A new law
from using racially discriminatory identifiers. It also prohibits towns from using so-called sundown sirens
, which were historically used to drive out nonwhite people
On Friday, Gov. Steve Sisolak
(D) signed the bill into law, accompanied by members of the Nevada Indian Commission
and tribal elders.
“Rather than perpetuating misrepresentations of any culture or group of people, our schools and public places should embrace Nevada’s diverse population,” Sisolak said at the signing ceremony.
The new law requires the state's public and charter schools to change any associations that are "racially discriminatory" or "associated with the Confederate States of America or a federally recognized Indian tribe," such as names, logos, mascots, or songs. Exceptions may be made with tribal approval.
The Associated Press
previously reported that officials in the state's largest school district, Clark County, estimate that about 20 of its 336 schools will need to be rebranded, at a cost of nearly $1.4 million.
The measure also prohibits Nevada cities and counties from sounding an evening siren, bell, or alarm, which had historically been used to drive out people of “a particular race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, or color.”
The legislation was inspired by a siren at 6 p.m. in Minden, a Douglas County town south of Carson City, where tribal leaders say it has been used since nonwhites were ordered to leave by 6:30 p.m.
“It’s still deeply hurtful,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic
state Assembly Member Howard Watts, to local station KRNV. “There are still members of the Washoe Tribe and others who know exactly what it means when that goes off.”
Tracy Kizer, a Washoe Tribe member who has lived in Carson Valley her entire life, described the siren as a daily reminder of the injustice her family has faced.
“You have no idea how much this really affects our community,” Kizer told KUNR. “It isn’t just what our forefathers went through; it’s the pain and hatred that was formed in order to make that law.”
Minden town manager JD Frisby defended his town's siren and its continued use in an email to Stardia on Monday, claiming it was purchased for emergency use by local volunteer firefighters years after the county's sundowner ordinance was enacted.
According to the local Record-Courier newspaper, Douglas County commissioners first approved a sunset ordinance in 1908 for Gardnerville, which is less than two miles south of Minden, and it was expanded in 1917 to include Minden.
Frisby said Minden's siren was initially sounded twice a day as part of an insurance
test, but the firefighters decided to sound it at noon and 6 p.m. for their own personal work
schedules. It has "never been tied" to Gardnerville's sundown ordinance, which used a whistle, Frisby said.
“It is unfortunate that the true history of the siren has not been added to any of the news articles, but at this point we have lost the true narrative
,” Frisby said, adding, “I spent the last year trying to show the history with no success.”
Frisby stated that leaders from his town and the Washoe tribe have held open discussions and that he expects them to continue to do so.
During the Jim Crow era, which legalized racial segregation
, sundown ordinances were enacted across the United States
; if nonwhites were seen in town after sunset, they faced arrest
, beating, or worse.
Frisby previously told KOLO-TV that the timing of his town's siren could be misinterpreted as related to a sundown ordinance.
“But that is not the intent of the siren,” he pointed out.
Today, the siren is used to honor first responders, according to Frisby.
If the town really needs the siren to sound, Kizer suggested changing the time.
“Set it to 5 or 7, and turn it off at 6,” she instructed.