Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Joaquin recieves the Thornton Peace Prize

"At 19, I carried a steel helmet and a Kevlar flak jacket, an M-16 with six extra magazines of 5.56 ammo (180 rounds), extra belts of 7.62 ammo (200 rounds) for the M-60 Machine Gun, an extra barrel, two Light Anti Tank Weapons, two Claymore Anti Personnel mines, four fragmentation grenades, 1 white phosphorous grenade, a bayonet, and a K-Bar Combat Knife. There were also signal flares, and smoke grenades for signaling and marking targets. They are things in the most physical and concrete sense― a magnetic compass, maps, mosquito repellent and compresses and bandages, pocket knives, P-38s, dog-eared photos, and chewing gum, and the the figurative weight of memory and the literal weight of those who depended on me, like Pfc. Rother. To quote Tim O'Brien, those were the things I carried. Additionally, as a senior Marine in the squad and a Lance Corporal, using the Prick-77 Field Radio, I could call in artillery and mortar fire, Specter and Helicopter Gunships, napalm strikes and naval gunfire. I snaked through the rubble of this world, me and my grim friends like death's pale shadow. However, the most destructive weapon I had in my arsenal was my anger, and I wielded it with great impunity. When cautious parents tell stories of the evil that awaits misbehavior, it is I that they conjure." Email sent to Dr. Carina Black, PhD by Joaquin Rafael Roces, 6 May 2008

Last Wednesday, on the 14th of May 2008, prior to the 2008 Spring Commencement ceremonies, Joaquin Rafael Roces was awarded the Thornton Peace Prize for the Class of 2008 at the Joe Crowley Student Union. It was presented to him by University President Milton Glick. He was nominated by a friend and classmate of his, Julie Balderson, who selflessly thought he, of all people, deserved the award. The Thornton Peace Prize was established at the University of Nevada Reno in 1970 by William and Barbara Thornton , both of whom were graduates of the university. It is presented to a person or group who exemplifies the premise that the use of force is not an acceptable means of settling disputes. Some other noted recipients are Fungisia Nota who served as a volunteer for an AIDS Care Group during the summer of 2005 and UNR Professor, Dr. Leonard Weinberg, for his work in promoting Christian-Jewish reconciliation in 1999. Joaquin was nominated for his decade-long work with victims of child abuse and domestic violence on Indian Reservations in Northern Nevada, and for his work in public diplomacy at the Northern Nevada International Center by building bridges between Americans and Nevadans and visiting foreign officials and delegates. Joaquin's work at the International Center advances the concept of Citizen Diplomacy, that an individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape US foreign relations "one handshake at a time."

Nevada's First Lady, Mrs. Dawn Gibbons poses with judges from Kazakhstan and
the Nevada Supreme Court. Joaquin developed and coordinated the Open World
Program that brought four judges from Kazakhstan to Reno, NV. Since 2005,
has coordinated 36 programs involving over 100 international
visitors from 25 countries.

As a criminal prosecutor in tribal court, he was one of the first to adopt a "no drop policy" in prosecuting domestic and spousal batterers in Nevada's Indian Country, and in 2000 worked with TMCC and the Northern Nevada Law Enforcement Academy to host the Walker River Domestic Violence Training Conference. Then Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons was the keynote speaker. He represented tribal interests on the Washoe County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Fatality Review Team under Judge Janet Berry. He also participated in Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa's Full Faith and Credit Taskforce. He was a presenter and facilitator for US Attorney Dan Ogden's Native American Conference speaking on the techniques of prosecuting domestic violence cases as "victimless crimes," much like a homicide, prosecutors and law enforcement build their cases on forensics and evidence, instead of relying solely on a battered and frightened witness. He served under Governor Kenny Guinn as a Commissioner on the Nevada Indian Commission from 2000-2005. Kathy Bryan of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe remembers Joaquin from his time at Pyramid Lake as a Criminal Prosecutor, said this of Joaquin when she heard of his award, "Besha oosu, Joaquin. Besha nana." In her native Paiute language, an elder and social worker for the tribe, Kathy said "You are good, Joaquin. A good man."

