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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Officials take no position on mural

8/14/2003 10:32 pm

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony officials are taking no position on whether the giant Harolds Club mural, proposed for display at the new Downtown Events Center, is politically correct in its depiction of American Indians.

"The consensus of the council is not to take a position on it at this time," said tribal chairman Arlan Melendez after the council's decision late Wednesday night. "We didn't want to get into it. It sounds like some issues between the city council members.

"There are various opinions on art. And we don't want to get into the middle of that."

In satisfying a public art component for the new downtown convention center, the Reno City Council could reconsider using a modern art piece involving colored lights. In late June, the council rejected a $558,000 contract for the lights from San Francisco artist Cork Marchesci after receiving a brief presentation of his work.

Or it could use the Harolds Club mural, which has been in the basement of a city office building since 1999. For 50 years, the famous mural stood over downtown Reno but it was taken down when Harolds Club was demolished to make way for Harrah's plaza.

The 40-foot by 70-foot mural shows a camped wagon train with armed Indians hiding in the rocks of a nearby bluff. Dressed in feathers and colorful loincloths, a dozen Indians carry bows, spears or knives in hand and appear as if they are preparing to attack the pioneers below.

Melendez has said he's not greatly offended by the mural. He describes it as more like a Hollywood movie scene from the 1950s rather than history.

"It really didn't depict the Washoe/Shoshone people. It was something done a long time ago. And we understand that," he said.

Reno Councilwoman Toni Harsh asked the colony for its opinion before the council makes a decision on the artwork.

Harsh could not be reached for comment on the tribal council decision. While she treasures the mural, she has said historic relics and modern buildings do not mix.

Mayor Bob Cashell said the colony did the right thing by not getting involved in the political maneuverings.

"That's a very smart position," he said. "It's just fun and games."

While he has a soft spot for the mural, Cashell has said he'd listen to another presentation about the colored lights.

With construction for the $40 million building expected to start in January, a decision will have to be made soon.

The events center is viewed as a key piece of the city's strategy to boost downtown in the face of competition from Indian casinos in Northern California.


August 15, 2003

Controversy erupts over former Reno casino mural


RENO For 50 years, the giant western mural on the front of Harolds Club in downtown Reno didn't cause a stir.

Now, it's a different story as the city council considers a plan to display the mural on the city's new $40 million downtown events center.

Councilwoman Toni Harsh said she wants to know whether Indians are offended by the mural's portrayal of their ancestors.

While she personally doesn't find the mural offensive, Harsh said opposition by tribes could weigh against the plan.

The mural depicts a band of armed Indians hiding in bluffs near a waterfall, poised to attack a covered-wagon train camp.

Since Harolds Club was demolished in 1999, the city has kept the mural in storage while trying to find a new home for it.

"(The mural) is a historic rendering done in a different time and different perspective," Harsh told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"(Asking for American Indians' opinion) is part of gathering all the facts. Then we can get a fabulous conclusion to bring to city council," she added.

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony's tribal council is expected to consider a formal position on the mural at a meeting Wednesday night.

Tribal Chairman Arlan Melendez said that while he's not offended by the mural, he thinks it's historically inaccurate.

He described the Indians as looking as if they came off the set of an old western movie. He said tribes didn't attack wagon trains as they came across the Nevada desert, and they didn't wear colored loincloths.

"They wore anything they could find," Melendez said. "If you look at the Pyramid Lake Indians, they wore buckskins.

"But it does show they were actually here when the settlers came. It says they are a part of our history," he added.

Mayor Bob Cashell said he's baffled by Harsh's request for Indians' opinion.

"I have never heard anybody say anything derogatory about that piece of art. I don't understand where Miss Harsh is coming from," he said.

"It's part of Reno's history. It hung there for 50 years. It didn't stop people from coming to Reno then," he added.

As much as he loves the mural, Reno art gallery owner Peter Stremmel said he doesn't think it belongs on the new events center.

"Putting the mural up there is not the message we want to send for who we are as a community," he said.

But Elizabeth Smith, a former blackjack dealer at Harolds Club, thinks the mural is appropriate for the events center.

"It recognizes where Reno came from the pioneers," she said. "I do feel a portion of our history should be recognized as such and be part of our future."

Rob's comment
Here's your first derogatory comment, Mayor Bob. Portraying the settlers as noble civilization-builders and the Indians as stealthy bystanders is wrong. The opposite scenario is more correct. Indians lived in established cultures that were thousands of years old. The settlers, whose country was less than 100 years old, snuck into Indian territory without permission. There was nothing noble about their desire to take land that wasn't theirs.

Portraying Indians as half-naked warriors is stereotypical, of course.

Addendum 2005

Harolds Club mural gets permanent home

Carla Roccapriore
6/15/2005 10:16 pm

Described as the most photographed landmark other than the Reno arch, the Harolds Club mural that hung downtown for 50 years has a new home after a six-year hiatus.

"The mural is permanently out of hibernation," Donna Picollo, who headed up a fund-raising effort to restore and move the mural to the Reno Livestock Events Center, told more than 100 cheering people, many former Harolds employees and their families, at a Wednesday ceremony.

The mural that hung on the former Harolds Club building on Virginia Street from 1949 to 1999 shows Native Americans and a pioneer wagon train.

"It was a tribute to the people who came before us," said Neal Cobb, 66, of Golden Valley, a member of the Harold's Club Pioneers, an organization of former Harolds employees.

Harolds opened in 1935 and closed in 1995. The city put the 40-by 70-foot mural into storage four years later when Harrah's Reno purchased the club to build an events plaza.

The E.L. Cord Foundation and several local businesses contributed cash and helped donate material and labor to restore the mural, which cost about $200,000, Picollo said. The sections of the mural with the waterfall and campfire are awaiting completion and Picollo said efforts are ongoing to raise the last $40,000 needed.

George Smith, son of the late Harolds founder Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith, compared employees at the club to a family and said he was glad to see the mural in public.

"The mural is part of the memorabilia of Harold's Club that kind of celebrated the old west," said Smith, 61, of Reno, who worked there in the 1960s. "It's kind of nice to have a piece of the old club still intact."

Moving the mural a second time, if necessary, would be easier because it's now in eight pieces instead of 180, said Jim Carpenter, Reno Rodeo Association president.

"If this (rodeo grounds) is turned over to the university and if the fairgrounds are moved out to Mill Street and McCarran Boulevard, the mural would go with it," Carpenter said.

Copyright 2005 The Reno Gazette-Journal

Related links
Those evil European invaders
Uncivilized Indians
Savage Indians

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