Lawmakers making good on promise to Washoe |

Lawmakers making good on promise to Washoe

A bill that would give the Washoe Tribe 24 acres in the Lake Tahoe Basin unanimously passed the full Senate and now moves to the House.

Co-sponsored by Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign, the legislation regarding the area known as Skunk Harbor — between Sand Harbor and Glenbrook — is now being guided through the House by Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.

Last week, the House version passed through committee and is on its way to the floor for a vote before moving on to President George Bush.

“This land is a fundamental part of who the Washoe are as a people,” Reid, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Conveying this land will allow the tribe to preserve their rich history and cultural identity. For centuries, the tribe preserved and protected Lake Tahoe and with this legislation a portion of the land can be returned to their stewardship.”

The Washoe Tribe Lake Tahoe Access Act directs the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to give 24.3 acres of U.S. Forest Service land north of Skunk Harbor to the tribe for traditional customary uses. It prohibits commercial, residential or recreational development.

“This land is vital to the Washoe tribe in maintaining their rich culture and history,” Ensign, a Republican, said. “This legislation provides the Washoe with a place for them to continue in their strong appreciation of the ancient ceremonies and traditions and allows them to pave the way for future generations to carry on those sacred customs.”

The legislation is a result of the 1997 Presidential Forum at Lake Tahoe, which brought together federal, state and local government leaders to address Lake Tahoe protection. One of the goals of the forum was to support the traditional and customary use of the Lake Tahoe Basin by the Washoe Tribe.

“This is wonderful news,” said Washoe Tribe Chairman Brian Wallace. “It has almost been a century and a half since the Washoe people were forcibly removed from Lake Tahoe. The lake is a place to which we have sacred connections and is the source of much of our culture. The Washoe people, especially the elders, are going to be very pleased.”

By coincidence, Wallace said the tribe is celebrating the birthday of Winona James, the oldest living Washoe tribal member.

“This will be some nice icing on her cake,” Wallace said.

Gibbons said the bill had full support in committee and will, sometime in the coming weeks, go through to the full House.

“It is only fitting that the Washoe Nation would be reunited with ancestral land at Lake Tahoe,” Gibbons said. “I am hopeful that the show of support shown will soon be reflected on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

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