At the Northern Nevada International Center and Nevada Committee on Foreign Relations, Joaquin worked to develop and implement educational and cultural exchange programs between foreign officials and dignitaries and their American counterparts in Nevada. Some noted alumni from these exchange programs are: Hamid Karzai, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Anwar Sadat, F.W. deKlerk and Indira Gandhi all visited the United States on International Visitor programs. President Nicolas Sarkozy and the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are also alumni. In January of this year, Joaquin wrote "We do not need more US Soldiers in Iraq or the Middle East, we need another Anwar Sadat...This is what these programs produce: an Indira Ghandi, India's first and to date only female prime minister, or a DeKlerk who engineered the end of apartheid, and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993 for his role in the deconstruction of apartheid." Joaquin recalls Anwar Sadat's own visit to America long before he became president of Egypt. Prior to his participation in the exchange program, Mr. Sadat, was not a fan of the U.S. or of the American people and held a negative view of our people and our society; yet at the end of the program he admitted to a program official that his view of America and its people had changed for the positive. Mr. Sadat created a citizen exchange program with Israel based on his experience in America. President Anwar Sadat, frustrated with the Geneva track peace process, pursued preparatory meetings between Egyptian and Israeli officials, unknown even to the Americans. In November 1977, Anwar Al Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, thereby implicitly recognizing Israel. In Sadat's Knesset speech he talked about his views on peace, the status of Israel's occupied territories, and the Palestinian refugee problem. This tactic went against the intentions of both the United States and the Soviet Union, but breathed new life to the stalled Geneva Conference. On September 17, 1978, The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin following twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David. The two agreements were signed at the White House, and were witnessed by United States President Jimmy Carter. The Accords led directly to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

In his two and half years at the International Center, Joaquin has developed and implemented 36 programs, hosting over a hundred international visitors. Joaquin adds, "The solution is right before our eyes. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Sadat and Begin made it work, though Sadat was assassinated, his peace treaty still holds to this day. These programs are the key to preventing another 9/11 and what keeps US Soldiers, our fathers and brothers, sisters and sons, out of harm's way."

One of his favorite quotes is one by Leo Tolstoy, "everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Joaquin recalls his youth as a Marine Rifleman, a three time rifle expert. The highest award given to a marksman, it embodies the Marine Corps philosophy of "one shot; one kill." Now a father of three sons, James, Michael and Sean, Joaquin reflects on his new prize and award, and the long broken road that led him to this point: an alcoholic and abusive step-father, a troubled childhood and brushes with the law. Now a published poet and aspiring writer, Joaquin loves to quote writers, and as he reflects upon the Thornton Peace Prize, Joaquin credits his change to friends, like Sarah Class (Joaquin's close friend and Buddhist mentor), Father Bob at Our Lady of Snows, and of course his classmate, Julie Balderson. "I was fortunate to be surrounded with the friends and family that I had. They have made a difference in my life." He has been a Sunday School teacher since 1999, and taught at Our Lady of the Oasis at the Fallon Naval Airbase and at Our Lady of Snows in Reno. He is a Eucharistic Minister for his local Parish. With Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada's Civic Engagement Initiative, Joaquin worked with high school kids to improve voter participation in our area; and twice in the past week, he has volunteered his time at Pine and Mamie Towles Middle Schools to read stories to children. Joaquin says with this honor, he remains bittersweet. He is divorced and has a fractured relationship with his teen-aged sons, and at times still struggles with his past. None of his sons attended his award ceremony or his commencement. A poet and former rodeo bull-rider, Joaquin once wrote in a poem that raising sons was like an 8-second bull ride. At the moment it seems like it stretches for an eternity, but in reflection it all passes so quickly. He remains resolute in finding peace in his life and is solid in the thought that his relationship with his sons will heal in time, "the boys know that I always love them, even though right now we do not see eye to eye." As Joaquin looks down at his framed certificate, he quietly says "this is for my friend, Will Taylor." Will was a very close friend who died in 2006 of an overdose, "...he (Will) spent many afternoons coaching my sons in football and bailed me out of some rough times as well. He would help any man up and saw no difference in people, he just saw people, not rich nor poor, black nor white, just people who needed help, and he was always there to help. He was a very good friend. He reminds me that though we are not the absolute angels we wish we were, we are neither the demons we see ourselves to be." Additionally, he mentions his friend, Buddhist teacher and mentor, Sarah Class, who in Joaquin's eyes has been a great instrument of peace and healing in his life. Sarah attended Joaquin's Award Ceremony on May 14th. In closing, Joaquin recalls another favorite writer, William Butler Yeats, "Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends."

