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    Some washoe history


    The Washoe are the original inhabitants of Da ow
    aga (Lake Tahoe) and all the lands surrounding it. Tahoe is
    a mispronunciation of Da ow, meaning “lake”. Washoe an-
    cestral territory consists of a nuclear area with Lake Tahoe
    at its heart, and a peripheral area that was frequently
    shared with neighboring tribes. The Paiute and Shoshone
    live to the east and the Maidu and Miwok to the west. The
    nucleus of the ancestral territory is bordered on the west by
    the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the east by the Pine Nut
    and Virginia ranges, and stretch north to Honey Lake and
    as far south as Sonora Pass. The territory takes part of two
    very distinct ecosystems: the western arid Great Basin re-
    gion of Nevada, and the forested Sierra Nevada Mountains
    in California. The variability in climate, geography, and alti-
    tude within the territory allowed it to provide a great diver-
    sity of foods and other materials essential to life. “As the
    traditions explain, the Washoe did not travel to this area
    from another place. They were here in the beginning and
    have always lived here…Each cave, stream, lake or promi-
    nent geographical feature is named and has stories associ-
    ated to it.”

    The health of the land and the health of the people are tied
    together, and what happens to the land also happens to the peo-
    ple. When the land suffers so too are the people.”

    “The language, culture and the land cannot be separated. The lan-
    guage is the identity of the Washoe People.” Steven James, Tribal
    The Washoe language is unique and unrelated to
    those spoken by any neighboring tribe. For many years lin-
    guists believed Washoe was of a language group with only
    this single representative in the world. After further investi-
    gation, the Washoe language is now seen as a distinct
    branch of the Hokan language group. Speakers of other
    Hokan languages are widely dispersed in North America,
    and extreme diversity between each Hokan language sug-
    gests many thousands of years in which they developed
    without contact with each other. Some people believe that
    the Hokan speakers are the oldest Californian populations
    and that as other peoples invaded the west coast they were
    dispersed leaving only isolated groups.

    Washoe, or Washo as most of the people prefer,
    was derived from Wa she shu. After contact with colonists,
    many things in Washoe history have been changed or al-
    tered including the tribal name. It is estimated that the tradi-
    tional Washoe population was more or less 3,000, but it is
    difficult to know.
    To understand the Washoe you need to understand
    the environment in which they live. Washoe have always
    been a part of the land and environment, so every aspect of
    their lives is influenced by the land. The Washoe believe
    the land, language and people are connected and are intrin-
    sically intertwined.

    The Family
    Family is the core of the Washoe because these are
    the people that lived and worked together and relied on
    each other. In the past, families are recorded as rarely
    fewer than five individuals and only occasionally exceeding
    twelve in size.
    Winter camps were usually composed of four to ten
    family groups living a short distance from each other in their
    separate galais dungal. These family groups often moved
    together throughout the year. The Washoe practiced spo-
    radic leadership, so at times each group had an informal
    leader that was usually known for his or her wisdom, gener-
    osity, and truthfulness. He or she may possess special
    powers to dream of when and where there was a large
    presence of rabbit, antelope and other game, including the spawning of the fish, and would assume the role of “Rabbit
    Boss” or “Antelope Boss to coordinate and advise commu-
    nal hunts.

    Regional Groups
    The Washoe were traditionally divided into three
    groups, the northerners or Wel mel ti, the Pau wa lu who
    lived in the Carson Valley in the east, and the Hung a lel ti
    who lived in the south. These three groups each spoke a
    slightly different yet distinct variant of the Washoe lan-
    guage. These groups came together throughout the year for
    special events and gatherings. Individual families, groups,
    or regional groups, came together at certain times to partici-
    pate in hunting drives, war, and special ceremonies. During
    their yearly gathering at Lake Tahoe, each of the three re-
    gional groups camped at their family campsites at the lake;
    the northerners on the north shore, the easterners on the
    east shore, and so on. A person might switch from the
    group that they were born into to a group from another side
    of the lake. There were often cross-group marriages, some-
    times even between the Paiute and the California tribes.
    This said, it was very advantageous that a person contin-
    ued living in the area where she or he grew up because it
    took an intimate knowledge of the land to be able to find
    and harvest all the plant food and medicines, and to be a
    successful hunter year after year. After moving to a new
    place, even the best gatherer or hunter would know only as
    much about the place as a younger more inexperienced
    person. Gathering and hunting successfully were as much
    about being familiar with the cycles and patterns in the land
    as they were about having practiced skills.

    It is difficult to separate the sacred from the everyday
    life of the Washoe. The Washoe see every aspect of the
    environment as sentient beings that are deserving of respect and cooperation if humans are to survive. The
    Earth, its terrain, its waters, in short all the living and non-
    living things are considered to be sacred.

    Traditions and beliefs described in the past tense
    in following sections are still widely practiced and ob-
    served by the Washoe today.

    Hunting Traditions
    An animal was never hunted for “sport” and plants
    were never gathered unless they were going to be used. No
    parts of the animals were wasted, and enough individuals of
    a species were always left to reproduce. Before they
    hunted, the hunters preformed a sacred ritual. When they
    killed an animal, the hunter prayed to the Maker and asked
    for forgiveness for taking a life. They thanked the Maker be-
    fore they ate, and they showed their appreciation by leaving
    some food for the Maker. Special celebrations with dance
    and prayer offerings were held before the first fish was
    taken from the annual spawning, before the annual “rabbit
    drives”, and at the time of the pine nut harvests.

    Washoe healers were women or men that had spe- cial powers to cure illnesses of the body or mind. They were
    conduits to the supernatural world. If a person was sick or
    had feelings like guilt, they could seek help from healers
    that would use their powers to ask the Maker and other
    spirit beings to cure the ailment. Healers used sacred ob-
    jects such as eagle feathers and cocoon rattles to assist in
    ceremonies. They accompanied the hunters during commu-
    nal hunts to provide mystic powers over the prey, and also
    went along during warfare to provide healing to injured
    warriors and use powers over the enemy. A healer did not
    choose or inherit his or her position, but was summoned by
    a spirit through persistent dreams and eventually cannot
    ignore their call to power. Sometimes powers were used
    with malicious intent by a misguided healer, but generally
    healers were highly regarded in Washoe society.

