Washo Indians

Washo Indians. From the native term Washiu, signifying “person.” Also called:

  • Tsaisuma, name given them by the northeastern Maidu.

Washo Connections. Until recently the Washo were regarded as constituting a distinct linguistic stock, but it is now believed that they were related to some of the tribes of California. J. P. Harrington has announced a linguistic connection between them and the Chumash, but other students place them in the Hokan linguistic family.

Washo Subdivisions. Lowie gives the following:

  • Ha’nale’lti, about Woodfords and in Antelope Valley.
  • Pa’walu, near Minden and Gardnerville.
  • We’lmelti, about Reno.

Washo Location. On Truckee River as far down as the Meadows, though their right to the latter was disputed by the Northern Paiute tribes; Carson River down to the first large canyon below Carson City; the borders of Lake Tahoe; and Sierra and other valleys as far as the first range south of Honey Lake, Calif.

Washo History. There is some evidence that the Washo were once established in valleys farther east than the location above given and were driven thence by Northern Paiute tribes. In 1860-—62, according to Mooney (1928), the Northern Paiute conquered them in a contest over the site of Carson and forbade them thenceforth to own horses. They had little contact with Whites until very recent years. In later times they lived between Reno and a point a short distance south of Carson City, where they adopted a parasitic mode of life, depending almost entirely on the towns and ranches. In 1865 it was proposed to set aside two reservations for these Indians in Carson and Washoe Valleys, but white settlers had already occupied the territory and the plan was abandoned.

Washo Population. Mooney (1928) made an estimate of 1,000 as of 1845. In 1859 they numbered about 900. In 1907, 300 were reported. The census of 1910 reported 819; that of 1930, 668. In 1937, 629 were reported.

Connections in which the Washo have become noted.— The name Washo is preserved in the names of Washoe County, Washoe Lake, Washoe Valley, and Washoe, a post hamlet, all in Nevada. Another locality called Washoe is in Carbon County, Montana.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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