Washo people

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The Washo are a Native American people who originally lived around Lake Tahoe and adjacent areas of the Great Basin. The name "Washo is derived from the autonym waashiw (wa·šiw) meaning "people from here" in the Washo language (transliterated in older literature as Wa She Shu).

Prior to contact with Europeans, the territory of the Washo people was roughly bounded by the southern shore of Honey Lake in the north, the west fork of the Walker River in the south, the Sierra Nevada crest in the west, and the first range east of the Sierra Nevada in the east. The Washo would generally spend the summer in the Sierra Nevada, the fall in the ranges to the east, and the winter and spring in the valleys between them. Piñon pine nuts gathered in the fall provided much of the food eaten in the winter. Roots, seeds, berries and game provided much of the food eaten in the rest of the year.

The Washo people and the neighboring Northern Paiute people were culturally and linguistically very different, and they were often at war. Immediately prior to contact, the Paiute obtained and learned to ride horses, which allowed them to decisively defeat the Washo. At the time of contact the Washo were essentially satellites of the Paiute, and they were not allowed to own or ride horses.

While archaeological findings of the Martis have been found in the same region as the Washo, researchers do not believe they are related.

The Washo lands were the first in the western Great Basin to be extensively settled by Euro-Americans. Loss of the valley hunting grounds to farms and the Piñon pine groves to feed Virginia City's demand for lumber and charcoal drove most Washo to dependency on jobs in white ranches, farms and cities. The areas where they settled became known as Indian colonies, but were not formal Indian reservations. Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the colonies in the Carson Valley area of Nevada and California gained federal recognition as the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. The colony at Reno, Nevada, which also had a substantial Paiute and Shoshoni population, gained separate recognition as the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. There is evidence that some Washoe settled into the south west region of Montana. Total enrolled membership in the two tribes is approximately 2,000.

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