What Nevada Stole from Its Native People
Senator Pat McCarran’s Vision for the Desert Carried a Tradition of Dispossession Into the Mid-20th Century
Today, tourists from all over the world flock to Nevada to experience selective amnesia. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the slogan goes. But Las Vegas’ culture of forgetting is more than drunken hijinks. The city’s existence depends on forgetting the colonial violence that made the Desert Southwest. Since becoming a state in 1864, Nevada’s basic political and economic infrastructure is a product of the expropriation of Native American lands.
If any one Nevadan represents this history, it’s Patrick “Pat” Anthony McCarran, the Democratic U.S. senator who served the state …