Governor signs bill that could silence Minden siren

A member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe sings at a protest of the siren in Minden Park on Saturday.

A member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe sings at a protest of the siren in Minden Park on Saturday.

A bill aimed at silencing the Minden siren was signed on Friday by Gov. Steve Sisolak at a ceremony held on the Stewart Indian School campus.

The Nevada Legislature approved Assembly Bill 88 and forwarded it to the governor last week. The bill is one of three the governor will sign involving Native Americans. 

The governor also signed AB 270, which governs the preservation of the Stewart Indian School, and AB 262 that waives  registration and other fees for public college students who are affiliated with federally recognized Indian tribes in Nevada.
The Minden siren sounds every day at noon and 6 p.m. 
An August 2020 letter from Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey asked that the county silence the siren, recognizing the history of the sundown ordinances ordering Indians to be out of Minden and Gardnerville by 6:30 p.m.

On Saturday, a group of around 50 supporters turned out in Minden Park to protest the siren that the Washoe contend is a symbol of the town’s sundowner past.

The meeting in the park was the opening to a bike ride over the Carson Range to Lake Tahoe.

After participating in a traditional Round Dance, Organizer Matt Niswonger led the crowd to yell “Stop the Siren” nine times in the park.

Organizer Marty Meeden displayed the signs that often discouraged Washoe and other tribes from patronizing businesses.

Lifelong Minden resident Matt Bernard assured the group that residents had only respect for the Washoe.

“I want everyone to know that the people in Minden don’t have any animosity, they only have love for the Washoe,” he said. “This whole issue has been difficult for everybody. I hope we can move forward and quit looking backwards about the siren.”

Bernard directed those attending to see that the Washoe’s service to the United States has been documented on a plaque at the base of the flagpole in Minden.

The first two men listed in the draft to fight in World War I were both Washoe.

Meeden said he’d been told that if the bill becomes law, the county said will just ignore it.

Minden Town Manager JD Frisby said Saturday that could well be the result, pointing out that Minden’s siren didn’t exist when the ordinance was passed in 1917.

In reporting the founding of the Minden Volunteer Fire Department, The April 29, 1921, Record-Courier included a note about a new siren.

“The Minden fire department has also purchased a large fire siren, similar to the one in use in Gardnerville and which has been installed on the top of the Minden mill,” the newspaper reported.

There was no siren or fire department when the county first approved an ordinance in 1908 ordering Indians out of Gardnerville by sunset.
The ordinance was revised in 1917 to include Minden and set the time at 6:30 p.m. There still wasn't a siren in Minden, but Gardnerville had a siren that could be heard for miles around.

An electric siren purchased by the Gardnerville Fire Department had arrived and would replace the bell previously used, the newspaper reported on July 13, 1917. The next month, the Gardnerville siren was given a trial run and could be heard by people several miles from the town, the newspaper reported, including those in Minden.

This story has been updated to reflect that Assembly Bill 88 was signed on Friday morning.


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