This article was written in collaboration with Jenny A. Herron, a graduate of the University of Nevada Reno, who currently lives in Beijing, China.

Monday, April 28, 2008

PLAN's Civic Engagement Initiative marks milestone as Reno's "Millennials" hit the pavement

This past weekend marked the midpoint of the Progressive Leadership Alliance's Civic Engagement Initiative and the milestone was noted by a double event. Volunteers from UNR and TMCC High School completed canvassing Voter Precinct 1018 in Reno on Saturday. Volunteers gathered at the PLAN offices at 821 Riverside in Reno at 9am and canvassed until 3pm. The following morning Reno's "Millennials," hit the pavement once again during the Fiesta at Wells Avenue. Braving the heat and working the crowds. One of the volunteers, Sydney Brown, a senior at TMCC High School, explained that she has been participating and volunteering in our political and election process even before she was old enough to vote. She believes it is the responsibility of every citizen to be informed and involved. Over the weekend Sydney registered 3 new voters and collected 10 pledges from registered voters that they were going to participate in November's election. Volunteers were working the crowds and enjoying the festivities from 11:30am until 3pm on Sunday.

On Saturday, the volunteers canvassed an additional 289 houses/apartments and came up with 12 pledges and 2 new voters; for a total of 14 . They spent the entire day knocking on doors and speaking with residents and voters. One resident, Eric Johnson, a Vietnam Veteran, was out enjoying a Barbecue with his neighbors when he was approached by Jorge Castro and Sydney Brown. Mr. Johnson shook hands with the volunteers and told them how proud he was to see them on the streets and canvassing. He recalled the bitter experiences he had returning home from the war and the social disarray and political apathy that he encountered. Mr. Johnson then told the volunteers that "he was very proud of the work they were doing. He offered bottles of water to the volunteers. Another elderly lady chatted with Joe Tagoan, a volunteer and UNR student. She pointed out neighbors' homes that would be happy to sign the pledge. The next street over, a retired couple out for a morning stroll along Plumas Street spoke with Joe Tagoan and Joaquin Roces and expressed that they knew of PLAN and were registered voters and promised to participate as well. After chatting briefly, the couple left saying how happy they were to see "young people getting involved...that they were doing good work." The volunteers finished canvassing Voter Precinct 1018 on Saturday and covered 601 homes/apartments in the precinct and collected a total of 39 pledges and voter registration applications. Volunteers committed 26 volunteer hours over three Saturdays to complete the precinct. According to May 17th 2007 Washoe County figures this precinct had 870 registered voters, with 43% democrats and 26% republicans. The April 18th 2008 figures show that total registered voters have increased to 933, and democratic voters representing 48% and republican voters representing 24% of the total population sample. 63 new voters signed up over the past 11 months. In the contest for the presidency in 2004, Kerry and Bush were in a dead heat with Kerry holding 49% and Bush trailing with 48%. At the stroke of midnight on the 3rd of November, Nevadans chose President Bush over John Kerry 50% to 47% — moving the state's 5 electoral votes into the Bush column. It was a margin of 3%.

