The Washoe Tribe of Nevada/California is located on the Nevada/California border. The Washoe are an ancient people with ties to the California and Great Basin cultures. Lake Tahoe, Nevada was the center of Washo culture.
The Tribe has four communities, three in Nevada (Stewart, Carson, and Dresslerville), and one in California (Woodfords). There is also a Washoe community located within the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Each of these communities have two representatives on the Washoe Tribal Council.Off reservation Washoe people also have two representatives on the tribal council. Each community also has a Community Tribal Council with five members from their community on their council.
The present day Washoe Tribe has deep roots in the past, radiating from Lake Tahoe, a spiritual and cultural center, and encompassing an area that stretches from Honey Lake to Mono Lake.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
Traditionally, the tribe included three geographic bands of Washoe: the Welmelti (northern band), Hungalelti (southern band), and the Pauwalu (valley people).
The term “colony”, a type of Indian trust territory, began during the nineteenth century and is apparently unique to Nevada. Pushed out of the areas they lived on aboriginally, denied access to most sources of water, facing starvation, the native peoples of Nevada had to develop adaptive strategies to survive. One important strategy was to attach themselves to ranches which were developing where many of them had lived.
The transition to colonies represented another adaptive strategy. Many Indians moved to the outskirts of towns and cities which were developed in nineteenth-century Nevada. These settlements developed into colonies. Only in the twentieth century did the “camps” of Indians sometimes actually become trust territory. Apparently in some cases the camps were on what had become regarded as public domain by whites, although no doubt many Indians still regarded the land as belonging to them; in other cases, the Indians were allowed to live on lands owned privately.
Address: Carson Colony Community Council
2900 South Curry St., Carson City, NV 89703
In 1917, the US government, despite local protest, purchased a tract of land for the Washoe, that became the Carson Colony. Established in 1917, the 16-acre (65,000 m2) community had 275 resident members in 1991. This colony is located in Carson City, Nevada and owns a gymnasium for recreation, youth programs, and hosting tribal events. They have four community representatives on their Community Council.
Address: Dresslerville Community Council
919 Highway 395, South Gardnerville, NV 89410
Dresslerville together with the Washoe Ranch is the largest Colony. It also has the highest population. As of the 1993 tribal census, there were 503 persons in 165 households .
It was not until 1917 that the Dresslerville and Carson Parcels began to reestablish a homeland for the Washoe People. From the 1840’s on, the Washoe were relentlessly stripped of their Eastern Sierra lands that had sustained them for thousands of years. The influx of miners, emigrants and farmers proved to be unstoppable, and by the 20th Century, the Washoe’s lifestyle became one of camping along rivers and at the edges of ranches.
Some of the new residents in Western Nevada eventually began to recognize that the Washoe Tribe must have some kind of homeland. In the second decade of the 20th Century, Washoe leaders, who continued to petition the Federal Government for land which they could use to sustain themselves, and supported by prominent persons from Nevada, finally began to make their case.
In testimony in the US Senate in 1916, Senator Harry Lane “who also referred to the Indians as Washoes and said that he had known `personally of those Indians for the reason that I was born in that country,’ explained to the committee that `they are camping on the old camp grounds’ that their ancestors camped on hundreds of years ago, and the town has come in there and they do not desert their camp ground any further than they have to.”
Dresslerville is a collection of several old ranches, the earliest dating back to 1859, which pioneered the development of irrigation systems utilizing the Carson River. Additionally, the site of “12-Mile House,” where the present-day Washoe Smokeshop on HWY 395 is located, was a great crossroads of territorial toll-roads. The Cradlebaugh or Esmeralda Toll Roads proceeded east, the Van Sickle and Haines Toll Roads, west to Kingsbury, and the Bryan and Desert Creek Toll Roads went south.
In 1917, William F. Dressler, a local rancher who had employed many of the Tribal members, deeded 40 acres to the government for the Washoe. By 1929, under the supervision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a water system was installed and “nearly 300 Washoe lived on the 40 acres.” The Dresslerville Public School “taught children and served hot lunches daily.”
In 1929 Winfield Scott, a Baptist minister, wrote a letter to Senator Oddie asking for “electricity, fire hydrants, and extension of the telephone line and a policeman’s house and salary.” In 1936, seven new homes were built at Dresslerville with funds provided by the “resettlement administration.” The Dresslerville School, which adjoined the Colony was staffed by three teachers.
Through the Indian Reorganization Act, the Washoe acquired the 755 acres known as the Washoe Ranch, between the years of 1936 and 1940. One of the first maps of the complete Parcel titled “New Washoe Indian Colony,” illustrates the initial 40 acres, plus 17 new lots along the River bluff. These lots were approximately 500 feet long by 75 feet wide, 0.86 acre. This shape may have indicated that they were laid out for farming although the lands located above the bluff are unsuitable for cultivated row crops.
In 1973, a metes and bounds survey of Dresslerville was completed. The
surveyed center line of the Carson River serves as the boundary for
2.15 miles. The Parcel is unique in that the location provides rich, river-bottom farmland and abundant water resources, along with level lands above the 100-year floodplain, suitable for community development.
In all, the Dresslerville Community encompasses 795 acres.
The Off-Reservation tribal community is spread out throughout the United States and includes all the Washoe people who do not reside on a reservation. Two representatives from this group are chosen by popular vote to represent all the Washoe that don’t live on reservation lands on the Washoe Tribal Council.
Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
Address: Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
98 Colony Road, Reno, NV 89502
Official Website: http://www.rsic.org/
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is a federally recognized Indian Tribe located near Reno and Sparks, Nevada. The tribal membership consists of over 900 members from three Great Basin Tribes – the Paiute, the Shoshone, and the Washoe. They make up the majority of people who live within the reservation land base. The reservation lands consist of the original twenty-eight acre residential Colony located in downtown Reno and the 1,960 acre Hungry Valley Reservation located nineteen miles north of the downtown Colony, in a more rural setting. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony was established in the early 1900’s and formed a more formal Tribal Government in 1935 under the Indian Reorganization Act. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony began on donated land.
Address: Stewart Community Council
919 Highway 395, South Gardnerville, NV 89410
Located at the south side of Carson City, the Stewart Community was established in 1990. It has 2,960 acres (12.0 km2), with 90 members. They have the Stewart Community Center. Their five community representatives are chaired by Wanda Batchelor.
Address: Woodfords Community Council
96A Washoe Blvd., Markleeville, CA 96120
The only Washoe community in California, Woodfords Community is located in Markleeville, CA. They have the Woodfords Indian Education Center and a community center. Their five community representatives are chaired by DeAnn Roberts. Established in 1970, the 80-acre (320,000 m2) community had 338 resident members in 1991.
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