    Elders in the tribe also had special status and wis-
    dom that they accumulated as they grew older. They were
    the keepers of the fire, and they taught the Washoe tradi-
    tions that they had learned from their grandparents. For this
    reason the old ones were treated with great respect. No
    one ever passed by an elder without saying something, and
    during a feast elders are always fed before anyone else.

    Legend Creatures
    Washoe legends tell of several creatures that have
    special powers and lived in the Washoe territory. “Water
    Babies” inhabited all bodies of water, and are very powerful,
    sometimes causing illness or death to a person, but could
    also be a good omen. Washoe healers visited the sacred
    Cave Rock where Water Babies lived, to consult with them,
    bring offerings of respect, and to renew powers. There was
    also a man-eating giant that lived in another cave near
    Cave Rock that preyed on people that were neglecting their
    duty. There was a giant man-eating bird named Ong that nested in the middle of Lake Tahoe.
    Ong was so large and so powerful that his wing beats could
    bend the trees when he flew near shore. The legend tells

    that one day a Washoe man was snatched up by Ong and
    taken to his nest. Luckily, the Washoe was not eaten right
    away because Ong had another person to eat. The Washoe
    watched the giant bird eat and noticed that it closed its eyes
    to chew. The Washoe got an idea. Every time the bird
    closed its eyes he threw several arrowheads into its open
    mouth. By nightfall Ong was very sick. A storm raged
    through the night, but by morning the monster was dead.
    The Washoe plucked out one of its massive feathers and
    used it as a boat to reach the shore. The Washoe say that
    Ong’s nest remains in Lake Tahoe submerged out of sight.

    The event of a birth was cause for celebration. The child was welcomed to the Washoe
    world. Female relatives and female
    friends attended to the mother.
    When the baby was born, the par-
    ents restrained from eating meat or
    salt. The family gave gifts to people
    in the community. About a month
    after the birth the family held a “baby
    feast”. During this ceremony the
    mother bathed herself and had her
    child’s hair cut. The child was now
    placed in a cradleboard where it
    would rest from now until it was big
    enough to walk. Washoe infants
    were fitted with sage brush bark dia-
    pers that were softened by rubbing
    between hands and thrown away
    when soiled. The approved discipli-
    nary technique for children is de-
    scribed by the Washoe as, “…tell
    them to behave and speak kindly to

    Any death was very sorrow-
    ful and there was a period of mourning after the burial or
    cremation. If a person died inside a house the family would
    leave the house or burn it and make a new house in a dif-
    ferent place. Female relatives cut their hair to show their
    grief. All of the person’s belongings were either burned or
    buried with them. It was said that a rainstorm would come
    soon after a death and wipe away all the tracks to return
    everything to the way the Maker intended it to be.

    In the past almost all marriages were arranged. Gift exchanges took place and the engagement would last
    for a year. During this time the parents watched the couple
    very carefully. Several variations of marriage customs took
    place. One account is that after the engagement period
    was over the parents allowed the couple to live together be-
    coming married. Another account is of a custom where the
    couple danced side by side and a rabbit skin blanket was
    draped over their shoulders, whereby they became one in
    marriage. The Washoe traditionally practiced bilateral de-
    scent and bilocal residence, meaning that there was no set
    rule or preference about which of the married couple’s fam-
    ily they would live with. Property was passed down through
    both the mother and the father.

    Girl’s Rite-of-passage
    One of the most important ceremonies was the “girls
    dance”, the celebration of when a girl became a woman.
    This ceremony is still practiced today as it has been for
    thousands of years. Gifts were thrown into the crowd who
    attended. At the end of four days of ritual she was recog-
    nized as an adult. Feasting took place.

    Boy’s Rite-of-passage
    A boy became a man when he killed his first full-
    grown buck. From an early age his father, uncles and
    grandfather taught him the ways of hunting. The hunter is
    required to follow traditions that insure good hunting and
    unselfish sharing of the harvest.

    Intertribal Relations
    Relations with other tribes bordering Washoe terri-
    tory were mostly about tolerance and mutual understand-
    ing. Sometimes events lead to tensions and warfare. It was
    beneficial to both sides to keep their distance, but they also
    needed to maintain a relationship to exchange trade goods. ntermarriages with adjoining tribes occurred when relations
    were good.


    Am suk (Spring)
    Springtime is the
    beginning of the yearly cy-
    cle. The final winter
    months leading up to the
    first warm days were the
    most difficult. During this
    time the food supplies
    from last years harvest
    were dwindling and the
    fish, game, and early
    spring plants were not yet
    available in large quanti-
    ties. For months the
    Washoe lived off of pine
    nut flour, seeds, dried
    meat, and some fresh fish
    and meat when available.
    The first much needed
    vegetable harvests in the early spring were of bulb plants
    and early grasses. As soon as the weather permitted, the
    young adults would begin making the trip to the shores of
    Da ow aga (Lake Tahoe). Eventually, the majority of the
    tribe would make its way to the sacred lake for a large gath-
    ering. At these gatherings people would socialize, play a
    variety of games, and hold competitions such as races and
    archery. At the lake there were several different types of
    fish that could be caught and eaten or dried for later use.
    Increasing amounts of spring plants were harvested. In early June, thousands of several different kinds of
    fish began to swim out of the deep lake in order to spawn.
    There were so many fish that the people waded into the wa-
    ter with baskets and tossed the fish onto shore to be
    cleaned, and placed on racks to dry. At the height of the
    spawning fishing continued into the night by torchlight. The
    fires created just enough light to reflect off the silvery back
    of the fish so the people could keep working. The runs
    lasted for about two weeks, in which large amounts of fish
    were eaten and prepared for use later in the year. Large
    fresh fish were wrapped in sunflower leaves and placed un-
    der the coals and smaller fish were cooked in coarsely
    woven baskets with coals or hot rocks. Fish were dried or
    smoked to decrease drying time, add flavor and keep in-
    sects away. Dried fish was eaten as a kind of jerky, boiled,
    or pounded and added to other foods.
    Along with the fish, the shores of Lake Tahoe offered
    several types of berries, wild rhubarb, cat tail seeds, tiger
    lily seeds, sunflower seeds, wild onions, wild mustard, wild
    spinach, wild potatoes and sweet potatoes, tule root, wild
    turnips, wild celery, and countless other edible and medici-
    nal plants. Many plants became ripe for only a week or a
    few days, so accurate information about the location and
    habits of plants was necessary to Washoe life. The Washoe
    understood the growth cycles of plants, the effects of
    weather on growth, and also had intimate knowledge of
    soils and specific growing conditions. This type of knowl-
    edge was passed from generation to generation through
    legends and day-to-day experiences.

