The Washoe have inhabited Nevada’s Great Basin for at least 9,000 years, and tribal lore says they have lived here since time began. Unlike other Nevada tribes whose native language is a form of Uto-Aztecan, the Washoe’s native tongue is a Hokan-type language. The word Tahoe is a mispronunciation of the Washoe word for “the lake” (Da ow).
When the snows melted in spring, the Washoe gathered at Lake Tahoe’s edge (Da ow aga), where they blessed the water and themselves, a tradition continuing today. One of their most sacred cultural and spiritual sites is Cave Rock—known as De’ek wadapush (rock standing gray)—on the southwestern shore.
The Washoe recognize the importance of preserving their traditional way of life while remaining an important part of modern society. They continue to hold traditional celebrations—such as rabbit drives—and like all Nevada’s tribes are teaching their youth to speak their native language.
Wa She Shu It Deh
Wa She Shu It Deh, American Indian Arts Festival, is held at the Tallac Historic Site at South Lake Tahoe each summer. The festival began as an opportunity to promote the basketry of the Washoe Tribe and showcase their beautiful fancy basketry. It has since continued to grow and now features basketry demonstrations, music, fine art, photography, dance performances and storytelling. The American Indian Film Institute also presents American Indian films throughout the festival.
Stewart Father’s Day Powwow
This annual powwow draws a number of quality American Indian arts and crafts vendors, and is also a time for alumni, former employees and their families and friends to gather at the former campus. Additionally, this fundraising event is part of an effort to establish the Stewart Indian Cultural Center. The event helps preserve the legacy and history of the Stewart Indian School from its inception to closure with displays of memorabilia, arts and crafts and items relative to the history of the school’s past.
Places of special interest
Once a gathering place on ancestral Washoe land, Meeks Bay at Lake Tahoe welcomes each guest as a friend. Comfortable lake front lodging and modern campsites are available.
Guests are invited to sunbathe on Tahoe’s finest white sand beach, fish for Makinaw trout or take advantage of the boat ramp and water sport facilities. The Visitors Center has a snack bar, convenience store, American Indian gift shop, conference
room and other meeting rooms. It is also the perfect trailhead for entering
the Desolation Wilderness, Sugar Pine Point State Park and other areas related to Meeks Bay Meadow.
Stewart Indian School
The former Stewart Indian School is about to enter a new era, now on the threshold of its resurrection as the Stewart Indian Cultural Center. Envisioned as a complete museum that will highlight not only the students, athletes and artists that were educated at the school, but the cultures of the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone as well. Stewart Indian School operated from 1890 to 1980 and was initially a military-style school. During the 1950’s and ’60s, with the blending of American Indian staff, there was a cultural resurgence of language and customs.