American Indians recognized for achievements
For most of her life, Harriet Allen of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe has worked with children of all backgrounds to share the American Indian culture. “I saw them grow up, then their children and now their grandchildren,” she said. But through all her years of service, she never sought the spotlight. “I’m just the kind of person who likes to be in the background,” she said.And that’s the reason the Nevada Indian Commission honors people like Allen each year during its American Indian Achievement Awards Banquet, said Executive Director Sherry Rupert.“A lot of times, the tribes are an after thought in the state,” Rupert said. “I think it’s important to recognize these people. It shows the greater community that there are Native Americans in this state and they are working to promote and better their state.”The award ceremony, in its third year, honors the Community Leader, Youth Services Role Model, Youth Ambassador and Contributor/Supporter of the year. Saturday’s ceremony took place at the Governor’s Mansion.Rupert said it helps the Native American community recognize their own leaders as well. “We as Native people take these types of things for granted sometimes,” she said. “In mainstream, would you ever get an award for being able to tan hide? It speaks to our community how important it is to preserve our culture and pass our arts and languages down to our children.”Rupert’s son, John Rupert, 11, was honored last year as the Native American Youth Ambassador of the Year. This year, he received a national recognition from the Daughters of the American Revolution. This year’s winners were: Harriet AllenAmerican Indian Youth ServicesRole Model of the YearHarriet Allen joined the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe Education Department in 1989 and has worked on everything from grant applications to organizing traditional dance groups and powwows to coordinating classes to teach the Paiute and Shoshone languages. “We should carry on our way of life,” she said. “And the kids take pride in something that is theirs. By learning it, it builds their self-esteem, and a lot of the kids really need that.”She has also served on several education committees working in partnership with the Churchill County School District and Western Nevada College. “I just love working with kids,” she said. Dakota WattersAmerican IndianYouth Ambassador of the YearAs a member of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Dakota Watters, 18, proudly proclaimed his heritage while a student at Moapa Valley High School. As the quarterback of the football team and point guard on the state champion basketball team, he never shied away from his roots. “I was really involved in high school,” said Watters, who now attends the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. “Everyone knew I was Native American. I was known as the Native American on the team.”Growing up on the reservation since he was 7, he said he always embraced tribal traditions and enjoyed learning more at powwows and by visiting local landmarks sacred to his people. Flora GreeneContributor/Supporter of the YearAt 95, Flora Greene has lived her entire life as part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nixon, except for her years of schooling in Carson City at the Stewart Indian School.She is well known for her work on traditional buckskin baby baskets, moccasins and dolls.She is one of few people who can work with deer hide from start to finish, which includes soaking it then scraping off all the hair. She then soaks the hide in cow brains and stretches the hide. The last step is to smoke the hide on the ashes of dried juniper. “My mother did a lot of tanning,” she said. “In those days, way back, I would just watch her.”She now travels to craft fairs with her granddaughter Miranda Greene, who also makes traditional buckskin crafts. Greene also taught her Paiute tongue to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Wayne BurkeAmerican IndianCommunity Leader of the YearFormer Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Chairman Wayne Burke, whose death last month was ruled a suicide, was honored posthumously as the Native American Community Leader of the Year.Burke, 38, was an advocate for Native American veteran affairs. He also was instrumental in the development of the tribe’s award-winning economic development plan and tourism program.Burke was the first Native American to serve on the Nevada Commission on Tourism, having been appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.