On Sunday, volunteers once again gathered in front of the US Bank at Wells and Vasser. This time they were preparing to work the crowds that were here to enjoy the first annual Fiesta at Wells Avenue. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, more than 5,000 people had attended the Wells Avenue event by 3:30 p.m. The volunteers from PLAN worked from 11:30am to 3pm. Again the reactions from the people were very positive. County Commissioner Kitty Jung, who was out to enjoy the cultural events and festivities, paused to chat with volunteers and signed on pledging to vote in the up-coming elections in November. Commissioner Jung stated her 3 most important issues were women's rights, social justice, and education. She took the time to walk and chat with several of the volunteers and explain her position and duties as a county commissioner and commended the volunteers for their "fine work." Jorge Castro was able to register 5 new voters that afternoon. This is the Civic Engagement Initiative's second special event during the campaign. The first was at UNR's Annual Night of All Nations held at UNR's Lawlor Events Center. The two special events gathered 38 pledges and voter registrations. The initiative has gathered 83 pledges and voter registrations since its inaugural event on the 12th of April. THANKS TO ALL OUR VOLUNTEERS FOR THEIR HARD WORK AND DEDICATION!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Passing the torch: Engaged in volunteerism and determined to make the world a better place

A component of the PLAN's Civic Engagement Initiative is combating voter apathy and increasing voter participation. Phase One of the initiative is targeting a half dozen voter precincts within Reno over the next 6 weeks that have demonstrated traditional low voter participation. Registered voters in Nevada will help select the next PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. In the contest for the presidency in 2004, Kerry and Bush were in a dead heat with Kerry holding 49% and Bush trailing with 48%. At the stroke of midnight on the 3rd of November, Nevadans chose President Bush over John Kerry 50% to 47% — moving the state's 5 electoral votes into the Bush column. It was a margin of 3%. Although Nevada has historically leaned Republican, the high concentration of labor unions and the Hispanic-American vote make it a potential battleground state. (Its 2006 Gubernatorial election was particularly competitive, and Republican Jim Gibbons won only by a slim margin.) The Las Vegas metropolitan area with its dramatic increase in population has become an attractive destination for Democratic campaign resources, and Republicans are buoyed by the strong disapproval ratings of Gibbons (29% approval rating as of March 2007) and Bush (34% approval rating as of March 2007). Furthermore, Nevada has, with the single exception of 1976, been won by the victor of every US Presidential election since 1912, a record which makes it a secondary bellwether state. The 2008 election is vital to the important issues that will impact and affect the future our social and educational institutions, national security, foreign trade and relations, our environment and the future of ALL NEVADANS.