    Ci’ gah bet (Summer)
    Gadu (summer houses) were constructed with mate-
    rials that were plentiful in the area where they were built. If
    the house was on a river bank then willow might be used. A
    gadu was often more of a windbreak than a closed struc-
    As summer pro-
    gressed, snow contin-
    ued to melt at higher
    elevations. When the
    fish runs ended at
    Lake Tahoe, families
    dispersed into the
    mountain country
    where there were nu-
    merous smaller alpine
    lakes. Here, fish and
    other game such as
    mountain quail were bountiful for the time. Fishermen built
    platforms over the water and used spears made of willow
    with bone points, nets or traps made of willow or woven
    plant fibers, and bone hooks to catch fish at varying depths
    in the water. Sometimes temporary damns or diversions
    were built to access hidden fish, and when water was low in
    the fall, fish could even be caught by hand. The fish re-
    mained abundant year after year because the Washoe
    were mindful not to deplete the populations or disrupt na-
    ture’s reproductive cycles. They often caught only the male
    fish and left most of the females to spawn.

    O’ osh (Fall)
    During the fall mountain whitefish started their
    spawning and Washoe were able to harvest the fall spawn-
    ing runs before the deep snows of winter came. Washoe
    began to focus on the plant harvesting that would feed them
    through the winter months. At this point the families living in
    the mountains began to move back down to the valleys east
    of the Sierras. A few groups headed west to the Sierra foot-
    hills to wait for the ripening of the Black Oak
    (Quercus kelloggii) acorns and to trade with the Californian
    Indians. They sometimes went as far as the Pacific Ocean
    to collect shells. Some of these families would not return to
    the east side before the snow, and would either winter
    alone or join a Miwok village for the season. The families
    that had descended to the Great Basin now began gather-
    ing and saving grass seeds as the plants gradually ripened.

    The culmination of the gathering season was the tah
    gum (Piñon Pine nut, Pinus monophylla ) harvest. When the
    nuts were ripe, all the people were called for a special cere-
    mony, called the goom sa bye. A runner was sent with a
    knotted buckskin rope to all the separate camps. Each knot
    represented one day, the number of knots meant there
    were that many days until the ceremony would begin. Peo-
    ple congregated at the pine trees and the celebration lasted for four or five days. They prayed and gave thanks to the
    Maker, danced, and shared large amounts of food with
    each other. Usually the harvest lasted for a month to six
    weeks. A long pole with a curved tip was used to knock down the cones, that were then carried in burden baskets
    back to the camp where they were prepared for storage for
    the winter.
    Pine nuts and acorns were stored for the winter in
    caves, rock structures, and pits lined with stones or grass.
    Pine nuts were roasted so that their sweet oily flesh would
    not become rancid. Acorns were sprinkled with water so
    that their outer shells could be removed and their insides
    were dried in the sun. Shelled pine nuts, the dried acorns,
    and other seeds were pounded into fine flours using mor-
    tars and pestles. The acorn flour was leached of its tannins
    and bitter taste. The flours could be made into mush or
    soup, and biscuits were made by dipping cooked flour into
    cold water.
    Fall was also time for the best hunting because the
    animals were healthy and fattened from the plentiful sum-
    mer. A large variety of game animals were found in Washoe
    territory, including: rabbits, squirrels, marmots, sagehens,
    quail, waterfowl, deer, antelope and big horn sheep. Small
    mammals were hunted with dogs, traditionally the
    Washoe’s only domestic animal. Just after the pine nut
    harvests it was time for the rabbit drives. The Washoe
    would gather in the flatlands east of the Sierra for a special
    rabbit ceremony where they prayed and danced to thank
    the Maker for food and a plentiful supply of rabbits. Hun-
    dreds of rabbits were herded by a long line of people walk-
    ing in one direction. A tall net woven from the fibers of sage
    brush (Artemisia tridentata) and Indian Hemp (Apocynum
    cannabinum) formed a blockade that the fleeing rabbits be-
    came entangled in. People would wait behind the net, to
    untangle the rabbits and club them. Every family owned an
    individual net and several nets were combined for the drive.
    There were always enough rabbits for all of the people.
    Some rabbit were purposefully left in the nets and under
    bushes for the old or the ill. The rabbit meat was roasted, boiled and eaten in
    great quantities and also dried on racks to be saved for the
    winter. No parts of the rabbits were wasted. In the winter
    dried meat would be ground and added to nut or seed flour
    to make soup or mush. The skins were also a very impor-
    tant resource for the Washoe. The fresh pelts were cut into
    stripes and woven together on a frame. They made large
    rabbit skin blankets that doubled as both bedding and a
    cloak against the cold of the winter.
    Another important source of meat and skins was the
    Mule Deer. Washoe hunters would either set up blinds near
    a watering hole, or would employ several stalking methods
    that sometimes involved imitating animal sounds such as
    the cry of a faun in distress, or wearing a disguise of a
    stuffed deer head with the skin attached and draped over
    the shoulders. The hunters used bows strengthened with
    sinew, and arrows made from straight branches of the wild
    rose bush with obsidian points.
    If there were enough deer in an area, sometimes “deer
    drives” were employed in a similar manner as “rabbit drives”
    with a few of the best hunters waiting at the end rather than
    a net. Antelope was also hunted in this manner, but with a
    large corral built to hold several animals. A large herd could
    be trapped to feed many people. There were special cere-
    monies to thank the Maker before the first antelope from the
    corral was killed. The hunter that climbed the high moun-
    tains to kill a big horn sheep was revered as a good hunter
    because they are difficult animals to hunt. Grasshoppers
    were gathered early in the mornings while the insects were
    still slow from the cold night. They were roasted and eaten
    as a crunchy treat. Several other insect foods were eaten
    when available such as caterpillars, bee larvae, and honey.

