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Wa She Shu It Deh planned for Lake

by Andy Bourelle

Before the region was settled by anyone of European descent, members of the Washoe Tribe for centuries populated the areas surrounding Lake Tahoe. And each spring, tribal members would move to Lake Tahoe, where they would fish, hunt, weave baskets and live until the winter.

At least once a summer, Washoe members would gather in one place around the Lake for a large festival.

While likely far different from the prehistoric gatherings, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California’s annual Wa She Shu It Deh festival also is designed to bring tribal members to one area.

“It’s important to bring people together in a spot where we have always come together,” said Janelle Conway, cultural resource specialist for the Washoe Tribe.

Scheduled for July 23 through 24, this is the ninth annual year for the Wa She Shu It Deh – Washoe people’s land – festival. It started primarily as an event for the tribe’s basketweavers to sell their work, but now it has traditional art, food and dancing from several Native American tribes. As many as 3,000 people have attended in recent years.

“Everyone is welcome,” Conway said. “We just like the general community to come out and support the tribe’s efforts to maintain a stronghold in the basin. We just want them to all come out and enjoy themselves.”

Native Americans from all over West are scheduled to participate this year: Miwok, Midu and Wintu from California; Sioux from Montana; Hopi and Navajo from Arizona; and Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone from Nevada.

The festival will begin with a blessing and dinner at Pope Estate at 6 p.m. July 23. A basket competition, arts and crafts sale and dancing will start at 10 a.m. July 24 and 25.