Traditionally, the Washoe were fishers, hunters of small mammals, and gatherers of pine nuts, acorns, and various roots and berries. They depended on deer and antelope for food, for clothing, and for hides to cover their cone-shaped dwellings. They were especially noted for their superb basketry.
Their coiled baskets were made like the Miwok and Maidu of California. The twined baskets were made like the other Great Basin (Nevada) tribes. For fishing, the Washoe used spears, hook and line, nets, traps, and weirs. For hunting, they had bows and arrows, and stone knives.
Under the Indian Reorganization Act, between 1938 and 1940, the Washoe acquired 95 acres in the Carson Valley that became known as Washoe Ranch. Finally, the Washoe had agricultural land where they could raise animals and food.
The Washoe gathered pine nuts and acorns where available, but trade was an important and necessary activity to procure enough acorn. Pine nut soup and acorn biscuits were, and are, prized native foods.
Most of what they ate was nuts, seeds, berries and roots, along with some fish and small animals. Their clothing was also basic being made from rabbit or other small creature’s fur tied with sagebrush. Their weapons had developed from those of their ancestors and included bows and arrows, stone knives and spears.
Today. Approximately 1500 enrolled members of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California live on “Colonies,” tribal lands scattered in the Reno, Carson Valley, and Gardnerville areas of Nevada and in Woodfords, California. Tribal headquarters are in Gardnerville and Stewart Indian School.
Ellensburg, Washington, U.S. Washoe (c. September 1965 – October 30, 2007) was a female common chimpanzee who was the first non-human to learn to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) as part of an animal research experiment on animal language acquisition.
A breechcloth is a long rectangular piece of tanned deerskin, cloth, or animal fur. It is worn between the legs and tucked over a belt, so that the flaps fall down in front and behind. In some tribes, the breechcloth loops outside of the belt and then is tucked into the inside, for a more fitted look.
Washo People The name “Washoe” is derived from the autonym waashiw (wa·šiw) meaning ” people from here ” in the Washo language (transliterated in older literature as Wa She Shu (Wašišiw) the plural form of wašiw). Washoe people have lived in the Great Basin for at least the last 6,000 years.
Native Americans tried to help the starving Donner Party, research shows. As his men struggled through deep snow, he wrote, three natives were seen, “circling around us on snow-shoes and skimming along like birds.” The tribesmen returned later with an offering of pine nuts.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Washoe aboriginal economy was based on hunting, fishing, and gathering. The environment provided an abundance of large and small game, fish in the lakes and streams, and seeds and other plant products requiring a highly skilled pattern of seasonal exploitation over the year.
The Washoe: 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.
Washoe people have lived in the Great Basin and the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains for at least the last 6,000 years, some say up to 9,000 years.
Natives foraged for Pinon nuts, cacti (saguaro, prickly pear, cholla), century plant, screwbeans, mesquite beans, agaves or mescals, insects, acorns, berries, and seeds and hunted turkeys, deer, rabbits, fish (slat water varieties for those who lived by the Gulf of California) and antelope (some Apaches did not eat
The rich animal and plant life provided native people with all that they needed: Women gathered wild root vegetables, seeds, nuts, and berries, while men hunted big game including buffalo, deer, and bighorn sheep, as well as smaller prey like rabbits, waterfowl, and sage grouse.