Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
September 9, 2000 - Issue 18

Pyramid Tribe Unveils New School
by Rhina Guidos Reno Gazette Journal

With a sense of pride, members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe bowed their heads and listened to a drum song and a Paiute prayer at the opening of the tribe’s new combination middle and high school.

The $10.4 million Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Junior and Senior High School in Nixon began on Tuesday.

The school’s opening was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks from tribal and state leaders, including U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and state Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno.

“This day will be remembered as a special day,” said Paiute Tribal Chairman Norman Harry, as he welcomed visitors into the school’s amphitheater facing Pyramid Lake.

The 43,000-square-foot building features two pyramids on the roof and is decorated throughout with Paiute designs. It houses 15 classrooms with Internet connections, a gym, music room, library, computer room, shop room and offices. Built to accommodate 250 students, the school has a fall enrollment of 150. Football, soccer, and track fields and tennis courts remain to be built on the school’s 53-acre site.

“It’s really hi-tech,” said 15-year-old Anthony Berreman of Fallon.

Harrison Eben, who will be a senior when classes start, said he heard a lot of talk about the new school, but didn’t think it would materialize.

“I used to hear my dad talk about it all the time,” the 17-year-old, said. “I used to think it was all talk, and we’d gotten used to going to school in the old trailers. I’m excited about the school opening, mostly because of basketball, but it feels good to be here with all our people, to go to school with our friends and learn about our culture.”

His father, Maurice Eben, sits on the school board and was involved in the 20-year process to build the school.

“We didn’t name (the school) after a person,” Eben said. “We named it after our tribe because we want this to be the foundation of our tribe. We want our children to graduate from here, to go to college, to come back and teach others.”

Those like Eben and school principal Randy Melendez envision a learning environment dedicated to academic and athletic excellence but also a place to revive a waning Paiute culture.

“One of the biggest challenges we’ll have is getting students on the academic level where they should be,” he said. “But we also want them to be proud and to learn about their culture.”

Four of the 13 teachers are American Indian, and Melendez hopes future graduates will return as teachers and principals.

Many tribal officials praised Reid’s efforts to secure funding for the school.

“This school didn’t come easy,” Reid said. “It was a rocky road getting to where we are, but we deserved this school. I hope those who attend this school will be proud of their heritage. I hope that you will look back at your roots.”

The school is owned by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, but it will receive support services from Washoe County School District. Some of the support includes providing transportation at-cost for students, ordering warehouse supplies and materials and helping with staff development.

Maurice Eben said some of the top priorities are getting more parents involved with their children’s education, restoring some of the tribe’s lost practices and customs and reinforcing pride in tribal heritage.

Others offered the school help and support in hopes that it will herald the beginning of a new era in tribal education.

“Building a new schoolhouse is an act of faith,” said Mathews, who has a school in Reno named after her.

“When we plant a tree, we know that we may not live to see it mature,” the state senator said.

“Our generation may not eat of its fruit or enjoy its shade. Those of us who are here today cannot know what will happen to the children who attend this school over the next 50, 60 or 100 years. We cannot see the scientists, scholars, and statesmen whose minds will be nurtured here.”

Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
Paiute Language



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