Riders Against Racism Support the Washoe Tribe and Raise Awareness about the Minden 6PM Siren

This Memorial Day weekend, Adventure Sports Journal and Riders Against Racism hosted a protest bike ride to support the Washoe Tribe and raise awareness about the Minden 6pm siren. Minden is a small town about twenty miles from Lake Tahoe as the crow flies. The Washoe have been trying to silence the 6pm siren since 2006.

The Washoe still live next to their beloved Da-ow-a-ga, now known as Lake Tahoe. They must also listen to a racist sundown siren every evening. The Minden 6pm Siren is a nightly reminder that “their kind” was not always welcome in certain parts of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Minden town fathers have said their 6pm siren no longer has anything to do with the Washoe. They claim the 6pm siren has been repurposed. “Now the nightly siren honors first responders,” and the Washoe need to stop looking at the past.

At 8AM on Saturday morning, about 80 protestors showed up in Minden Park to a peaceful gathering to protest the siren. Participants heard stories from tribal leaders and Native American activists about the painful memories associated with the Minden sundown siren.

“May 29th was a special day in Minden. Washoe and Paiute tribal members gathered in the town park with an ally group of mountain bikers to denounce the siren. Stories were shared, dances were had, and collectively the group asked the same thing that has been asked many times before; ‘Stop the Siren!,'” Brennan Lagasse, Riders Against Racism participant.

The protest was followed by a group mountain bike ride from Genoa to Nevada Beach via the relentlessly steep Sierra Canyon Trail.

“The mountain bike community is a powerful untapped resource for environmental and social justice activism. Given that Tahoe mountain bikers ride trails that were first used by the Washoe over 6000 years ago, this protest ride seemed appropriate,” said ASJ editor Matt Niswonger after the event. “If you ride trails in Tahoe and other parts of California and Nevada, it’s important to acknowledge the tribal history of those trails.”

RAR riders celebrate at the end of the ride at Nevada Beach. Photo Anthony Cupaiuolo / First Track Productions

Niswonger helped start Riders Against Racism in June of 2020 after feeling depressed and outraged when Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in Georgia while running through a white neighborhood.

“After 20 years working in the mostly white outdoor industry I couldn’t continue to pretend I was doing enough. I felt cynical about everything and especially the systematic exclusion of BIPOCs on public lands.”

After learning about the Minden sundown siren later that month, he became fixated on raising awareness. First he started an online petition that quickly garnered over 10,000 signatures. This led to a news story on Kolo8 featuring Washoe tribal chairman Serrell Smokey and other tribal leaders who all spoke out against the siren. With the pandemic raging, further group events for 2020 were off the table and we began planning for 2021.

After reaching out to tribe members later that year, the idea formed to begin holding a series of protests and bike rides to raise awareness about the Minden siren. The May 29th protest and ride came out of those conversations with many more ideas for siren rides to come.

Looking towards the future, Lagasse is inspired to see more athletes join the cause. “Think about the possibilities if more skiers, climbers, surfers and other outdoor minded folks can come together like our crew of bikers! Stop the Siren!”

Stay tuned for more information on ways to get involved.

Click here to see the petition and read for more info about the siren
Click here to view the Kolo8 news story that aired shortly after the petition: 
Minden, Nevada’s sundown siren is a nightly reminder of our collective estrangement from nature 
Minden must face its history