Nevada Desert

UNR Special Collections

The Nevada deserts have always been a contested and a hotbed for political activity. Initially when a territory transitions into statehood it usually gets administrate the lands within its border. When the US started to move west this dynamic changed and the federal government retained its land holding and did not give up its administrative duties to the states. That led to Nevada not controlling around 70% of the land within its borders, creating a long-standing tension between the federal and the people of Nevada. This tension has led to many organizations to push back against the misuse of the land. Those voices that contested and organized themselves in opposition to the federal government are often forgotten. So the attention of this website is to illuminate to contentious point of Nevada desert, the maintaining of claims to that land by native peoples, and the nuclear testing conducted at the Nevada Test Site.

In 1883 the US and the Western Shoshone signed the treaty of Ruby Valley which granted a large amount of to the Shoshone in the Nevada Desert. This land would later be slowly encroached by settlers and the US federal government. The US federal government would go on to grant land to mining companies, and nuke the land creating a massive environmental issue. 1

UNR Special Collections

In 1950’s President Truman approved the creation of nuclear test site just north of Las Vegas Nevada. Between 1952-1992 1,021 nuclear warheads were detonated at the Nevada Test Site. These tests were meant to collect data on structural integrity, shock-waves, fallout, and the effectiveness of the weapons. They also tested the more commercial uses of nuclear weapons in order to mine or carve out large parts of the land. These tests caused environmental and health problems across the U.S. This caused protests to break out and put pressure on the government to end its testing. 2

  1. US Government and Shoshone Indians in Nevada. Treat of Ruby Valley, 1863. University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections, 2015. Accessed March 7, 2019.
  2. Rubinson, Paul. “‘Crucified on a Cross of Atoms”: Scientists, Politics, and the Test Ban Treaty.” Diplomatic History 35, no. 2 (2011): 283-319