History and Facts

The Washoe People

Washeshu Itdeh – “the people from here”

As the Wašiw creation story goes, the people were brought to their homeland surrounding Lake Tahoe by Gewe. (the coyote) and told that this is the place the Wašiw people were meant to be by Nentašu. Nentašu then told all of the plants, medicines and animals of this place to grow strong in order to provide nourishment for the Wašiw and she reminded the people of their responsibility to care for this place, (one of several creation stories).

“The center of the Wašiw world is Da.aw (Lake Tahoe) both geographically and spiritually.” Like most native peoples our lifestyles revolved around the environment; the people were part of the environment, and everything was provided by the environment.

In time, three bands of the peaceful Washoe Indians were regular occupants of the Tahoe shoreline during the summers. They found spiritual significance in the beauty of the Lake and surrounding mountains. Today their descendants are major players in the efforts to conserve the natural habitat. The Washoe Hunting and Fishing Commission, founded in 1978, is responsible for regulating hunting and fishing as well as protecting wildlife and other natural resources.

The first recorded sighting of Lake Tahoe by a European explorer was written by John C. Fremont in February 1844. As eastern settlers moved west, the Tahoe region saw an influx of emigrants moving through the area. These western-bound travelers included the infamous Donner Party, who spent the winter of 1846-47 stranded at the eastern end of Donner Lake, a few miles from present-day Truckee. The wagon company, which originally comprised 87 adults and children, lost 42 members to cold and starvation.

MORE RESOURCES

Official website of the Washoe Tribe 

Placer County Museum

Donner Memorial State Historic Park

California State Indian Museum, Sacramento