White Neighbors Block Native American Neighbors from Public Road Use

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A fenced-in Native American public subdivision overlooking Nevada's spectacular Ruby Mountains is focus of a documentary. Filming begins Thanksgiving weekend.

A fenced-in Native American public subdivision overlooking Nevada's spectacular Ruby Mountains is focus of a soon-to-be filmed documentary.

But white Elko, Nevada residents of a neighboring and wealthier subdivision (Ruby View Subdivision aka “Fort Ruby View”) have complained to city police about the film venture and want it stopped.

The controversey began when the author of two civil rights books says she was angered after observing how Indian Colony residents were physically blocked from using a street connecting two subdivisions in Elko, Nevada.

So Susan Klopfer decided to write and produce a video about the situation.

The project kicks off Thanksgiving weekend.

The two subdivisions are right next door to each other, but one is a city high-end residential subdivision housing highly paid gold mining and governmental executives from the surrounding communities.

That subdivision is named Ruby View, while the other group of homes represents a tribal HUD-funded residential subdivision built on the boundary between private city land and tribal lands.

The neighborhood streets were not allowed to connect, Klopfer said.

"The division between the two races stands in stark contrast to the happy faces of the children who attend nearby public schools, together.

"The teens from these two subdivision attend Elko High School, "home of the famous Band of Indians." The cartoon caricature of a mascot Indian is "proudly" displayed on the high school wall, the sports uniforms and other paraphenalia.

"This issue, too, has been a source of discontent for a number of years. While many Indians from Elko have complained about the school mascot, others - white - say it is not a problem, including the city's Chamber of Commerce that publishes comments in some of its brochures on how the Indians have accepted the use of this mascot."

The predominantly white community of approximately 16,000 sprung up in northern region of the aboriginal lands of the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Indians in the late 1800s as a railroad town and quickly grew through the years as international mining companies struck it rich nearby Elko.

A Te-Moak Tribal elder who is frequently seen walking along the highways and in parades of Nevada on behalf of his Western Shoshone heritage tells of a recent encounter with an Elko High School Marching Band of Indians member.

"While walking in the Nevada Day Parade downtown on behalf of my culture, a high school band member of the "Elko Band of Indians" walked up to me and said I am dressed like this as an Indian like you out of respect for you."

Manuel Couchum said, "I told him you don't respect me when you do dress like that and the kid did not seem to get it."

The cement barrier was put in place after a 1997 public meeting in which several residents of the city subdivision complained about "Indian dogs coming into their neighborhood." Klopfer said.

Notes from a Board of Supervisors meeting on September 9, 1997, confirm actions taken by City staff related to Keppler Drive and the Ruby View Subdivision, she said.

"Basically, the Elko Indian Colony was denied access to Keppler Drive (using Skyline Drive as the cross section) and a fence was approved to be used for the perimeter of the Ruby View Subdivision.

"Some residents of Ruby View paid for cyclone fencing to be placed adjacent to tribal lands. The city apparently provided the labor and additional materials, Klopfer said.

The fence was approved by the City Council with a crash gate in case the city's fire trucks or ambulances needed to gain acces to the lower colony roads. But five years ago when the gate was damaged, the concrete block was put up by the city to halt any traffic access.

Recently, Klopfer took pictures of the cement barrier and cyclone fencing - on public property.

"When some of the Skyline Drive neighbors came out of their houses, they yelled and threatened me. Several residents reported me to the Elko City police, saying that I was stalking them and taking pictures of their houses.

"When I tried to explain what I was doing, a police officer threatened he would arrest me. Later, he even wrote in a report that he witnessed me committing battery on one of the complaining neighbors." Klopfer said.

"Frankly, if I was a city official, I'd be quite concerned over the possible violation of civil and voting rights that the city of Elko may have committed against the Elko Band.

"Besides putting up a physical barrier to keep Native Americans out, the Colony has been kept from becoming a part of the City Elko, itself. And yet, the Native Americans have allowed city access on Native American roads to the city's water supply."

"From my understanding, there are several Elko public officials and even federal officials who have stated they intend to keep the Colony from becoming annexed into Elko.

"This is an amazing thing to observe in 2005. Now I really understand why Mississippians are often angered when they are targeted for past civil rights violations," Klopfer said. "They certainly are not alone."

Klopfer believes that "Fort Ruby View's blockade" could come back and haunt city officials when trying to keep and gain federal, state and even county funds in light of nondiscrimination requirements.

"This looks like a violation of civil rights and equal protection," she said.

"We already have a cinematographer who has volunteered her talents as well as a board member of a New Mexico Film Festival who has pledged to show the documentary next Spring," Klopfer said.

When Klopfer moved from Mississippi to Elko, Nevada last summer she was soon discouraged over what she terms a lack of basic civil rights and voting rights of Native Americans; she first learned about the concrete barrier and then later witnessed a controversial meeting of the county's Democratic Central Committee.

"Native Americans were invited to come and vote for new officers. But they were not allowed to vote when they got to the meeting and they all walked out.

"It looks like there is a lot of growing up to do in Elko. Meanwhile, I guess some people are about to learn a civil rights lesson; I sincerely hope this documentary will help."

The Wongobi subdivision was constructed by the Te-Moak Housing Autoity in 1997 and is located in a culdesac on the Upper elko Indian Colony and is not city-annexed like the Lower Elko Indian Colony.


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Susan Orr-klopfer

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