The Civic Engagement Initiative is asking all registered voters to give their pledge that they WILL vote in November of 2008. Volunteers from the community, local organizations and TMCC High School spent their Saturday morning canvassing approximately 250 homes in Voter Precinct #1018, which is south of the Nevada Museum of Art and west of Virginia Street, knocking door to door asking registered voters to pledge that they will participate in the up-coming national election in November. Each volunteer was paired with another and hit the streets armed with voter registration applications and pledge sheets and worked in groups of two. Kat Baltierra and Jorge Castro teamed up and set a record of 12 pledges and 2 new voters registered. Kat, who is a senior at TMCC High School, stated that people were very excited to see young people actively participating in our democratic process and added that people generally had a positive attitude towards the volunteers. Her partner, Jorge, agreed, stating that people were happy to engage the young activists in a 'chat' about the issues. Another volunteer, Joe Togoan, who had done similar projects for the Democratic Party here, said that it was also important to convey to the residents and voters that this initiative was a non-partisan effort. Joe was also teamed up with another TMCC High senior, Amanda Gabbert. Their team was able to secure two pledges and register two new voters. The training the volunteers underwent at PLAN stressed this aspect of the initiative. Ireri Rivas, who coordinates the program, stated that these areas are very diverse and contain mixed communities of varying socio-economic levels and political orientation, avoiding heated debates and maintaining a "smile" and a neutral non-partisan stance is important in securing peoples' pledges. The volunteers also disseminated information to several residents who were ex-felons on how they can reinstate their voting rights. As, Langston Hughes once penned, "Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, the rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, WE, the people, must redeem the land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain-- All, all the stretch of these great green states-- And make America again!" In the United States, approximately 70% of the eligible population registers to vote, which may be an important contributing factor in the low average election turnout, and in recent decades just barely has topped 50% of voting age population in presidential elections. However, in 2004, election turnout was up to 64% of the voting age US citizens. In the early, caucuses and primaries, including Nevada's caucus, according to, the "Millennials," as sociologists have dubbed the youth vote; have already shaken up the presidential primary races with their surprisingly large turnouts in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary at 13 percent and 43 percent respectively. It is the hope of the organizers at PLAN to continue that positive momentum and increasing the avenues for educated civic participation in our democratic process. Thanks to all the volunteers who participated in the event and for giving up their Saturday morning.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Working with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), as a part of their Civic Engagement Project, I will be travelling around the Truckee Meadows working to educate the voters and residents of the area on two very important potential up-coming ballot questions.that impact Northern Nevada and the Truckee Meadows, the "Save our Water" And "Stop Leap Frog Development" campaigns. These are two potential up-coming ballot questions that the Alliance is currently involved in working to inform voters on. The 'Leapfrog development' question is an attempt to rein in a very aggressive annexation policy by the cities in the Truckee Meadows. A similar attempt was made to change the current law last year which failed. For example, Reno has moved from a cherry stem annexations, like Cold Springs and Verdi, to a non-contiguous annexation such as the Winnemucca Ranch area leapfrogging 25 miles north to the border of Pyramid Lake. This type of non-contiguous urban sprawl put unnecessary strain on public infrastructure and public safety resources and complicates jurisdiction and service issues. Successful passage of this initiative would not 'cap' growth, but merely 'manages' it in a reasonable and responsible way by encouraging developers to redevelop areas closer in and the burden and costs to exisiting residencent and voters would significantly decrease for road construction as well as for other public service and infrastructure under a more compact and responsible form of development. Paasage of this initiative would put the regional plan back in compliance with state annexation laws which forbid the cities to annex non-contiguously. What this ballot initiative refers to is "voluntary annexation" which is the type of annexation being used by the cities and developers to subvert the state law, by having a developer buy a ranch or property, and then asks the city for a "voluntary annexation." The very lifestyle that generations of Nevadans have been raised on, and brings people to our region is being threatened by out of control development and irresponsible management. Alan Weber, a noted columnist, visited our area and compared it to Portland and Denver. Weber lauded Portland, OR, as an example of controlled, sustainable growth, and derided Denver as a region where "a gorgeous state" with amble natural beauty "let sprawl and development override the beauty of open space and mountains." To the people of Reno and Sparks, Weber had this to say, "the Reno-Sparks area still has time to choose its direction."

In regard to the 'Save our Water' question, the current master plan for our area calls for 1.2 million residents, while we only have enough water for about 600 thousand residents. In Planning Principle #2 of the Truckee Meadows Regional Plan, it is recognized that our region is "resource constrained" and that water is one of the resources that is constrained. Again, this is not an attempt to stop or 'cap' growth, but again to manage it in a responsible manner. The Truckee Meadows Regional Plan water demand estimates exceed identified water resources by 120%. Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkins at the Board of County Commissioner meeting held on 3/11/08 conceded that the Spanish Springs area is already "over-allocated" in terms of water needs and usage. The voters of Washoe County have a right to determine the future of the region. The irresponsible and unmanaged growth in Las Vegas has already put our state's and regions water supply at risk.

