Representing this year’s Nevada Day theme, “One state, many cultures,” Native American advocate Sherry Rupert and Old West actor Jack Waggon are sharing the title of grand marshal of Saturday’s parade.
Rupert — whose husband’s great-grandfather, Henry Moses Rupert, was the first American Indian grand marshal — will be the first female American Indian to marshal the parade.
“It’s an amazing thing to be recognized for your work and for our culture,” said Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “I feel strongly about women in leadership, and it’s so needed in our society and in our tribal community to have role models young people can aspire to.”
Waggon, 56, grew up in Carson City but pursued a law-enforcement career in Pennsylvania before moving back to Nevada’s capital in 2011 to focus on acting.
“It’s really an honor to be selected as grand marshal,” he said. “We need to hold on to our culture and our heritage. Nevada really has so much going on.”
Rupert, whose office is in the old Stewart Indian School, is working to restore the historic boarding school, where about 30,000 American Indian students attended from 1890 to 1980. She will ride in the parade on a float with alumni from the school.
“I always have believed our Creator put me here to make a difference for the Indian people and to help bring healing and renewal to Stewart Indian School,” she said. “I’ve felt this overwhelming responsibility to tell this story and to find others who would help me.”
Waggon remembers accompanying his grandfather Wayne Cutlip, who was a wrangler and horse trainer for the motion picture industry in the 60s and 70s, working on many Western classics, including, “The Cowboys,” “Chisum” and “Duel at Diablo.” The first Nevada Day parade he attended was in 1964 when Lorne Greene and Michael Landon marshaled the parade during the height of popularity of the Western television series, “Bonanza.”
The time is serendipitous, he said, as his own frontier Western television show, “Big Sky,” in which he plays a town gunsmith, is expected to have a pilot by next fall.
He also plays with theater troupe Bad Billy Mayfield and his Gang of Outlaws, which stages regular performances at the Virginia and Truckee Railway depot.
Nevada Day is an extension of that culture he works to keep alive.
“If you’ve spent any time in Nevada, Nevada Day is a big celebration for you,” Waggon said. “It’s a celebration of ourselves.”
Rupert, 49, was born in Carson City and raised in Douglas County. She said it’s fitting for American Indians to be recognized for their significance to Nevada.
“American Indians were the first peoples in the nation and the first peoples in the state,” she said. “We’re not just important in a historical context, but for the work we’re doing now and the possibilities for the future. We’re relevant here and now.”
2016 Nevada Day Parade Grand Marshal
Bernie Allen, who has served as the Nevada Day parade director for 12 years, has been selected as the 2016 Nevada Day parade grand marshal.
“It’s great,” he said. “I am so touched that the board unanimously wanted me to be the grand marshal.”
A Carson City resident since 1941, Allen attended his first Nevada Day parade in 1946 as an 8-year-old.