The Washoe, Tourism and Lake Tahoe Landscapes: Examining Reciprocal Effects Between Washoe Cultural Heritage and Tourism
AuthorMagee, Catherine Elizabeth
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This research examines the cultural heritage landscape as both representing and the medium through which tourism influences cultural heritage production and preservation. It explores the reciprocal effect between tourism and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, looking at the landscapes of Lake Tahoe that embody and reflect this relationship. Lake Tahoe is examined as a large, single landscape and smaller landscapes within it, Tahoe City, Cave Rock, the Tallac area and Meeks Bay; all represent Washoe and Euro-American landscape formation processes through time. This research introduces and employs the reciprocity of tourism model and the hybrid tourist/cultural heritage landscape as methods to examine complex relationships represented in the Lake Tahoe landscapes. The reciprocity of tourism model engages the reciprocal relationships between tourism and cultural heritage by examining five factors, representation, identity, production, practice and agency, allowing for the interconnected multi-dimensionality of this relationship to be more fully represented. The analysis of hybrid tourist/cultural heritage landscapes examines landscape formation through time using two factors, tourism and cultural heritage. The Washoe were marginalized from the published work about Lake Tahoe and their presence in the Lake Tahoe landscapes was limited when examined in the Euro-American-centric media and from a Euro-American viewpoint. However, this study re-examines tourist and popular media from the 1850s to today. It employs the reciprocity of tourism model to show how the Washoe used the practice of tourism and the tools of survivance to overcome Euro-American subjugation and colonization of their traditional lands and cultural heritage practices. Early in the history of Lake Tahoe tourism, the Washoe provided tourist services as hunting and fishing guides; estate caretakers; handymen; hotel employees and domestic servants. During this time the Washoe remained at Lake Tahoe, and Euro-Americans ascribed to the Washoe a negative, generic “Indian” identity, representative of the cultural ethos at the time. However, individual Washoe identity remained; it was mainly associated with their basketry tradition and was represented in tourist photographs and guidebooks. The basketry tradition is tied to Lake Tahoe, in particular Tahoe City. The landscape of Washoe basketry exemplifies the reciprocity of tourism because traditional basketry was re-worked for the tourist market and, in turn, created an appreciation for Washoe cultural heritage. Washoe agency within Lake Tahoe landscapes came to the forefront beginning in the 1930s and by the 1990s became increasingly evident. Today Lake Tahoe landscapes, large and small, reflect the cultural heritage of both the Washoe and tourists, creating hybrid tourist/cultural heritage landscapes. Washoe cultural heritage permeates Lake Tahoe landscapes in both obvious and subtle ways. For example, the Tallac area is the only area where Washoe use has remained uninterrupted; early on Washoe families owned property and stables and also worked in resorts and summer homes. Later in the twentieth-century, the Washoe began to host cultural festivals and presented Washoe-curated exhibits on the grounds of Tallac area summer estates, now an historic site for tourists. Another example can be seen in the Washoe Tribe’s current management of Meeks Bay Resort, one of the oldest tourist resorts still in operation. Additionally, the Washoe were successful in their litigation to ban sport rock climbing from Cave Rock, one of their most sacred sites. The reciprocity of tourism shows how the Washoe clearly remained and influenced Lake Tahoe landscapes through time. They adapted to and used tourism as a means of survival that today has come full circle. The Environmentalist Landscape, represented by the “Keep Tahoe Blue” campaign, is perhaps the most identifiable tourist landscape today, promoted through government, academic and tourist media. The environmental and ecological awareness of Lake Tahoe today unconsciously promotes Washoe traditional land ethics and land use practices; the very ethics and practices used by Euro-Americans as justifications for colonization. Through their ecological restoration work, the Washoe represent their cultural heritage as forefathers and stewards of Lake Tahoe landscapes. As a result of Euro-American settlement pressures, the Washoe reworked and adapted their cultural heritage and in the process they also reshaped Euro-American cultural heritage at Lake Tahoe.