    Galais (Winter)
    In the winter little food could be gathered and the
    Washoe ate mostly what they had stored earlier in the year.
    Sometimes ice on lakes or streams would be broken and
    fish could be caught with a bone hook.
    Galais dungal (winter houses) took considerably
    longer to build than the summer house. Winter houses were
    conical shaped. They contained a sturdy frame in which
    several layers of bark, poles and brush created insulation
    from the cold. A fire was built inside in a pit enclosed
    with rocks in the center of the house. A hole was left in the
    roof for the smoke to escape. A large pile of fire wood,
    sometimes taller than the house itself, was gathered and
    stacked next to the dwelling. The door always faced to the
    east to receive the first light of the day. Winter camps were
    often located close to one of the many hot springs that oc-
    cur in a chain on the east side of the Sierra Mountains.
    During the long winter months the Washoe would sit
    around the fire and tell stories and pass on knowledge and
    traditions. Winter was a time for building and repairing tools
    such as hunting and fishing devices and clothing.
    The Washoe wove several types of baskets.
    Throughout the year they gathered the materials that they
    needed and stored them in coils. Some baskets were tightly
    woven for cooking or holding water. Others were loosely
    woven and used
    for sifting seeds
    and nuts. Burden
    baskets had a
    moderately tight
    weave and were in
    a conical shape.
    Some baskets
    were specially
    made for holding
    babies. Himu
    (willow) was the
    main material used
    in basketry. Fern roots soaked in dark mud were used for
    creating dark patterns, and red bud was collected to make
    red patterns. A thin piece of bone was used to puncture the
    holes during the weaving process. Each basket maker cre-
    ated the unique designs woven into their baskets. Some
    designs were passed from generation to generation and
    held symbols of traditional stories. Others were unique to
    each basket maker and could not be copied.
    Washoe clothing was mostly made of buckskin. They
    wore moccasins or sandals. In the winter they kept warm
    with a rabbit skin blanket and snowshoes so as not to sink
    into deep snow. The Washoe tattooed themselves with fa-
    milial marks on their faces and arms using acorn juice and
    burnt rabbit brush mixed with water.

    The Washoe had heard about the new intruders be-
    fore they ever saw one. As the Spanish invaded the Califor-
    nia coast to establish missions and convert Indians to Ca-
    tholicism, the Washoe began to make fewer and fewer trips
    to the west coast until eventually those trips stopped alto-
    gether. Neighboring tribes that escaped into hiding in the
    high mountains probably warned the Washoe about the in-
    vaders. Although White historians have concluded that the
    Spanish never entered Washoe territory, the Washoe have
    told stories about them for generations, and some Washoe
    words, including names for relatively new additions to the
    Washoe world, like horse, cow, and money, are similar to
    the Spanish terms.
    In any case, when the first white fur traders and sur-
    veyors began to enter Washoe territory the Indians ap-
    proached the newcomers with caution. They preferred to
    observe the intruders from a distance. The first written re-
    cord of non-Indians in Washoe Land were fur trappers in
    1826; they may have met the Washoe, but left no descrip-
    tion of the encounter. The first written description of the
    Washoe was by John Charles Fremont in 1844, who was
    leading a government surveying expedition. Fremont de-
    scribed the Washoe as being cautious of being close to
    them, but in time when he showed no aggression, the
    Washoe came forward and gave him handfuls of pine nuts,
    the highest form of hospitality the Washoe could offer a visi-
    tor. Fremont described struggling through deep snow and
    being impressed by the Washoe’s skill with snowshoes.
    The Washoe willingly shared their knowledge of the land
    and eventually guided Fremont to a safe passage to Califor-
    As more and more colonizers began infiltrating
    Washoe land, it was not long before relations grew hostile.
    The summer of 1844, just a few months after Fremont had
    passed through, a group of trappers left record of having
    shot and killed five Indians (either Washoe or Paiute) for
    having taken traps and perhaps horses. The Indians proba-
    bly took those things in order to discourage the trappers
    from entering their land. After the deaths, the trappers
    searched the area, but not surprisingly found no more Indi-
    ans. Most westward-migrating settlers had been condi-
    tioned by their experiences passing through the country of
    aggressively defensive tribes of the Great Plains and saw
    no distinction between different tribes. They expected the
    Washoe to be violent and dangerous and projected these
    characteristics upon them.

    Donner Party
    In 1846, the Washoe noticed the famed Donner party
    wagon train because they had never seen wagons before.
    The Washoe describe seeing the wagons and wondering if
    they were a “monster snake”. In route to California, the
    Donner party reached the Sierras late in the year and got
    trapped in snow for a particularly harsh winter. The Washoe
    checked in with the stranded travelers a few times and
    brought them food when they could. Even so, in the face of
    suffering and starvation, the Donner Party resorted to can-
    nibalism. When the Washoe witnessed them eating each
    other they were shocked and frightened. Although the
    Washoe faced hard times every winter and death by starva-
    tion sometimes occurred, they were never cannibalistic.
    Stories about the situation, some gruesome and some sym-
    pathetic, were told for many generations and are said to
    add to the general mistrust of the white people.

