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Indian festival a growing tradition

by Andy Bourelle

With the bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe in the background, the Tallac Historic site provided a perfect stage last weekend for the Washoe Tribe’s cultural event showcasing American Indian arts.

Hundreds of people – coming from numerous tribes as well as many people with no American Indian heritage – attended the Wa She Shu It Deh Native American Arts Festival 1998.

Basketry of many Western tribes, jewelry, crafts and native dancing highlighted the eighth annual Wa She Shu It Deh – Washoe People’s Land – festival.

“One of the goals that we have here is to promote the Native American culture and to share it with everyone,” said William Dancing Feather, cultural resources coordinator for the Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada.

The event began with a focus on basket making, Dancing Feather said, but has grown over the years.

Now, not only is there a basket-making competition, but six dancing groups performed all weekend and booths and tables were set up to show and sell baskets, crafts, jewelry and Indian tacos.

In addition to Washoe members, Paiute, Shoshone and many other Western tribes participated in Wa She Shu It Deh.

What do those who come enjoy about it?

“Everything,” said Michael Bojorquez. “The food, the crafts, the dancing, the baskets especially, to see all the wonderful things that are going on.”

Bojorquez, a member of the Mayan Tribe from Mexico, and his wife, Lydia, a member of the Ohlone Tribe from California, came from the Sacramento area to attend the festival.

“We came last year, and we just decided we’d make this an annual event,” he said.

Those without American Indian heritage enjoyed the festival as well.

Ken and Chris Cairns came from Minden, Nev., because they enjoy learning from and being a part of the cultural event, they said.

“It’s a famous event,” Ken Cairns said. “We like to see the dancing, and we like to see a lot of nice crafts.”

The Washoe Tribe sponsored the event, receiving a little help from other agencies. The Nevada Arts Council provided funds, and the U.S. Forest Service waived the fee for using the Tallac Historic Site.

Dancing Feather said it is hard to determine how many people will attend each year.

“That’s really hard to say. It varies from year to year,” he said Saturday morning. “We’ve had as many as 500 to a couple thousand turn out before. It looks like we have a couple hundred here right now.”

Dancing Feather said the Washoe Tribe is proud of the event and happy it has continued to grow.

“From the event starting out with baskets, it has grown and now has arts, crafts, dancing, booths and vendors,” he said. “Now it includes all the Great Basin tribes and the California tribes. The festival is a growing event.

“I think it’s great. Everyone enjoys it.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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