme is "Nevada is Indian Territory." The other grand marshals are chairmen Felix Ike, representing the Shoshone Nation; Robert Quintero, representing the Northern Paiute Nation; and Phil Swain, representing the Southern Paiute Nation.
The selection of Wallace is an example of the "nameless, faceless white people (choosing) our leaders for us," wrote AON community organizer Steve Jerome Wyatt in a Sept. 29 letter to the Nevada Day Committee.
His comments worried Nevada Day organizers enough they were considering Wednesday whether they should cancel the parade set for Oct. 26.
But despite an earlier comment about "stopping the parade in its tracks," Wyatt said he has no intention of trying to shut down the event, which draws crowds to Carson City as part of the Nevada Day celebration.
"There's no need to cancel the parade whatsoever," Wyatt said from his Minden home on Wednesday. "That would be a huge disappointment to thousands of people. That's ridiculous. Why are they afraid of a handful of people with signs?"
Wyatt claims a majority of Washoe people want Wallace out of office. A tribal election is scheduled for Oct. 19, with Wallace one of six candidates. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Organizers of the parade said they didn't decide who would represent the tribes as parade grand marshals. Sherrada James, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, said members of an intertribal council made the selections and forwarded them to the Nevada Day group.
Virginia Nuzum, president of the Nevada Day Committee, said parade organizers are worried a protest could cause a confrontation, something they would prefer to avoid. On Wednesday, they considered asking Wallace to step aside in favor of another representative, or asking whoever wins the Oct. 19 election to represent the Washoe Tribe.
They also were considering the possibility they would have to cancel the parade altogether.
"The majority of the Nevada Day Board is not willing to take the risk of ruining the parade," said Nuzum.
Nevada Day vice president Ron Bowman said the group still has a couple of weeks to find a resolution.
"The city is extremely concerned about the safety issue. If this joker does stop the parade, the police said they will do nothing to disperse the group because they are afraid they'll incite something larger than the protest," Bowman said.
"This is a political thing the (AON) has with (Wallace)," said James, whose Reno-based commission works with tribes throughout the state. "But this isn't the proper forum to use. If they've got a problem with him, they should keep it at home."
The Nevada Day parade has strict rules preventing politicians from campaigning during their trek down Carson Street. Although politicians are a staple of the parade, they are not allowed to display signs or send out messages asking for votes.
There have been several examples over the years of Nevada Day volunteers stripping campaign signs from vehicles and floats before they entered the parade.
Wyatt said his earlier reference to "stopping the parade in its tracks," a comment he made last month to a reporter for the Record-Courier in Minden-Gardnerville, meant he wanted to give the people of Carson City insight into how Washoe people feel about Wallace.
"We want everyone to actually see Brian Wallace's own people standing there and telling the world, 'You are not our leader.' We are not going to lay in front of the tractors and such," he said.