Murder On The Reservation NEWSCHANNEL 8 INVESTIGATION
It was nearly 6 years ago that the tribal chairman of the Winnemucca Indian Colony was found stabbed to death outside the colony offices.
The murder remains unresolved as does the fight over control of the colony itself.
That crime and its consequences are the subject of a News Channel 8 investigation.
This is a complicated story with lot of twists and turns, but it all begins with a question of blood...and a brutal murder.
The song is a prayer for help and guidance on our earthly journey.
It's old, perhaps as old as the Western Shoshone themselves, sung at sun dance ceremonies hundreds perhaps thousands of years ago.
The mountains and valleys of much of Nevada was their home then. They claim it as their own today. But by the turn of the 20th century many were effectively homeless on land they had once roamed at will. Their plight prompted an executive order by President Wilson creating the Winnemucca Indian Colony.
The colony has been home to generations of Shoshone and Paiute ever since. But today some who spent most of their lives here say it's a home to which they fear to return.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has stewardship over Native American tribes like the Shoshone, but each community is also self-governed with a constitution and a tribal council and chairman of their own.
In February of 2000 the chairman at Winnemucca was 66 year old Glenn Wasson. A decorated veteran of World War 2, Wasson was in the mold of the traditional Indian leader.
There is federal money...millions of it.... sitting in trust for the Shoshone, payment for the land...they argue they never surrendered. Some want to accept that money as well as other federal grants and benefits. Wasson was not among them.
Not everyone felt that way. Among them was a young man who had been adopted by a tribal member. William Bills had won a seat on the tribal council and was arguing the tribe should build a casino. Wasson believed otherwise. He also believed Bills was writing checks on the tribe's account without proper authority.
And he discovered Bills was not a native American. His birth certificate showed he was 100 percent Filipino. Tribal and colony membership is open only to those with at least a quarter Indian ancestry. February 12th at a tribal council meeting, Wasson presented his proof.
Wasson said he would move to have Bills removed from the tribe and the council at the next meeting, but 10 days later Wasson would be dead and Bills would be in charge.
On February 22nd Glenn Wasson was found lying in a pool of blood. He had been stabbed 13 times.
It's believed Wasson was killed at about 9 o'clock at night. His body would lie undiscovered here on the sidewalk in front of the Colony offices until the next morning. It would take investigators hours longer to reach the scene. Some say that slow response would characterize the investigation that followed.
Within 24 hours the blood had been washed from the sidewalk. A few days later Bills, now acting as chairma, sold the very ground around the crime scene as topsoil to a local contractor.
Nearly 6 years later, Glenn Wasson's murder remains unsolved... The FB I will only say it is an ongoing investigation.
Bob Hager represents the Winnemucca Tribal Council, a body that claims to be the legitimate authority for the colony today. Files for his long legal fight to establish that authority and press other tribal claims fill boxes and cabinets in his Reno office, among them copies of a series of cashiers checks bought by the colony smoke shop in the months following Wasson's death. They total more than $50 thousand dollars. In a sworn statement another tribal member says he saw a colony resident cash them in Winnemucca casinos. There's no apparent explanation for these checks. The man had not been a colony employee. Hager says the evidence was offered to investigators years ago. To date, he says, the FBI has not responded.
And to those close to him those who followed him, Glenn Wasson's death remains an open wound.
The FBI will say only that this is a pending investigation.....still open. A spokesman tells us interviews are still being conducted, leads followed and anyone with information should contact their Elko office. Much more than the the investigation remains unresolved.
Glenn Wasson's death set off a bitter struggle for leadership over the Winnemucca Colony.....a struggle that continues today. That story tomorrow night.