The statement from Chairman Burke contained in the tribe’s press release requires some clarification and a correction or two.
It is true we didn’t specifically request permission to come to the reservation and shoot video. I had no reason to believe it was needed.
In more than 30 years of reporting in northern Nevada I’ve gone to the lake any number of times myself and as a news director I’ve sent crews there. I’ve never been told any kind of formal permission was needed.
If there is such a policy, I’d appreciate someone in tribal government to direct me to any communication informing us and telling us how to apply for such permission. The suddenness with which I was notified of this policy remains unexplained and frankly was responsible for much that followed.
While we didn’t seek prior permission, it is inaccurate to say we arrived unannounced.
I had placed calls to Chairman Burke’s cell phone and the tribal offices and reached no one. Vice Chairman Wright, however, did return my call, but declined comment. Our last conversation took place as we were driving to the lake. He knew we were coming, as did the tribe’s attorney.
No one told me we needed permission. If we’d been told we were unwelcome, we wouldn’t have made the trip.
Chairman Burke says I became argumentative, when I was handed a cell phone and he told me I didn’t have permission and needed to leave. I admit I was surprised and taken aback, but if asking him for an explanation is being argumentative, then I guess I need a new dictionary and owe him an apology.
It is absolutely not true that he ever said if I didn’t leave he’d notify tribal police. In fact, I was surprised as we were leaving that my cameraperson noticed in our rear view mirror that there appeared to be a police vehicle at the rear of the building and we were being watched.
Since the chairman’s order to be had been to leave “the property,” I assumed, erroneously as it turned out, that it was OK to stop several miles up the road and shoot a few scenic shots of the lake. It was there two tribal policemen advised us politely that they were instructed to escort us off the reservation.
Whether that was a proper order on the easement of a State Highway remains unclear. In any case, we were asked to leave and we did, and if you saw the story you know the rest.
I don’t know Chairman Burke. The one and only time I’ve met him was during the last story I did on the Marina issue in January of 2009. I can’t say what prompted his actions Thursday, I can only say I was doing my job, attempting to complete my assignment and operating under the same assumptions about access I’d followed for decades.
I do regret the episode and I appreciate any efforts Chairman Burke may be making to improve things for reservation residents and visitors.
I do wonder, however, at the seeming contradiction between my experience and the last sentence of his statement that he wants to make visitors “comfortable and welcome every one to come and discover all Pyramid Lake has to offer.”