Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation

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The Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation is located in Nevada and Oregon.  It is home to the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.

Establishment:

17 January, 1936 – By act of Congress (49 Stat. 1094) 20, 414.46 acres were set aside by Authority of the Indian Reorganization Act (48 Stat. 984) 
16 November, 1936 – 1,554.35 acres 
09 November, 1940 – 3,542.40 
18 July, 1941 – 1,240 acres 
24 February, 1943 – 3,919.37 acres 
16 June, 1944 – 449.92 acres 
03 February, 1956 – 160 acres Tribal fee purchase 
20 April, 1949 – relinquished allotments approved 
09 May, 1957 – relinquished allotments approved 
16 May, 1957 – 3,900.10 acres of relinquished allotments added to Tribal land 
04 April, 1960 – added 160 acres 
16 November, 1973 – 2.63 acres were added 

Location:

Four miles southeast of McDermitt, Humboldt County, Nevada. A major portion of the reservation is located in Malheur County, Oregon.

Acreage:

16,354.52 acres of Tribal Land – Nevada 
145 acres of allotted land – Nevada 
160 acres of Tribal fee land – Nevada 
18,828.79 acres of Tribal land – Oregon 

The Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation spans the Nevada–Oregon border, in Humboldt County, Nevada and Malheur County, Oregon, near the Quinn River, which runs east to west through the Tribe’s Nevada lands.

Just to the east is southwestern Idaho. The Fort McDermitt Military Reservation was established 14 August 1865 at the former site of Quinn River Camp No. 33 and a stagecoach stop, Quinn River Station, in what was a traditional seasonal homeland of the PaiuteShoshone and Bannock peoples.

Originally the fort was established to protect the stagecoach route from Virginia City through Winnemucca, Nevada to Silver City, Idaho Territory, in the southwestern part of the area. It was named after Lt. Col. Charles McDermit, commander of the Military District of Nevada, who was killed in a skirmish in the area in 1865.

The Paiute had traditional territory ranging from the Southwest up into Nevada, Oregon and southwestern Idaho. The Paiute in this area became known as the “Northern Paiute.” They are related culturally and linguistically to the Shoshone, Bannock and other tribes of the region.

When the military outpost was closed in 1889, the Military Reservation was adapted as the Fort McDermitt Indian Agency. Northern Paiute and Shoshone were settled here.

In 1936 the federal government established an Indian reservation to support the tribe’s organizing as the Paiute and Shoshone Tribe under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. 

They had to give up their traditional, hereditary chiefs as leaders in favor of an elected, representative form of government.

The reservation was established with 16,354 acres (66.2 km2) in Nevada and 19,000 acres (76.9 km2) in Oregon, mostly areas of arid land.

In October 2016 the federal government put into trust for the tribe approximately 19,094 acres (77.3 km2) acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Nevada, in order to expand their reservation and give them a more sustainable base.

Gaming is prohibited on these new lands. This was done under the Nevada Native Nations Land Act (PL No: 114-232).

Government:

Organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 18 June 1934 (48 Stat. 984) as amended. Constitution and By-Laws of the Fort McDermitt Paiute & Shoshone Tribe approved 02 July, 1936.

The Tribes drafted a Constitution and Bylaws (which were approved after changes by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs).

It also had a Corporate Charter (drafted by the federal government and containing provisions not required by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.)

On May 6, 1936 the new Constitution, ByLaws and Corporate Charter was approved by 54 of 65 available voters.

The government has an elected chairman and an elected eight-member Tribal Council, including a vice chairman.

As of the 2010 census, 313 Native Americans lived on the reservation, with 42 enrolled members living in nearby McDermitt, Oregon. More tribal members than “enrolled” tribal members live on the Reservation. The Tribe’s Constitution and laws have some conflicting definitions of tribal members.

The Constitution defines tribal members as:

  • the “original allottees in 1936,
  • [at birth] such of their descendants [who] maintain a bona-fide residence on the [Reservation]”, and
  • “every child of one-fourth or more Indian blood both of whose parents are members of the . . . Tribe” (see Constitution and ByLaws, Article II, Section 1(a), (b))). Thus the people do not need to be enrolled citizens to be considered members.

The Constitution and ByLaws allow the Tribal Council to enroll two classes of People; see id., Article II, Section 2(a),(b). The confusion was created in the 1980s.

At a time when Northern Paiute land claims funds were about to be disbursed, federal officials suggested that the Tribal Council enact an “Enrollment Ordinance” to define membership qualifications of the Tribe and noted that only the Council had authority to do this.

The ordinance did not address conflicts with standing definitions of members, as noted above (and in Article II, Section 1(a) and (b)).

Language:

The tribe speaks the Northern Paiute language, also known as Paviotso, which is a Western Numic language. Fort McDermitt has the greatest concentration of Northern Paiute speakers among the various locations where they live. 20–30% of the tribe’s children can speak the language.

B.I.A. Agency:

Western Nevada Agency
Carson City, Nevada 89706
Phone:(702) 887-3500 

Jurisdiction:

Federal, Tribal, Nevada State & Oregon State

Contact Info:

P.O. Box 457
McDermitt, Nevada 89421 
Telephone: (702) 532-8259 
Fax:(702) 532-8263 

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