Washo Tribe

Washo Indians (from washiu, ‘person,’ in their own language – Kroeber). A small tribe, forming a distinct linguistic family, the Washoan, which, when first known to Americans, occupied Truckee River, Nevada, as far down as the Meadows, though their right to the latter was disputed by the Mono. The Washo also held 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, California, the mountains being resorted to only in summer. There are some evidences that they once were established in the valleys farther to the east than where found by the whites, whence they had been driven by the Paiute, between whom and themselves existed a state of chronic ill feeling, breaking out occasionally into open hostility. About 1860-62 the Paiute conquered the Washo in a contest over the site of Carson and forbade them thenceforth to own horses (Mooney). Of late years they have been confined to the country from Reno, on the railroad, to a short distance south of Carson City, and have adopted a parasitic mode of life, being almost entirely dependent upon the towns and ranches. Recent study of their language indicates no linguistic relationship with any other people.
In physique and general appearance they correspond more closely with the California Indians than with the tribes to their eastward. In 1859 the Washo numbered about 900, but are now (1905) reduced to about a third of that number.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Washo as both an ethnological study, and as a people.

  • On the language of the Washo, consult Kroeber in Univ. Cal. Pub., Am. Arch. and Eth., iv, no. 5, 1907.


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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