Lessons from LAS VEGAS -- Seting aside what happened to the Owens Valley, in this city of histrionic and runaway growth (in 2005), in the middle of a five-year drought, the worst in 100 years of record-keeping and perhaps -- tree rings suggest this -- the worst in 500 years, Las Vegas's water came mostly from Lake Mead -- which in 2005, was down to 59 percent of capacity -- and, upstream from Mead, Lake Powell, which was at 34 percent of capacity, its lowest since it started filling three decades before. The Colorad River doesn't even reach the Gulf of Mexico anymore. The lower course of the river, which forms the border between Baja California and Sonora, is essentially a trickle or a dry stream today due to use of the river as Imperial Valley's irrigation source. Prior to the mid 20th century, the Colorado River Delta provided a rich estuarine marshland that is now essentially desiccated, but nonetheless is an important ecological resource.

The Strip -- the portion of Las Vegas Boulevard that has 15 of the world's 20 largest hotels -- features vast fountains, a sea battle between pirate ships and an 8.5-acre lake in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. According to ABC News (April 2007) Las Vegas has become the fastest-growing city in the nation. Its population is currently 1.8 million, and is projected to hit 3 million by 2020. Las Vegas is a city with a ferocious thirst that it's having a hard time slaking. The major water supply for Las Vegas comes from the Colorado River, which has undergone a drought as a result of climate change, says Pat Mulroy, of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

"Climate change is here," Mulroy, the city's water czar for almost 20 years, says. "We've been living it for the last eight years. The drought on the Colorado River was a rude wake-up call. Frankly, when 90 percent of your water comes from one river that is predicted to have massive water shortages, you'd be irresponsible not to develop water supplies that are independent of that river system in order to diversify." The plan for diversification is controversial. Mulroy divised the controversial plan to build a $2 billion pipeline that would pump water out of White Pine County and send it down to feed the growing water needs of southern Nevada. Specifically, the Snake Valley, in White Pine County, Nev., straddling the Utah border. This area is home to cattle ranches, alfalfa farms and endangered species, it's people who are few and far between along this desert landscape. That's because the Snake Valley is dry -- one of the driest parts of the driest state in the union, getting only about 8 inches of rainfall every year.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority and its water "czar," Patricia Mulroy, seeks to tap 65 billion gallons of rural water a year with a 300-mile-long pipeline expected to cost more than $2 billion. That's enough water for 50,000 families a year. Las Vegas's unmanaged growth has now impacted other Nevadans, like Dean Baker and Cecil Garland, who both operate ranches in Utah and Nevada. But even the Water Czar could not avoid conceding "There isn't enough water to go around," Mulroy told NPR in a 1991 story about the early stages of the project. "And we're the most arid spot in the United States." Las Vegas, a city known for its excess, has exceeded not onlt its own surface and ground water sources, as well as the Colorado River, but now expect other Nevada communities and families to sacrifice their life styles and communities for the sake of unmanaged growth. "What Las Vegas has got to learn is that there are limits to its growth," Garland says. He also applies his own value judgment to the competing uses for water. "Gluttony, glitter girls and gambling are what [Las Vegas] is all about," the 81-year-old rancher asserts. "What it's all about here [in Snake Valley] is children, cattle, country and church."

It is quite simply reckless and irresponsible to implement any growth plan that ignores or fails to consider the availability of water in Washoe County, and to ask other communities in our state to pay far or shoulder the burden of our lack of responsible planning.

The research for this article was provided by the Progressive Leadership Alliance, by Howard Berkes of NPR, by Terry Moran and Katie Hinman, ABC News, and George F. Will of the Washington Post.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Blanket Peddlers

Don’t let cunning tactics of blanket peddlers sway you

By Joaquin Rafael Roces
11/9/2003 08:45 pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Industry Vista is a weekly column that provides officials from different industry sectors an opportunity to share their views on issues affecting their Northern Nevada companies. Today’s column is by Joaquin Rafael Roces with the Nevada Indian Commission.

I am a commissioner with the Nevada Indian Commission under Gov. Kenny Guinn.

