Published on October 2, 2013 by Amy
The Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation is a United States reservation in northwestern Nevada ~approximately 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Reno, in Washoe, Storey, and Lyon Counties. It lies almost entirely in Washoe County (99.88%), with but tiny amounts of land in the other two counties (at the southern end, near the city of Fernley). It is governed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe (Cui Ui Ticutta). In 1993, the population of the reservation was 1,603 individuals. At that time there were 2,253 enrolled members of the tribe. The 2000 census reported a population of 1,734.
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The reservation has 742.2 sq mi (1,922 km2) in land area, and includes all of Pyramid Lake, and all of the Truckee River from the Big Bend north. The reservation is centered on Pyramid Lake, and the lake itself comprises 25% of the reservation’s area. The reservation also includes a sliver of Winnemucca Lake, most of the Lake Range, portions of the Virginia Mountains and Pah Rah Range and the southern end of the Smoke Creek Desert.
There are three communities on the reservation. Sutcliffe is located on the western shore of the lake, Nixon is at the southern end of the lake, and Wadsworth, the largest, is located near the Big Bend of the Truckee at the southern end of the reservation, just north of the non-reservation town of Fernley. There are a few outlying ranches along the Truckee River between Wadsworth and Nixon. Nixon is the seat of tribal government.
The reservation land was first set aside for the Northern Paiute by request of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1859. The reservation was not surveyed until 1865. The status of the reservation was very uncertain until President Ulysses S. Grant affirmed its existence by executive order on March 23, 1874. At that time the creation of reservations by the executive branch was novel – most previous reservations were created by treaty or congressional legislation. Subsequent court decisions have affirmed the validity of reservations created by the executive branch, and have set the establishment date for the Pyramid Lake Reservation at 1859, not 1874. This earlier date is important both with regards to the priority date of tribal water rights, and the status of non-tribal claims to land within the reservation. The tribe has fought a long series of legal battles on both these issues.
As of 1970, one source claimed that residents of the reservation included descendants of Chief Winnemucca.
The Lahontan Cutthroat trout fishery at Pyramid Lake draws many anglers from the Reno area and beyond. Sale of fishing licenses and boating permits is a large source of revenue for the tribe. Prior to the construction of Derby Dam and the diversion of water from the Truckee River for irrigation, the lake supported a commercial fishery which was an even larger revenue source for the tribe.
Historically water levels have been declining in Pyramid Lake; in addition, water quality has been impacted by upstream discharges including point and non–point sources. A number of studies have been conducted on Pyramid Lake including application of the DSSAM hydrological river model to examine nitrogen, reactive phosphorus, dissolved oxygen and other water quality parameters.