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Growing up Washoe brings balance

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau
Lynx, Cierra, Danelle, UsErica, and Triton James out on a family adventure.
Danelle James

She walks between many worlds, weaving a life of balance and harmony no matter what the challenge. Danelle James lives with two of her children on what had always been a part of the tribal lands of the Washoe. Her great grandfather was alive when his homeland was divided into allotments.

This acreage has been passed down from her ancestors. Danelle was raised right in the same spot by her Washoe grandmother, Auntie, and Mother. It was during a time of intense transition, and she was a student at Diamond Valley Elementary.

Danelle has the best memories of growing up near the West Fork of the river. She had cats, chickens, ducks, pigs, and her loyal dog “Shaggy” who guarded over her as she rode her pony “Jody.” They called their goat “Nanny,” and she laughs when she remembers how many times it tried to get into the house.

Danelle had a bottle-fed calf named “Jerky” and she would ride her cousin’s bull if her pony was unwilling. They had an outhouse and heated their own water, but these things never interfered with their happiness. They planted gardens and lived in the classic rural fashion.

It was here that she learned to accept things the way they were, improve whatever she could, and to let go of the rest. These growing up years defined her strong connection to her family and to the land.

Around 8th grade Danelle’s family moved to the Hung-a-lel-ti Community for a short time, and she competed in the Junior Miss Northern California pageant. She attended Douglas High School, graduating in 1989. She remembers all the girls dressing like Madonna or Cindy Lauper there. Only 8 students from all of Alpine went to the High School. It was a striking contrast to what she had been used to.

Always incredibly dedicated no matter what she does, she started working in the 8th grade at the Woodfords Inn. As a sophomore, she was employed at Paradise Yogurt Shop. When she got her license she worked at Sharkey’s and Domino’s, saving money for school and a car.

After graduation, she moved to Reno with plans to attend University of Nevada, Reno. She was a bagger at Raley’s and worked briefly as a Vet Tech. Because of her upbringing, her connection to animals is powerful. So much so, that when any creature had to suffer, she could not bear it. She found her empathy too heartfelt to continue along that path, and decided to move to Tahoe.

She started her successful career in the hospitality industry at High Sierra at the Lake. Danelle enjoyed working front desk and night auditing. After two years she moved on to the Embassy Suites to work as a PBX Operator, finally ending up in one of her most enjoyable jobs, working as a promotional model dressed as Cleopatra.

In 1992, she moved to San Diego area, living in the small town of Julian. They are famous for their apple pies. She was able to still ride horses, and worked at “La Casa del Zorro” in Borrego Springs. She eventually ended up moving there, living with four other roommates on the golf course.

Within a year she moved to her San Diego dream destination: Pacific Beach. Danelle held jobs at the Ramada Mission Valley Inn, the Doubletree, and the Sheraton while studying psychology at Mesa College.

When she sprained her ankle playing softball, there was something good that came out of it. She met the father of her children and began the next phase of her life staying at home and raising them.

She is an advocate of more natural ways of approaching childbirth, and was able to use the roots that her Grandmother had taught her. Her oldest daughter Cierra, son Lynx, and UsErica were all natural births, with her youngest son Triton being born at home.

Danelle came back to help her mother in 2015. She remained in the family home after her mother passed. She wanted to share her own childhood upbringing with her two youngest and has made the commitment to homeschool them through their entire education.

UsErica has her mother’s fondness for animals, along with a strong artistic streak. She keeps a sketchbook to record images and ideas she has. Her special gift is her ability to make animal calls so realistic you are fooled every time.

Everyone in the family enjoys hiking, exploring new areas, and camping. They make it a point to take a trip together every year. Selling at craft and Christmas fairs, UsErica and Triton have put together bracelets, necklaces, and some charming fairy houses using natural materials.

Triton is a young outdoor enthusiast/survivalist who is keen on saving money. He is working to contribute to a family trip to Hawaii. He loves to go metal detecting, shoot bb guns, and make knife carvings. Danelle’s oldest daughter Cierra is studying to be a film director, so Triton has big plans to go to acting school and then work with her.

Being back in Alpine County has allowed Danelle to use her expertise working at Sorensen’s Resort and at the Yurt in Hope Valley. She has just started her own business where her dedication and organization can really shine. Equally at home on the open land as she is in the city, she brings a unique perspective to everything she undertakes.

You can go to go to D James Yard Games @ Facebook or djames_yardgames@IG. “We bring the fun to you,” says Danelle of her great selection of outside games and activities that help create balance, coordination, and a sense of adventure.

She has a distinctive selection including Giant Jenga, Super Giant Yard Pong, Giant Connect Four, and Corn-hole that she sets up in your own backyard or event area. Always an outstanding athlete, she completed several personal training certifications as a youth specialist which she plans on using to implement programs for 5-12 year olds.

No matter what the difficulty in her path, Danelle has met it with intensity, grace, and truth. As the world eventually gets back to the “new normal” Danelle has come up with a way to help us enjoy the latest way of living and playing together in a spirit of fun, cooperation, and respect.