I also have been a criminal prosecutor and court advocate for several Northern Nevada tribes during the past five years. These include the colony in Reno, the Paiute tribes in Pyramid Lake and Walker River, and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. During the five years I have worked for the tribes I have handled more than 500 cases, from simple traffic citations to child sexual assaults and vehicular homicides.

I have worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office in joint prosecutions of serious crimes under the Major Crimes Act and have been a working member of the Washoe County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, the Washoe County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Nevada Attorney General’s Full Faith and Credit Team.

US Constitution recognizes three types of sovereignty: federal, tribal and state. Tribal sovereignty can be found in the census clause first, then in the commerce clause.

In the census clause it reads that the census is not to include “Indians not taxed” in its census count, as the U.S. government acknowledged that it had no authority to tax Indians as they were recognized as separate foreign states.

Within the commerce clause, the U.S. Constitution mentions trade with three separate sovereignties: “States,” “Foreign Nations,” and “Indian Tribes.” In fact, in its beginning the U.S. government dealt with the tribes as foreign sovereign powers and negotiated treaties with various tribes from commerce to mutual defense against hostile European colonial aggression.

After 1812, that U.S. policy with the tribes changed from “international policy” to a “domestic policy.” When Public Law 280 was first passed, it transferred federal jurisdiction over the tribes to the states.

Six states were made mandatory PL 280 states and the balance was voluntary. Nevada is a voluntary PL 280 state. Williams v. Lee in 1959 gave jurisdiction to tribal courts regarding civil on-reservation disputes between Indian and non-Indian.

This was further upheld by the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, at which time PL 280 was amended to include tribal consensus prior to transfer of jurisdiction from the feds to the state.

Nevada state law also upholds tribal sovereignty as well, including NRS 233A.120 and NRS 233A.130.

Further, NRS 370.0751 which governs the imposition of an excise tax on cigarettes by governing body of Indian reservation or colony, already gives the tribe the authority to impose and collect such a tax.

Although there is a distinct difference between an excise tax and a sales tax, current taxes collected under 370.0751 and future sales taxes collected from the Mercedes dealership would go to the governing body, whether it be the Reno Sparks Indian Colony or the state of California.

Therein lies the true reason for all this furor and controversy: it is not taxation or even states rights, but economic racism and bigotry.

The truth is, a person buying a Mercedes from the dealership in the colony is no different than that same person buying it directly from the main dealership in Sacramento.

So, why aren’t these Caucasian “blanket peddlers” on Kietzke Lane protesting car dealerships in South Shore, Stateline and Truckee, and California’s sovereign right to taxation?

The Gazette Journal’s articles on Oct. 21 cites unnamed “several lawmakers” who have asked for an investigation, and directly quotes senior legislator Sen. Bill Raggio, as the lead advocate for this special investigation, supported by Sen. Randolph Townsend of Reno.

Townsend classified the controversy as “very serious,” and alluded to possibly changing the law in 2005.

In essence, what Townsend is saying is that the Mercedes dealership moving into the colony is equivalent to an economic Vietnam for the downtown Reno, and that the catastrophic domino effect that would follow is that the high-end dealership would move 15 minutes away in distant south Reno, leading to a monumental loss of $1 million a month in sales tax.

Sounds like desperate and dire circumstances — I can hear Sen. Raggio on the Senate floor rallying the troops, “best gather round, boys, we better cut those injuns off at the pass.”

But wait a minute, Kemosabe, didn’t Raggio and the boys just pass what the Gazette Journal called an “historic” and “a record state budget” based on Nevada’s largest tax revenue sources — gaming and retail sales — that were higher than projected sums (relied upon by lawmakers in passing a record state budget last summer).

In fact, the combined tax revenues are nearly $16 million ahead of projections. These sales and gambling fee levies amount to at least two-thirds of all state revenues, even accounting for the broadened tax base approved by lawmakers this year after months of debate.