    In 1848, gold was “discovered” in California, and al-
    though until then most of the Washoe had never seen white
    people, or had previously avoided them, this soon became
    impossible. The wagon trains came by the hundreds, and
    because most of the wagon trails had previously been In-
    dian trails, encounters were numerous. Most of the new
    people were just passing through, but by 1849 several be-
    gan to establish seasonal trading posts in Washoe territory.
    By 1851, year-round trading posts were established, and
    colonizers became permanent residents on Washoe land.
    The settlers often chose to live on some of the most fertile
    gathering areas that the Washoe depended on. A few years after gold was found in California, silver was “discovered” in
    the Great Basin and the “Comstock Bonanza” lured many
    miners that had passed through back into Washoe territory.
    The Euro-American perspective viewed land and its
    resources as objects of frontier opportunity and exploitation.
    In a short time the colonizers had overused the pine nuts,
    seeds, game and fish that the Washoe had lived harmoni-
    ously with for thousands of years. By 1851, Indian Agent
    Jacob Holeman recommended that the government sign a
    treaty with the Washoe and wrote, “…the Indians having
    been driven from their lands, and their hunting ground de-
    stroyed without compensation therefore – they are in many
    instances reduced to a state of suffering bordering on star-
    vation.” (Nevers, 1976, p. 49) All this happened in less than
    ten years after Fremont had passed through Washoe terri-
    Settlers and miners cut down trees, including the sa-
    cred Piñon Pine to build buildings, support mine shafts, and
    even burn as fuel. The Piñon Pine woodlands that had once
    provided the Washoe, other tribes, and all the animals with
    more than enough nuts became barren hillsides.
    In 1859, Indian agent Frederick Dodge suggested
    removing the Washoe to two reservations, one at Pyramid
    Lake, and another at Walker Lake. Because the reserva-
    tions were intended to be shared by the Washoe and the
    Paiute, it soon became apparent that this was impossible.
    Not only did the two tribes speak entirely different lan-
    guages, but historically they had not always been friendly
    and trouble would no doubt arise if they were forced to live
    in close quarters. Furthermore, the Washoe intended to live
    on the land where the Maker had created them, and they
    resisted all attempts to be relocated. Numerous formal re-
    quests from Indian agents were made for a separate reser-
    vation for the Washoe, but the government ignored them
    all. By 1865, there were no stretches of unoccupied land
    large enough within traditional Washoe territory to form one
    reservation, so an agent made a recommendation that two
    separate 360 acre parcels be set aside for the Washoe.
    The following year in 1866, a new agent destroyed any
    hope of this happening when he sent a letter to his authori-
    ties that stated, “There is no suitable place for a reservation
    in the bounds of their territory, and, in view of their rapidly
    diminishing numbers and the diseases to which they are
    subjected, none is required.” (Nevers, 1976, p. 54) This
    man wrongly believed that in time the Washoe would disap-
    pear. Between 1871 and 1877 several more requests for a
    reservation for the Washoe were made by agents, but again
    they were not heard. The government made no attempt to
    secure rights for the Washoe or to stop the destruction of
    the lands by the colonial culture.
    Settler’s livestock grazed the land intensely and
    grasses that had once provided the Washoe with seed were
    trampled and eaten. Commercial fishing was practiced on
    every stream and lake in the area and it was not long be-
    fore the fish were depleted. At the height of the fishing,
    70,000 pounds of fish were being sent from Lake Tahoe to
    Reno, Carson City, and Virginia City. There were several
    attempts by the colonizers to stop the Washoe from fishing,
    but the Indians banded together and restrictions were re-
    laxed. Even so, there were no longer enough fish for the
    Washoe to subsist on. Sage hens that used to “cover the
    hills like snow” were killed off by sport hunting as well.

    Although most of their traditional resources were de-
    stroyed in a short time, the Washoe were used to adapting
    to what their environment provided for them so they began
    to change under the pressures of colonization. Many settled
    near white towns and took jobs on ranches and in white
    homes to make some money. Some hunted and fished and
    sold their catch to fancy restaurants. They began to wear
    white people’s clothes. Women wore long dresses, aprons,
    shawls, and head scarves. Men wore brightly colored shirts
    and jeans. They continued gathering together to speak their
    language, play games, and observe sacred ceremonies like
    those of the pine nut harvest, rabbit drives, and girls dance.
    During these difficult years of transition, several
    Washoe leaders emerged to speak in behalf of the tribe. In
    April of 1880, Captain Jim, Captain Pete, and Captain
    Walker called a meeting to prepare a petition to the govern-
    ment asking it to stop the destruction of the land. The peti-
    tion described that the Washoe depended on game, fish,
    and pine nuts in the area that were now settled by coloniz-
    ers, and that this meant that the Washoe were now depend-
    ent on the charity of colonizers for subsistence. They de-
    manded that the destruction of Washoe property be
    stopped, and that suitable compensation be made for the
    damages already done. A month later, another petition
    signed by ninety-three Douglas County residents asked the
    government to, “take provision for their general welfare” be-
    cause, “…the Washoe tribe have always been reasonable
    and quiet, never molesting the white people except for the applications of food since their subsistence is de-
    stroyed.” (Nevers, 1976, p. 57) As described by historian L.
    Bravo (1991), “White observers have frequently criticized
    the Indians both for asking, which they called begging, and
    for not growing their own food. But to ask of the person who
    had something to share it, was a universal Indian custom.
    Furthermore, the food was being produced on land which,
    in the Washoe mind, was theirs to use, therefore giving
    them every right to share in it. As for growing gardens, the
    Washoe were still basically hunters and gatherers and the
    mobility required for these pursuits conflicts with the con-
    tinuous care needed for gardening.” (p. 11)
    In April 1892, with help from donations made by set-
    tlers that resided in Carson Valley, Captain Jim and Dick
    Bender (serving as a translator), went to Washington to de-
    liver another petition, along with letters to the president and
    the congressmen of California and Nevada, and a petition
    signed by 33 pupils from the Indian school praying that the
    Great Father (President Harrison) will consider the matter
    well. After spending thirteen days in the capital, and report-edly having spoken with the president, the men returned
    home believing that their requests would be heard. A short
    time later, they were disappointed to learn what the govern-
    ment had decided. They were offered some land in Hum-
    boldt Valley, which is in Paiute territory, and were given
    $1,000 dollars to be distributed by the Superintendent of the
    Indian school to the “old, feeble, and infirm”. The Washoe
    did not want to move to Paiute territory, and it is reported
    that they received little if any of the $1,000 dollars.
    In 1914, the Washoe sent another petition to the
    President; this one was accompanied by a special basket
    as a gift to be kept in the White House. Again, they re-
    ceived nothing substantial in return.
    The weaving on the basket read as follows:

