Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California

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Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California

  • 775-265-8600
  • 919 Hwy 395 South, Gardnerville, NV 89410

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 ancestral 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 south to Sonora Pass. The territory takes part of two very distinct ecosystems: the western arid Great Basin region of Nevada, and the forested Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. The variability in climate, geography, and altitude within the territory allowed it to provide a great diversity 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 prominent geographical feature is named and has stories associated to it.”

Washoe, or Washo as most of the people prefer, was derived from Wa she shu. After contact with colonists, it changed or altered many things in Washoe history including the tribal name. It is estimated that the traditional 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 intrinsically intertwined.

Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Washoe began to form a tribal government. They called themselves the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and adopted a constitution and laws. In 1936 the first tribal council was formed. In 1937 they were issued a corporate charter and recognized as a formally organized tribe. In 1966 Tribal Council re-organized to include a nine member council from Carson, Dresslerville, and Woodfords communities, one from Reno-Sparks Colony, and two off-reservation delegates. In 1990 the council was extended to twelve members to include the newly added Stewart Community.

To be officially 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 reservation, a large population within their ancestral territory, and another in the San Francisco Bay area.

This information was sourced from the Washoe Tribe History: Past and Present packet which was written by the Washoe Tribe on August 9, 2021. The packet summarizes historical and current information and is a great resource to learn about their history within the region and the current status of their sovereign tribal nation.

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Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California

Last updated: December 2021