By Natalie Hernandez and Andrew Davey
Las Vegas Paiute artist and activist Fawn Douglas was one of four Nevadans honored at the American Indian Achievement Awards in Carson City last Saturday. Douglas was recognized by the Nevada Indian Commission for her tireless advocacy for Southern Nevada Paiute communities, including her work to protect tribal ancestral lands.
That work continued Saturday, when Douglas used her acceptance speech to ask Senator Dean Heller (R) to meet with tribal communities about protecting Gold Butte National Monument.
How Fawn Douglas got her start as an activist
Ever since her aunt got involved in the lawsuit against the Washington Redskins’ use of an anti-Native American slur in its name, Fawn Douglas has become a major advocate for her own Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, and for other Native American communities across the nation.
A major turning point for Douglas came when a friend showed her photos of Gold Butte, an area long considered sacred by local Paiutes. After learning about the damage being done to petroglyphs and other ancient artifacts in the area, Douglas’ response was, “What can I do to help?”
From there, Douglas became an integral force in efforts to secure permanent protection for Gold Butte. Douglas and local environmentalists finally succeeded in December 2016, when then President Barack Obama designated Gold Butte as a National Monument.
“We have fought for this designation. It’s been years that we have worked to get protection.”
– Fawn Douglas
During the ceremony, representatives for U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D) presented the honorees with proclamations. Ever the activist, Douglas chastised Heller for not meeting with Native American communities about Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monuments. Both were included in the Trump Administration’s review of 27 monuments across the nation.
“[We’ve] been waiting to meet with Senator Heller, so we can […] talk to him about Gold Butte, […] about keeping it the way it is,” Douglas said. “We have fought for this designation. It’s been years that we have worked to get protection.”
“I hope you let your boss know that we want to meet with him […] We want to tell him why we care about Gold Butte.”
– Fawn Douglas
Douglas then issued this plea to Heller’s staff: “I hope you let your boss know that we want to meet with him, tell him from our heart, tell him our stories. We want to tell him why we care about Gold Butte.”
Heller opposed designation of Gold Butte as a National Monument before Obama took executive action in 2016. Since then, Heller has supported Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s push to reduce the monument’s acreage. It’s still unclear what exactly President Donald Trump will decide to do to Gold Butte and Basin and Range, though he is expected to announce a final decision on these and other monuments some time next month.
Editor’s Note: Fawn Douglas currently serves on the board of the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, the parent organization of Nevada Forward.