    “Nevada and California
    Sara, I am his daughter, Captain James,
    first chief of the Washoe Tribe
    This basket is a special curio, 1913”

    Washoe Indian Allotments
    Under the requirements of the General Allotment
    Act of 1887 each individual Washoe finally did begin to re-
    ceive some land, but it was not until 1893 that allotments
    were made to the Washoe, and most of the land proved to
    be virtually worthless. The Washoe claimed the pine nut
    hills and the area around Lake Tahoe as their ancestral
    homeland, but because the foreigners had already settled
    in great numbers around the lake, they were offered the
    simple choice to accept the pine nut allotments or take
    nothing at all. Although none of the sites were suitable for
    homes and few had water rights, the Washoe took them
    because the sites had the sacred Piñon Pines that still pro-
    vided the food that sustained the Washoe through winter.
    Some Washoe received allotment lands in California, in
    Alpine County and in the north around the Sierra Valley
    and Doyle. Although allotments were legally supposed to
    be 160 acres, some that the Washoe received were only
    120 because settlers already claimed to own adjacent
    springs and other water rights. The government appointed
    a special allotting agent that did not even inspect the allot-
    ments. Sections of land were given out directly from the
    office, and it turned out that most of the lots did not have
    mature trees on them or were completely without trees be-
    cause they had recently been used for timber.
    The borders of these allotments were not clearly
    marked, and even when they were the Washoe continued
    to have problems with colonizers that frequently disre-
    garded boundaries. Reports that whites were trying to gain
    control over Washoe timber and were illegally using the
    land to graze their animals were made by Indian Agents to
    the government several times, but the problem continued
    even after laws were passed against it.

    Boarding School
    The Stewart Indian School opened in 1890 and oc-
    cupied 240 acres south of Carson City. Washoe, Paiute,
    and Shoshone children were forced to attend. Euro-
    American culture was taught to the children, who spent half
    of the day in the classroom learning English and mathemat-
    ics, and the rest of the day receiving vocational training that
    often involved nothing more than doing work that needed to
    maintain the school. Since the Indian boarding schools
    were under control of the War Department, the schools
    were run in a strict military style and focused on assimila-
    Children as young as five years old were often
    rounded up and taken from their families while neither the
    children nor the parents knew what was happening. When
    they arrived at the school they were forced to wear a uni-
    form and to cut their hair. They were punished if they spoke
    their own languages. The children had a difficult time ad-
    justing to the new strict environment and tried to run away.
    They were almost always caught and brought back. Parents
    objected to having their children go to the schools because
    they often became out of touch with their own culture and
    many of them never came home at all. There were high
    death rates at the schools due to epidemics of diseases
    such as influenza, small pox and cholera. Nearly all of the
    children reported suffering various amounts of psychologi-
    cal, physical and sexual abuse.
    In later years the school was reported to have im-
    proved. Girls learned how to be a woman in white society
    and were trained in “home economics” and nursing. Boys
    were trained in vocations usually designated for working
    class white men like plumbing, carpentry, mechanics, and
    electrical work. Many graduates of the Stewart Indian
    School continued their education at other institutions, and
    several became prominent citizens in their communities by
    using the skills they had learned to help their people.

    Basketry as Art
    During the late 19
    century the Washoe became fa-
    mous for their skills in basketry. Colonizers saw the intricate
    tightly woven baskets that had previously been used for
    cooking or holding water, and began valuing them as a high
    form of art. Several Washoe women emerged as out-
    standing basket makers, including Maggie Mayo James,
    Tillie Snooks, Lena Frank and perhaps the most famous being Dat So La Lee.
    Dat So La Lee was born in 1835, and may have met
    Fremont when he first passed through Washoe land in
    1844. In 1871, she met Abram Cohn, a shopkeeper who
    she approached with a small basket for sale. He and his
    wife Amy recognized that she was highly skilled and de-
    cided to build a house for her and support her so that she
    could concentrate on making baskets. They worked out a
    deal that she would make baskets only for them, and for
    this reason no tribal member possesses one of her baskets
    today. In 1919 Cohn took Dat So La Lee on several trips to
    show her work and make her famous. She did not enjoy
    these expositions of her techniques because it is Washoe tradition to only teach members of your family. In modern
    times her baskets
    have been priced
    at $1,000,000.
    During her lifetime
    they sold for thou-
    sands, also a high
    sum by the stan-
    dard of the time.
    Samples of her
    work can be seen
    at the Smith-
    sonian, Nevada
    State Historical
    Society Museum in Reno, the Nevada State Museum in
    Carson City, and the Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Mu-
    seum in Tahoe City, among others.

    It took many years before the Washoe were consid-
    ered citizens under law. This officially happened in 1924
    when all Native Americans in the United States pledged
    their allegiance to the US government. Before then Indians
    were expected to show their allegiance to the country by
    fighting in the First World War. Even though they had no
    homes and no reservation, and were denied many other
    conveniences of citizenship, Indians were expected to fight
    in the US army. An Indian Agent wrote to the Washoe say-
    ing that Indians that did not fight were “pro-German”. Justi-
    fiably, many Washoe did not want to fight, but some did
    join the war.

