Published on June 21, 2012 by Amy
Much of the early history of the Washoe has been lost but conjecture is that they originated among the coastal tribes of California and either migrated of were forced to move east to the areas surrounding Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border.
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When the Washoe’s history does get documented (AIA, 389-391), the story is not a pretty one. The Washoe’s lands around Lake Tahoe lay directly in then path of the the California Gold Rush of the1850s. Being a small tribe, they never had a chance to withstand the onslaught of greedy gold miners. Many were killed and others driven off their lands just so easterners could dig for gold.
As if that was not bad enough, in 1857, silver was found in Nevada right in the midst of their remaining lands. This was the famous Comstock lode. What little the Washoe had was stolen and in those days Native Americans had no rights or protections and no recourse but to accept their fate.
The combination of the two rushes left the Washoe as beggars scrounging for food in the municipal dumps of towns like Carson City and Reno – towns built on what had been their homeland.
Today the Washoe of California and Nevada occupy a series of small “colonies” in Nevada and reside off these reservations in both states. The Nevada “colonies” include the Alpine Colony (80 acres), the Carson Colony (160 acres, 248 residents), the Dresslerville Colony (40 acres, 152 residents), the Sparks Colony (28 acres, 264 residents). The Woodsford Colony (580 acres) is on the California side of the border (AID, 41). All these colonies are governed by a single Tribal Council based in Gardnersville, Nevada. The Washoe share a single flag as well.
The flag is dark blue and bears the seal of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California in gold and blue in the center (seal provided by the Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California). The seal depicts the geography, flora and fauna of the lands of the Washoe. With a backdrop of mountains, the foreground is filled with three main sources of sustenance for the ancient Washoe – the Pinon pine, the salmon and the deer. At the base of the seal are two crossed eagle feathers for the two states that play home to the Washoe nation today.