The Gazette Journal compared the car lot controversy to the threat posed by Indian gaming in California, yet no one seemed too upset about the Sundowner closing its doors this December and putting 300 Renoites on the street just in time for Christmas and adding another empty casino in the middle of downtown Reno.

I didn’t hear any saber rattling there, and how many other business, like Sears, Target, Mervyn’s and Wal-Mart, to name a few, who moved to locations in south Reno following the growth pattern, and not because they were being chased by an imaginary Indian war party.

Saying that all this furor regarding this one car dealership is about taxes is like saying the Civil War was fought for black suffrage.

These lawmakers, these “blanket peddlers,” and their practice of economic racism, are no different than their predecessors who sold blankets infected with small pox to the tribes and distributed rotted beef and commodities to the reservations while they grew fat from the profits.

Chairman Melendez and the colony have just as much right as Reno and Mayor have promoting the sale of the Reno Hilton property, or the State of Nevada to seek and pursue economic development to improve the standard and quality of life of the population that they are beholden to. Standards such as health, elder and child care, police and public safety on the colony already lag far behind the very same standards found on the other side of Second and Mill Streets.

The monies generated from these revenues would go to strengthen these institutions, such a projected $12 million Health Center. After all, doesn’t Nevada make the same promises to solicit and entice businesses to leave California’s economic minefield for Nevada’s “greener pastures.” The Web site “,” home site of the Resident Agents of Nevada Inc., touts the slogan “Incorporate in tax free Nevada!” You can find handy instructions, information and links regarding asset protection and tax consideration in what the site calls “the acknowledged corporate capital of the United States.”

On Oct. 8, a mere two weeks before the Gazette Journal’s article, Nevada’s very own Commission on Economic Development approved tax incentives for Steam Turbine Balding & Parts of Douglas County and Spacecraft Components Corporation of Clark County. The official Web site for the commission even has a link titled “Tax Climate” under the heading of “Incentives,” that lists the following: “The outstanding tax climate in Nevada is one of the best reasons to do business in the state. This tax structure also clearly distinguishes Nevada as offering a business environment very few states can match.

In Nevada there is:

o No corporate income tax.

o No personal income tax.

o No franchise tax on income.

o No inheritance or gift tax.

o No admissions tax.

o No unitary tax.

o No estate tax*.

o Competitive sales and property tax rates.

o Minimal employer payroll tax — 0.7 percent of gross wages with deductions for employer paid health insurance.

In light of all this, what exactly is the Indian Colony doing any different than the state, or any other municipality or county doing? And how again is it offensive or illegal?

In both articles, none of the legislators, Reno nor Nevada officials could point to a valid violation of Nevada Revised Statutes or Administrative Code. In fact, they say and imply that the colony abided by the written agreement. The tribe is not charging any less than what the state charges for sales tax.

So, in reality there isn’t even any competitive incentive offered to cause a buyer to purchase a vehicle from the tribal dealership instead any of the blanket peddlers on Kietzke. This is a stark contrast to incentives offered on the state Web site [listed above].

In short, the injun played by the white man’s rules and did good. Senator Raggio states in the article that the law allowing agreements might have to be reconsidered. Translation: the white man wants to change the rules.

After the writing of this article — which does not reflect the opinion of the Nevada Indian Commission, Governor’s Office, Walker River Paiute Tribe, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, their officers, employees or members — more than 73 percent of the 254 respondents to the RGJ Biz Poll were in dissent with Sens. Raggio and Townsend.

I hope they are but a minority within the Legislature, and that the majority of the legislators — as well as the governor and attorney general — will not be swayed by the deceitful tactics of a few blanket peddlers.

The Reno Gazette-Journal Business section welcomes your views on our Monday Industry Vista column. Please e-mail your letters to, fax them to (775) 788-6458, snail mail them to Business section, Reno Gazette-Journal, Box 22000, Reno, NV 89520-2000 or drop them off between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at our office at 955 Kuenzli St. in Reno.

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