    Tribal Land
    Despite some local opposition, land was finally pur-
    chased for the Washoe in 1917. Two tracts of land were
    purchased near Carson City that totaled 156.33 acres.
    This became Carson Indian Community. Shortly after this
    purchase the government received 40 acres of land south
    of Gardnerville from the Dressler family, to indefinitely be
    held in trust for the Washoe, now known as the Dresslerville
    Community. An additional 20 acres were acquired for the
    Washoe and Northern Paiute families who lived in Reno
    called the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Most of the lands
    purchased for the Washoe were rocky and had poor soil,
    but the people moved onto these areas and built the best
    homes that they could. Many were one room shacks with-
    out electricity and running water. Eventually, the govern-
    ment built larger four-room houses.
    Under the Indian Reorganization Act, between 1938
    and 1940, the Washoe acquired 95 acres in the Carson
    Valley that became known as Washoe Ranch. Finally the
    Washoe had agricultural land where they could raise ani-
    mals and food.
    In 1951 the Washoe filed a claim to the Indian
    Claims Commission for their lands and resources that had
    been lost. The legal proceedings lasted nearly twenty
    years, and the Washoe received their claim only in 1970.
    The government had significantly reduced the area that the
    Washoe had designated as their ancestral homeland, and
    so the final settlement was five million dollars, which
    “scarcely constitutes even a token compensation for the ap-
    propriation of an ancient territory and its resources which
    today comprise one of the richest and most attractive areas
    in the American West.” (Nevers, 1976, p. 91)
    Also in 1970, a special act of congress granted 80
    acres in Alpine County, California to Washoe that had lived
    there for many years. This is now known as the Woodfords
    Community. In more recent years the tribe has been acquir-
    ing lands within their ancestral territory including, Frank
    Parcel, Lady’s Canyon, Babbit Peak, Uhalde Parcel, Wade
    Parcels, Olympic Valley, Incline Parcel, Upper and Lower
    Clear Creek Parcels. Some of the lands have been set
    aside as conservation and cultural lands for the Washoe

    Challenges of Reservation Life
    After settling on their newly returned land, the
    Washoe found it difficult to adapt to reservation life. They
    were traditionally a free roaming people that were now re-
    stricted and confined to boundaries and were under con-
    stant monitoring by Indian Agents that pressured them to
    renounce their ancient customs in favor of colonial ways of
    living. The superintendent of the Reno Agency attacked
    several traditional practices, including the girl’s passage to
    womanhood. Ironically the practices that he targeted as
    “heathen” and “immoral” like giving gifts were similarly prac-
    ticed at Euro-American birthdays and marriages. Another
    superintendent announced that traditional games that in-
    volved exchanging money were not permitted on govern-
    ment lands or Indian reservations, but he made no procla-
    mations prohibiting similar games played by colonizers
    such as poker. Government officials went as far as to pro-
    hibit the use of traditional Washoe medicine.

    In 1936, a new native religion called Peyotism, now
    known as the Native American Church, helped some
    Washoe cope with the changes brought by the settlers. A
    man by the name of Ben Lancaster, who was half Washoe,
    brought peyotism to Washoe Country. The religion encour-
    aged charity and honesty and prohibited drinking of alco-
    holic beverages. Although peyotism is no longer widely ac-
    cepted, numerous tribal members continue to practice the
    way of life. s
    De ek Wadapush (Cave Rock)
    Since the beginning of history, De ek Wadapush
    “rock standing grey” (Cave Rock), a prominent physical fea-
    ture on the shore of Lake Tahoe, has been revered as a sa-
    cred place to be respected and avoided by all people ex-
    cept for Washoe healers seeking spiritual renewal. It is be-
    lieved that Cave Rock is also an important place for the
    “Water Babies”, so it is a place that can not be tampered
    with without experi-
    encing retaliation
    from the powerful
    creatures. The
    Washoe were highly
    disturbed and sad-
    dened by the con-
    struction of a tunnel
    going through Cave
    Rock using dyna-
    mite blasts in 1931.
    They likened it to
    entering a Christian
    Church and bomb-
    ing it, but most non-
    Indian people didn’t understand the similarities. In 1951 a
    second tunnel was blasted. During both phases of construc-
    tion flooding occurred in the Carson Valley that was attrib-
    uted to angered Water Babies.
    Thankfully, another project that was proposed during
    the building of the second tunnel was never realized. Local
    Pastors had began initiating plans and acquiring funds to
    build a “Cave Rock Shrine” that consisted of an illuminated
    cross at the apex of the rock that would be seen from any
    point on the lake’s shore, and a “natural amphitheater”
    carved into the concave of the rock. The Washoe wrote
    several petitions to stop the project and to have the rock
    dedicated to the Indian peoples of the state of Nevada
    instead. It is unclear how the project was stopped, but it
    seems that the church allocated funds to other causes.
    Cave Rock came under increasing threat in the
    1990’s when rock-climbing enthusiasts began frequenting it
    as a highly desired climbing site. Regardless of the
    Washoe’s protest, climbers defaced the rock with bolts and
    other climbing implements, graffiti, and even filled in the
    cave’s floor with cement. The Washoe wrote petitions to
    have the climbing stopped. Despite strong opposition by the
    climbing community, the US Forest Service held up a ban
    on climbing at Cave Rock in 2008. Remediation efforts are
    under way to repair Cave Rock. The site has enjoyed more
    respect and protection since its nomination to the National
    Register of Historic Places and its designation as
    “Traditonal Cultural Property”.

    Tribal Government
    Under the Indian Reor-
    ganization Act of 1934, the
    Washoe began to form a tribal
    government. They called them-
    selves the Washoe Tribe of Ne-
    vada and California and adopted
    a constitution and laws. In 1937
    they were issued a corporate
    charter and recognized as a for-
    mally organized tribe.
    In 1966 the Washoe or-
    ganized a tribal council. The nine
    member council is made up of two members from Carson,
    Stewart, Dresslerville, and Woodfords communities, one
    from the Reno-Sparks Colony, and two off-reservation dele-
    gates. In 1990 the council was extended to twelve members
    to include the newly added Stewart Community. To officially
    be considered a Washoe tribal member the blood quantum
    is one-quarter. There are approximately 1,550 official tribal
    members. One third of tribal members reside off reserva-
    tion, a large population within their ancestral territory, and
    another in the San Francisco Bay area.

