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Dresslerville Senior Center serves up traditional dinner

Joyce Hollister

Since 1972, the Dresslerville Senior Center has provided nutritious food and a place to gather for not only Native American seniors but people of all ages, including the general public.

Last month was an especially busy time for the center, its staff, the advisory council and the volunteers who help, said center director Corinne Moore.

The Washoe Cultural Dinner took place Dec. 20 and on the menu were traditional foods obtained and prepared by Washoe tribal members.

On the menu were salmon, deer, elk, rabbit, acorn biscuits, pine nut soup, sand seed pudding and buckberry pudding along with a buffet of beef and vegetable dishes and desserts.

“The senior center gets a deer tag every year,” Moore said. “We draw names of who’s going to get the tag, and usually it’s a young teen-ager.”

This year it was Daniel McDonald, 14.

“It was his first deer tag,” Moore said. In the Washoe tradition, a young man’s first deer is shared with friends and family.

“His father Joey had done that also when he shot his first deer – he donated his first deer to the center for the dinner,” Moore said. “His father, also Daniel McDonald, has donated deers in the past. Daniel McDonald, then Joey, and then Daniel. A third generation. It’s kind of neat.”

A total of three deer were donated to the center for the cultural dinner.

Moore added that the celebration was a tremendous success, with more than 150 people attending. Madelina Henry, former head cook who had retired from the position at the center, returned to run the kitchen for the day.

“It was nice to have Madelina Henry back,” Moore said. “She was all excited at being asked.”

The advisory council held a raffle, giving away gifts donated by merchants in Carson Valley. The council earned $1,190, from which they will give scholarships to Native American students.

The senior advisory council held the 1997 cultural dinner in honor of Washoe Tribal Chairman Brian Wallace, recognizing his contributions to the welfare and benefit of the Washoe people, Moore said.

At the dinner, Warren D’Azevedo, professor emeritus with the University of Nevada, Reno anthropology department and the preferred authority on Washoe culture, donated a tree to the senior center, which will be planted in the garden outside the center.

The Washoe garden has been an ongoing project at the senior center. Native plants have been installed and Moore hopes that this summer plaques indicating their names in both English and Washoe will be attached.

Moore sees the garden as not only a place to foster native plants but also as a way to educate native youths and others about the plants used for traditional food and medicine.

Staff members at the center prepare lunch every week day. The meal is served at noon and 45 homebound seniors are served in the three colonies – Dresslerville, Alpine County and Carson City conolnies- and to off-reservation members.

The staff includes head cook Rene Aguilar, assistant cooks Julie Enos and Jade Kizer, delivery driver Heidi James, winter seasonal employee Whitney Smart and summer seasonal employee Dave Moore.

The center also offers limited transportation for seniors to doctor’s appointments and referral services for other needs the seniors may have. Once a month a potluck lunch or breakfast is held, with the center providing the main dish. Often the seniors will stay at the center after the potluck to play cards.

An exercise program tailored to the needs of seniors is being planned with the help of the American Association of Retired Persons Carson Valley chapter.

Members of the site advisory council are Chair Joann Martinez, Secretary-Treasurer Theresa Jackson, Betty Flint, Leighton Palmer and Elwood Wyatt.

The elders on the council are also involved in other projects related to cultural and language traditions. The members are asked to give blessings in Washoe at events around northern Nevada and were active in the recent Lake Tahoe Summit with President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

They were involved in planning the return of land to the Washoes at Lake Tahoe, which was approved by the president last summer.

The advisory council meets the first Tuesday of each month.

The general public is welcome to have lunch at the Dresslerville Senior Center. Groups of two or more are asked to call ahead for reservations at 265-6426. Costs are: $4 for adults; $3, teens, aged 13-16; $1.50, children, 12 and under; $2, Native American seniors, 55 and over; $2, seniors from the general public, 60 and over.