Wright wins. Twice.
Two of Nevada’s best-known Native American leaders faced off in an election to head the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe.
In December, Mervin Wright Jr. defeated incumbent chair Norman Harry with an official 120-81 count that was by no means an open-and-shut vote. In fact, a second election was required.
Both Wright and Harry have previously served in the post.
Candidates are required to be on the list of eligible voters. The first election was thrown into doubt because a third, lesser-known candidate’s name did not appear on the lists as an eligible voter, but he was allowed to vote anyway. With the new count last month, the 43-year-old Wright, who chaired the tribe from 1997-98, was returned to the chairman’s office with an official vote count of 175-93. The snafu, though, ultimately raised larger issues for the tribe, kick-starting new dialogue about the ambiguous fine print in its policies.
With his election settled, Wright intends to address tribe laws regarding the voting age of 21, as well as term limits, currently two years. In the decade since he sat in the leader’s chair, Wright says he’s gained his master’s degree in hydrology—and a new respect for moving forward.
“We just have to keep moving our operations in a positive manner,” he said. “We’re too quick to criticize, instead of taking care of the responsibilities as decision-makers. People expect us to make decisions the way they think we should, instead of considering the sworn oaths we’ve taken as elected officials. This time around, I’ve gained more insight into the understanding, expectation [and] role of tribal chair.”