    Tribal Programs
    The tribe has several programs that encourage the
    preservation of Washoe culture and traditions including: so-
    cial services, education, senior centers and more.
    Washiw Wagayay Ma?al (The Washoe Language
    Program) teaches classes in Washoe three times a week
    and hosts several other events. Classes are open to people
    of all ages. There are four Head-start schools for Washoe
    and non-Washoe children ages 3-5 that teach basic
    Washoe words and promote social and emotional growth.
    The Education Department works together with public
    schools and offers scholarships to Washoe students.
    Combining traditional and modern conservation prac-
    tices, the Environmental Protection Department has nearly
    twenty separate restoration and conservation projects
    throughout Washoe ancestral territory at any given time.
    One example is the restoration of riparian areas and the re-
    introduction of the native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that dis-
    appeared from the regions waters after over harvesting by
    Over the years the Washoe have organized groups
    that promote traditional well being, respect, and generosity
    in the people including, the Washoe Warrior Society, White
    Bison Society, Culture Camp and Tribal Government
    groups like Project Venture.
    As a way of further promoting Washoe culture, the
    Tribal Government has enacted laws that allow special
    hunting and fishing privileges to people that are making and
    using traditional hunting and fishing devises.
    (TANF) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is
    a Washoe program headquartered in Gardnerville. It pro-
    vides service to 12 counties in California and 2 counties in
    Nevada. One of the services they provide is a Prevention
    Plan that includes bringing cultural activities and education
    to the communities.
    (THPO) Tribal Historic Preservation Office and
    (CRO) Cultural Resources Office are the tribal equivalents
    to the State Historic Preservation Offices. Their mission is
    to protect, preserve and promote Washoe Culture. The
    THPO has jurisdiction over all Washoe Tribally owned lands
    and is involved with federal, state, and local agencies in the
    protection of over 10,000 square miles of ancestral territory
    that covers two states; nine counties, six national forests
    and four BLM districts.
    The Washoe health clinic offers medical, dental and
    behavioral services and the Washoe Police have jurisdic-
    tion over all Washoe Tribally owned lands.

    Washoe Events
    Currently, the Washoe hold several events where
    traditional craftsmanship, skills, and cultural information are
    celebrated and shared.

    Wa she shu it deh: Last weekend in July at Camp
    Richardson, South Lake Tahoe, California

    Luka’ ka lel bi Pow Wow: Last weekend in October at
    Carson Colony, Carson City, Nevada

    Earth Day: The event is held at a different Washoe
    Community every year in April during Earth Day Week

    Washoe Picnic: Held every year in September

    Washoe Elders Cultural Dinner

    Culture Camp: Held in the summer in Alpine County, CA

    Da ow aga - “edge of lake” - Lake Tahoe
    A’ waku da ow -

    Pyramid Lake
    Watahshemu – Carson River
    Welganuk – Truckee Meadows
    Datsa’ shut

    – Donner Lake
    A’ waku wa’ta - Truckee River at Pyramid Lake

    – Truckee River at Tahoe City
    De ek wadapush - Cave Rock
    Tzatlee tosh - Emerald Bay
    Mutsim yagada det deyi - Sierra Valley

    Support Tribal Businesses!

    Meeks Bay Resort and Marina at Meeks Bay, CA

    Chevron Station, Highway 395 at Carson City, NV

    Washoe One Stop Smoke Shop, Hwy 395 Gardnerville,
    NV 775-265-3738

    Carson Smoke Shop, Washoe Carson Community
    Washoe Development Group: 775-267-2178

    Ranching Operations and Equestrian Boarding Facilities

    Sign Leases

    Mini Storage Lease

    LLC Business

    Bravo, Leonore M.. (1991). Rabbit Skin Blanket: About the Washo of
    the Eastern Sierra Nevada And Their Neighbors, the Paiute. Braun-
    Brumfield Inc. USA.

    d’Azevedo, Warren L. (1978). Straight with the Medicine: Narratives of
    Washoe Followers of the Tipi Way. Heyday Books, Berkley, California.

    Dowes, James F.. (1966). The Two Worlds of the Washo, An Indian
    Tribe of California and Nevada. New York, Holt, Rienhart and Winston.

    Nevers, Jo Ann. (1976). Wa she su: A Washo Tribal History. Inter-Tribal
    Council of Nevada. University of Utah Printing Service. Salt Lake City,

  2. #2

    Re:Some washoe history

    Huge wall of text, hope you didn't type it yourself! :silly:

  3. #3

    Re:Some washoe history

    not at all!!LOL

  4. #4

    Re:Some washoe history

    HI FRIEND ! !!! !


  5. #5

    Re:Some washoe history

    and here i thought my magic suggestion thing was a wall of text... this is at least 5 times that.... for something that long you would have to pay me to read it...

  6. #6

    Re:Some washoe history

    oh herro there

    DIT EH HU (??) ?????? ?)?????????? ? ??????????? ?????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????k???? ?????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????? ???????????????????????????????????? ??????-????????????????????????????????????? ???????? ???????????????? ??????????????…????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????- ? ?????????????? (??) ???????????????? - ??????????? ???????????? ????????????????????? ???? ??W????????????????????? ????-?? ? ??????????? ???????? ?????? ??????????????????sug-??????? ????????????????????? ??????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????? WA?SHU (??) ??????????????Wa????? ??????????????Washoe???????Al ??????? ?? ???????3,000????????????????? ???????? ??????????????????? ?????????? e??????????????????? ???????????Washoe???????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???? ???????????????? ????- ???????????????????????????????? ???? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ???? ?????????????????Wel?????wa ????????lel????????????? ????????a -???????????????? ?????????????????????? ???????????????????????- ????????????????? ???????Tahoe????????????? ???????????????; ?????????????????? ?????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????a ?????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????? ?????????? ?????????????????????? ????????????????? ???? ??????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????ob- ????? ????????????????????????????????? ???????????????? ??????????? ??????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????spe- ????????????????? ??????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????ob- ?????????????? ??? ?-???????????????????nal?????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????Washoe??? ???????????????wis- ???????????? ????????????- ?????????????? ???????????????? ????????????????????????????????? ???? ??????????????????e??? ??????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????? ????Tahoe??????Ong?????????? Ong????????????????????????????? ???? ??????Ong?????????? ??????? ??Ong???????? ???????????????????????? ???????????????????????? ???Ong???? ????????????????????? ????????????????????????? Ong??????????????? ?????????????? ???????Washoe ??? ?????????????????????????????ents??? ??????????? ????????????????????? ?????????????????????????? ?????????? ??????????????????? ???????

    hope is good!

  7. #7
    Xsyon Citizen Xx1327's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010

    Re:Some washoe history

    pretty useful info man thx for goin through the effort of finding it

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