Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation Wecomes Visitors, But Maybe Not News Crews
The dispute over the operation of the Pyramid Lake Marina at Sutcliffe has dragged on for seven long years, leaving plenty of hard feelings on both sides.
It's now become difficult to even cover the story without unexpectedly getting drawn into the conflict, however briefly.
At its core it's a landlord-tenant dispute with a long history and perhaps a cultural conflict complicating matters.
Seven years ago the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Tribe which owns the lake signed a 20 year lease with Thomas Bobella of High Desert Recreation to operate the marina. Things went rapidly downhill from there.
Succeeding tribal governments have been battling with Bobella ever since.
There have been flashpoints along the way. Disputes over a leaky roof, erosion that threatened a water main and gas tank, a struggle over possession of tribal artifacts, which led to a demonstration even some tribal members worried might escalate out of control.
The two sides can give you lengthy arguments on those and a variety of other issues, but there's no argument it's been tough for High Desert to make a go of what should be a going concern.
Bobella's ability to sell fishing permits, a tank of gas or even a six pack were rescinded long ago. He says the tribe has destroyed his business and owes him compensation.
The tribe says he hasn't paid rent since October of 2009.
Some day this will all likely end in a trial.
In the meantime, the tribe stepped in Wednesday and took control of the marina building and its boat storage lot.
Bebella claims they were violating a legal stay.
Their attorney tells us that's nonsense, the tribe is well within its rights.
We'd wanted to let both have their say about this new development, but Bobella is in southern California and tribal officials either didn't return our phone calls or told us they couldn't go on record.
We set out for the lake to at least shoot fresh video of the disputed building, but as I called the tribe's attorney in Reno to continue a cell phone called interrupted by dropped coverage enroute, we were approached by two people who handed us another cell phone.
Tribal Chairman Wayne Burke, who hadn't returned earlier calls was on the line. We needed permission he said to be there and shoot video.
"Are you ordering us to leave," I asked incredulously.
He didn't want to talk. "I'm telling you to leave now.
I've never had to ask for permission to be on the reserveration before. In fact in 30 years plus of reporting in northern Nevada I can't think of another time I've been told to leave a place the public is invited to, but not wishing to be confrontational (the messengers were just doing what they were told), we complied.
That wasn't the end of it.
We stopped a few miles away on State Route 33, a public highway maintained by the state, to shoot some scenic shots of the lake.
Two tribal policeman stopped us and said the chairman had ordered them to escort us off the reservation. The order to leave apparently didn't end at the Marina.
he tribal cops were just doing their job. After a fairly pleasant conversation, but with no clear understanding of the authority they were claiming, we left.
We left our escorts at the reservation's border. The sign there still welcomes visitors, but apparently on this day at least. that doesn't include us.
It's never comfortable nor a good thing when a newsman becomes part of his own story, but there we are.
We'll continue to follow the legal dispute and try to keep you updated, but we may have to do it from afar.