The Story Behind Just Indian: Who are the Washoe Tribe?

Washoe Ranchers at Richards Ranch, Washoe County, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Bob Dass

Washoe Ranchers at Richards Ranch, Washoe County, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Bob Dass

If you are as excited as we are about the upcoming release of Just Indian, our new book by first-time Native American author Jackie Neypes, then you might want to learn more about the Washoe tribe that Jackie descends from. So did we! We asked Jackie a few questions about her background.

Here is what we found out about the fascinating Washoe tribe.

Jackie still spends time on Washoe tribal lands in Nevada whenever she has free time. She always visits alongside her family and thinks of it as the best time of the year. She said that “Going back to where my family is, and my ancestors are from, gives me such peace and joy. My favorite part of being in Carson Valley [Nevada, where the Washoe lands are] is to visit with my elders and listen to my tribal history.”

In her book, Just Indian, readers enjoy learning a bit about life both on and off the reservation for one Native American boy and the tribulations facing Native Americans today. The book beautifully displays the beauty and richness of tribal heritage as well.

Jackie wrote the book because she wanted to raise awareness about what it is like to be a modern Native American. She is concerned that people may perceive Natives in a past context and don’t think about what many modern Natives have to face in this present time. She wanted to bring to light the hardships that many Natives face in this world.

Through Jackie, we learned that the Washoe tribe traditionally lived in the lands across Nevada and California and are especially fond of the land around Lake Tahoe. In fact, the word “Tahoe” is derived from the Washoe word for lake.

Photo of Whale Beach, Lake Tahoe. An important setting in Just Indian and part of the Washoe lands. Photo courtesy of Jackie Neypes.

Photo of Whale Beach, Lake Tahoe. An important setting in Just Indian and part of the Washoe lands. Photo courtesy of Jackie Neypes.

They believed Lake Tahoe to be a place of utmost importance and the spiritual center of their world. Traditionally, they received the bulk of their diet from the lake and surrounding rivers, fishing for trout and freshwater clams during all seasons that the waterways weren’t frozen.

The story that has been passed down from the Washoe elders is that a coyote led them to their ancestral home, and they were taught to use the local lake, plants, animals, and other resources to find food, medicine, and the items needed for survival.

Another part of their diet and lore is the collection of pine nuts. Pine nuts were gathered in the fall and eaten all winter. They were so important to the tribe that they even performed a “pine nut dance” to ensure a good picking season. To fill the gaps in their diet, they would also hunt for small game like rabbit.

The name Washoe means “people from here” in the Washoe language. It’s a fitting name since, unlike many more nomadic tribes, the Washoe were and are semi-sedentary, which may be why their name means “people from here” and not “people from all over.”

To find out more about the Washoe, click here

To find out more about Just Indian and reserve your copy today, click here.

About Laurel Tuohy

Laurel is the resident blogger and manuscript editor at AcuteByDesign. A longtime journalist, her work has been published all over the world in markets as diverse as The Times of India, Livestrong.com, The Wall Street Journal Asia and Vice Magazine. Currently living in Bangkok, she is hoping to uncover exciting new Asian authors and illustrators to add to the AByD worldwide family.
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