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Nevada

State History

Native Americans

Before the arrival of Europeans, the land of Nevada was inhabited by Native American tribes including the Shoshone, the Paiute, the Washoe, and the Mohave. They lived in small villages and built dome-shaped homes called wikiups. They mostly ate vegetables including pine nuts and roots, but they also hunted and fished for food. Most of the tribes were peaceful prior to the Europeans arrival.


The Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam by Lynn Betts

Europeans Arrive

The first European to arrive in the area was Spanish friar Francisco Garc├ęs in the 1700s. Few more Europeans ventured into the region until the 1800s. In 1827, fur trapper and explorer Jedediah Smith passed through the Las Vegas Valley on his way to California. He mapped out much of the area for future travelers. Another fur trader, Peter Ogden, traveled along the Humboldt River in 1828.

Becoming a State

Nevada was considered part of Spain and then Mexico up until the Mexican-American War. At the end of the war, in 1848, Nevada became part of the United States as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1850, Nevada was organized into the Utah Territory and then became its own territory in 1861. On October 31, 1864 Nevada was admitted as the 36th state.


Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Early Settlers

Some of the first permanent settlers in the region were Mormons from Utah in 1851. Also, people began to travel through Nevada on their way to California, especially after the California Gold Rush began in 1848. The small town of Las Vegas became a stopping point for many travelers on their way to California.

Comstock Lode

In 1859 a large deposit of silver was discovered in Nevada called the Comstock Lode. This started a rush of miners to the area hoping to strike it rich. Boom towns sprang up in the area including Virginia City. It is estimated that around $400 million in silver was mined from the Comstock Load before it ran out in 1898.

Gambling

In 1931, the state of Nevada legalized gambling in hopes that it would help the economy during the Great Depression. The original intent was that gambling would only need to be legal for a short time. However, gambling quickly became a major part of the Nevada economy. Today, around 34% of the taxes collected by the state come from gambling. Large casinos in Las Vegas are a huge tourism draw and a major industry in the state.

Nuclear Testing

Because Nevada was sparsely populated in the 1950s, Nevada became a test site for nuclear weapons. Over the next several years, over 1000 nuclear bombs were set off in the Nevada desert. After 1962, all of the tests were performed underground and all testing was stopped in 1992.


Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas by Jon Sullivan

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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