Pyramid Lake Junior/Senior High School students were excited at their opportunity to spend a day at the Nevada Legislature on Feb. 12 and watch their state government in process and speak with their representatives about issues of concern to them.
Eleven of the school’s students participated in the Nevada Tribes Legislative Day where they joined with fellow tribal leaders during various sessions throughout the day, were introduced by legislators during Senate and Assembly meetings and toured the Capitol’s facilities.
Lyllianna Williams, senior, said she felt it was important she and her classmates received an invitation to represent their peers and find out what goes on at the Capitol.
“It’s important to me because a lot of us as natives, we don’t feel the need or want to speak out about certain things or have a voice, and we’re, like, shy in some aspects, I guess,” she said. “So for us, as youth, to come out and represent, I think it has an impact.”
Williams said her grandmother often has encouraged her to aim high and consider a career in politics. Though she prefers to get a degree in accounting, she takes pride in knowing she’d be the first in her family to obtain a college degree once she graduates.
Gabriel Frazier, another Pyramid Lake senior, was introduced during the Assembly session by Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, R-Washoe.
He said he will pursue trade school after graduation and is considering a career in the culinary arts or the automotive industry.
“It’s important to be here today because it helps show younger native students, kids, anyone that we’re able to step up and take the role that we need to if it’s possible, and if you can, try and take advantage of it,” Frazier said. “And while you do that, if you’re able to, have your voice heard.”
Frazier said last week was his first visit in the Nevada Legislature building as well, and while he was unsure of what to expect of what occurs at the state level, he said in his own community, he feels his own tribe has established a rapport with other communities in the region.
“I feel like the Paiute tribe, we’re raising the bar,” he said. “We’re starting to get well-known. And, like, the lake is a big staple for us. … I have family in the council. Plus, it’s a small community. … I feel I don’t I have any concerns because we have a new chairman (Anthony Sampson, Sr.) and I believe he’s putting the voice of the people ahead now, and it’s new.”
The students’ history teacher Aubrie Neil said some of the 11 students attending the Nevada Tribes Legislative Day were of voting age, and as constituents, it was appropriate that they were able to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to what happens in the Legislative Building.
“We are always trying to get a closer look at basically how government works on the ground level by having various speakers come into the classroom and to get the invitation to come here was very exciting,” Neil said.
She said they would be able to learn firsthand about some of the issues specifically impacting tribal members this session including dental therapy for tribal areas as well as water and infrastructure.
“Just being invited into that conversation, they’re so remote and being young, they don’t feel they’re invited to the table,” Neil said. “Here, they do have access to that process and then also they have the ability to have their voice heard. That’s huge. Just the fact that they’re invited shows they’re valuable in the democratic process and that also encourages civic engagement.”