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Washoe Redux: Territory, Sovereignty, and Anthropologists
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Adding to the small body of historical and ethnohistorical scholarship on the Washoe Indians, including the works of James Downs, Jo Ann Nevers, and Mathew Makley, this thesis traces the route followed by the Washoe Indians of the eastern slope of the Sierra and Great Basin toward a reorganization of a tribal status and recognition of ancestral homelands, only achieved in the latter half of the twentieth century. The discovery of valuable minerals first in California and later in Utah territory (which would become Nevada) caused an influx of population from the outside world. The lives and cultures of indigenous peoples in the Far West were forever altered by these events. The Washoe, unlike many other groups of American Indians, never entered into treaties or agreements with the federal government. In the absence of treaty recognition, the Washoe were left without any land and subsequently no homes, subsisting on the fringe of the newly arrived white society for decades to come. A major focal point of this thesis is the legal struggle of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California before the Indians Claims Commission created in 1946 to win compensation for land and resources lost to the expansion of the American nation. The legal process brought into focus the power of expert testimony, namely the anthropologists, Dr. Julian H. Steward and his lesser-known antagonist Dr. Omer Call Stewart in determining the outcome of the ICC decisions. The contrasting arguments of two anthropological viewpoints affected the status of not only the Washoe before the Indian Claims Commission, but also marked a milestone in the development of American anthropology in the twentieth century.