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Naming, Remembering, and Experiencing We’ lmelt’ iʔ [northern Washoe] Cultural Spaces in Wa she shu It Deh [Washoe Land]
AuthorDavenport, Natalie E.
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Few anthropological investigations have involved or characterized the northern Washoe area, and Washoe families residing in these places experienced effects of European settlement and development first, and they moved or were nudged out by the first part of the 20th century. This study highlights and maps landscapes of the northern Washoe, or We’ lmelt’ iʔ, and explores some of the ways Washoe individuals and communities are intertwined with landscapes in their homeland. Washoe engagement was pieced together from first-hand Washoe sources ranging from the 1920s to this study in 2019. Results show the activities of naming, remembering, and experiencing places in their homeland are significant factors in fostering a sense of place among contemporary Washoe individuals and communities. As a result, Washoe toponyms became a large component of the study. The naming conventions and the names show fundamental understandings of the land, and certain topographic features were consistently named. Washoe place names not only characterize places literally, but they prompt visualization of the place in a larger landscape context. We’ lmelt’ iʔ toponyms are highly water-centric and emphasize the abundance of named water features. A GIS ethno-map of northern Washoe landscapes was produced to depict a Washoe understanding, taxonomy, and naming of the topographic features in their homeland. The ethno-map not only serves to (re)present Washoe perspectives of the land, but it is also part of the process of (re)claiming Washoe spaces, (re)invigorating cultural memory of places, (re)vitalizing the Washoe language and names, and (re)storing a sense of place (Smith 1999). It was not just about the places, what happened there, and to whom it happened. Engaging with the landscape is essential to maintaining Washoe language and culture, because landscapes are contexts where Washoe people are speaking and actively learning Washoe language while simultaneously taking part in traditional activities–all helping to reinforce cultural experience, and research findings indicate contemporary knowledge (and memory) of landscapes in this region is waning, and there are few elders with knowledge of places.