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The Southern Paiute

Las Vegas. A city as much home to a sunbaked, arid desert, as it is to a vibrant, neon tourism sector. Yet centuries before mobsters like Bugsy Siegel ran the casinos or legendary Rock n’ Rollers such as Elvis Presley said “I do” at the now demolished Aladdin hotel, another group of people dominated these lands: The Southern Paiute.

The Southern Paiute peoples or Nuwuvi were historically hunter-gatherers, maintaining territory within Southeastern California, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and Southern Nevada; hence, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in addition to the “wider Las Vegas area” currently operating on Southern Paiute land (History of Nuwuvi People). This indigenous community first appeared in Southern Nevada around 1100 A.D. and sustained themselves through springtime irrigation ditches and skilled craftsmanship. Using handwoven baskets, crops such as seeds, roots, and berries were transported to higher elevations of “lush meadows and cool forests.” Furthermore, these resourceful individuals produced bow and arrows, sandals, lightweight skirts, blankets and much more to sustain their needs (About the Southern Paiute).

Unfortunately, as time went on, the Southern Paiute peoples began to be expelled from their lands. By the 1820s, through the creation of the “Old Spanish Trail” traders and travelers traversing over Paiute land killed the plants and animals that the Nuwuvi so heavily relied on. Furthermore, from 1855 to 1856, Mormon missionaries attempted to convert the Paiutes but to little avail (Goldberg, Valley). Facing a loss of land and culture, the Southern Paiutes began what would become a decades-long fight.

It was not until July 22, 1970, that this community was acknowledged by the U.S. government as being a sovereign nation. After years of fighting with acts such as the Indian Reorganization Act (1934) – which decreased federal control over Native American affairs while increasing their autonomy – and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Constitution, these individuals have begun to see change ( Editors) (History of Nuwuvi People).

While there is still more work being done, remaining educated about the Southern Paiute is an effective way to honor their culture, traditions, and livelihoods.


About The Southern Paiute (U.S. National Park Service). (2021, May 18).

Goldberg, D., & Valley, J. (2015, July 20). Las Vegas’ smallest sovereign nation – Las
Vegas Sun Newspaper.

History of Nuwuvi People. (2021, March 12). University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Editors. (2022, October 27). Indian Reorganization Act is signed into law.

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