Service to American Indians to be honored

The Nevada Indian Commission will honor four Nevadans for their contributions to the American Indian community at the American Indian Achievement Awards Banquet and Silent Auction, now in its seventh year.

The event will be at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Governor’s Mansion.

The statewide effort to recognize Nevadans who have positively influenced the lives of American Indians will honor Ralph Burns, Robert James and Johnny Williams as community leaders of the year.

Patricia Williams Hicks is the youth services role model of the year. Sierra Reel is the youth ambassador of the year and Scott Nebesky is the Contributor/Supporter of the Year.

“A lot of great work is being done in Nevada’s tribal communities and the commission is honored to be able to celebrate those accomplishments,” said Sherry Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “All of this year’s recipients have made a tremendous impact for our Nevada tribes and for tribes across the nation. Through this award banquet they are being recognized for their efforts.”

The event also celebrates American Indian Heritage Month. Gov. Brian Sandoval proclaimed November as American Indian Heritage Month for Nevada.

Hicks spoke Shoshone and Paiute growing up in Hawthorne and moving to Schurz as a teen. She was a legal secretary for the Nevada attorney general, and as tribal chairman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe worked hard to preserve American Indian life. She has spent her life teaching traditional Paiute songs and dances to tribal youth.

Burns, James and Williams are three veterans of the United States Armed Forces who in 2016 sued the Nevada secretary of state and Washoe and Mineral counties under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They were no longer willing to accept the hardships they and their fellow American Indians faced when trying to vote on Election Day. Their efforts have paved the way for other tribes in the Western U.S. to have easier access to voting.

Reel is from the Moapa Band of the Paiute Tribe in Southern Nevada. She continues Paiute traditions, language and dance. She has served nationally as an activist on American Indian issues and causes, including protecting the traditional homeland of Gold Butte.

Nebesky is a long-time planner for the Reno Sparks Indian Colony and made major contributions to the exchange of lands with the federal government. Thanks in large part to the diligence and work ethic of Nebesky, President Obama signed the Nevada Native Nations Lands Act into law, transferring more than 71,000 acres of aboriginal territorial lands back to six Nevada tribes.

The event helps raise funds to support establishing a cultural center at the former Stewart Indian School, according to Sherry Rupert, the longest serving executive director of the commission. Gov. Grant Sawyer and Assemblyman Ernie Johnson introduced legislation to create the Nevada Indian Commission in 1965, and the 12 executive directors and many commissioners along the way were instrumental in building the foundation of the organization.

The Nevada Indian Commission selected the 2016 award recipients. The group’s mission is to ensure the well-being of Nevada’s American Indians, through development and enhancement of the government to government relationship between the State of Nevada and Indian tribes, and through education for a greater cultural understanding of the state’s first citizens.

For information on the Nevada Indian Commission and the Achievement Awards Banquet, visit For more information on the Stewart Indian School Living Legacy, visit, or contact 775-687-8333 or


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