Popular Washoe elder honored
Washoe tribal elder Jean McNicoll is among 10 Nevada women to be honored as recipients of the fourth annual Nevada Women’s Role Model Awards.
To Tahoe Basin and Carson Valley school children, McNicoll is better known by her family nickname, “Yetta,” and for keeping Washoe traditions alive in area classrooms.
“I’ve been trying to relate to the children how important keeping Tahoe preserved and beautiful is – it’s nice to see a new generation growing up with a respect for the environment,” McNicoll said. “The shared love and admiration I have with the kids is such a joy. Teachers say my stories bring to life what the children read in books.”
As the recipient in 1997 of a Nevada Folk Art grant through the Master Apprentice Program, McNicoll has now passed on the skill of basketry. She plans to teach her niece how to make a rabbit skin blanket this summer, a craft she learned from her grandfather who died in 1973 at the age of 105.
“He shared a lot of knowledge with me,” she smiled. “I guess he was gearing me up for this.”
McNicoll has also served as a Washoe spokesperson in the ongoing debates surrounding the uses of Cave Rock.
“Jean helped to span the information gap by sharing a Washoe’s perspective (on Cave Rock),” said U.S. Forest Service Community Planner Lisa O’Daly. “I credit Jean with the ability to build a bridge between two worlds, bringing them closer together.”
McNicoll also serves as a member of the Washoe Tribe Cultural Resources Advisory Council and participates on the Sister Cities Native People’s Committee, a program that links Lake Tahoe with Lake Baikal in Siberia.
As part of a Washoe delegation at the two-day presidential environmental summit last summer, McNicoll shared her concerns with Vice President Al Gore and witnessed the signing of the Meeks Bay and Taylor Creek land exchange.
“With the children, I don’t dwell on the hardships our people have endured,” McNicoll said. “But they know our sad story – we once walked here each season from the valley carrying burden baskets on our backs – and now we’re not here anymore. But it’s hard to share 15,000 years in an hour.”
Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa said Nevada’s 10 honored women – five from the north and five from the south – were chosen “because they are making a difference in the lives of others through their contributions to our community.”
The northern list includes former legislator Jean Ford; Adriene Angelini of Reno, a community activist who helps victims of violent crime; Ellie Lopez-Bowlan, who, as a nurse, has helped programs for the Hispanic community; and Patricia Casarez, principal of Roger Corbett School in Reno.
Northern award recipients will be honored Thursday at the Truckee Meadows Human Services Association meeting at Girl Scout Headquarters, 65 Washington St., in Reno.
“I look at these important women leaders – legislators and businesswomen – and realize I’m one of them,” McNicoll chuckled. “I see that I’m making a dent and that’s good.”
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