Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has turned standing up for Native Americans into a high-profile crusade, whether he’s accusing NV Energy of literally murdering them with discharges from a coal-fired power plant to heaping scorn upon the Washington Redskins football team for a name Reid says is racist.
But things are starting to look up for Indians, and Reid is a part of it.
First, Reid has introduced a bill to convey thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management parcels to various Indian tribes around the state. (A companion bill was introduced by Rep. Steven Horsford in the House.)
“Before the Silver State was settled by pioneers, prospectors, and entrepreneurs, Nevada was home for generations to the Washoe, Western Shoshone and Paiute people,” Reid said in a statement. “These first Nevadans have long been a voice for protecting our wild landscapes and enriching our state through their language and cultural heritage. I take the many obligations that the United States has to tribal nations seriously. Land is lifeblood to Native Americans and this bill provides space for housing, economic development, traditional uses and cultural protection. I would like to commend the tribes, whose immense work and collaboration made these bills possible, and I look forward to continue to work with our first Nevadans on protecting homelands.”
The Reid-Horsford legislation conveys 26,565 acres being handed to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians. That’s the tribe located near NV Energy’s Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant. After Reid’s criticism, the company agreed to close the plant early, and is now participating in solar-power generating projects on tribal land. Those may expand, too: According to Horsford’s office, “The tribe has announced that they would be open to pursuing new renewable energy projects on the new land.”
Second, after months of pressure from Reid for the Washington Redskins to change their team’s name — and stubborn resistance from owner Daniel Snyder — today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the Redskins’ trademark, concluding U.S. law doesn’t permit trademarks that are racially disparaging.
The ruling is mostly symbolic, as it doesn’t stop the team from selling logo merchandise or from going to court to keep the team from trying to enforce its trademark. (You can read the entire ruling for yourself, below.)
Reid took to the Senate floor to reiterate his opposition, and to tell Snyder that “the writing is on the wall. It’s on the wall in giant, blinking neon lights.”
“The Redskins no longer have trademarks. They are gone,” Reid said, according to Politico. “Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it’s just a matter of time until he is forced to do the right thing and change the name.”
Reid added: “The name will change and justice will be done for the tribes in Nevada and across the nation,” Reid said.
The Redskins have fought back, but to little effect. An attempt to hashtag-bomb Reid backfired when several fans urged Snyder to change the name themselves.
So, why does Reid care so much? He told the Las Vegas Sun recently that he’s done more for Native American tribes in Nevada than the rest of the state’s delegation combined ever has. Reid said Indians are underdogs, and he’s got a soft spot for them. He’s also supportive of their embrace of renewable energy plants, a longtime Reid goal. (The senator blocked NV Energy from building new coal-fired plants in Northern Nevada, and has encouraged NV Energy’s more recent efforts to develop more green power.)