Washo Religion

Washo Religion
Catalog # SKU3199
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name James F. Downs
ISBN 10: 1610335376
ISBN 13: 9781610335379


Washo Religion

Large Print

James F. Downs

This paper is the result of two and one-half months' field work among the Washo Indians of California and Nevada supported by the Department of Anthropology of the University of California and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. In it I have tried to describe the religious beliefs and ritual activities of the Washo as they can be examined today. Where possible I have attempted to reconstruct the aboriginal patterns and trace the course of change between these two points in time. Large print 15 point font.



This paper will devote itself to a description of the religious life of the Washo Indians living in the communities of Sierraville, Loyalton, and Woodfords, in California, and Reno, Carson City, and Dresslerville, Nevada. Smaller numbers are scattered throughout the area which was their aboriginal range, roughly from the southern end of Honey Lake to Antelope Valley and from the divide of the Pinenut Range in Nevada, almost to Placerville, California.

A short ethnography by Barrett dealing in large part with material culture, Lowie's Ethnographic Notes, and Stewart's Element Lists constitute almost the only general references on Washo culture. Various other writers have dealt with specialized questions such as linguistics (Kroeber, Jacobson), peyotism (Siskin, d'Azevedo), and music (Merriam).

Most of the statements about the Washo give the impression that they have long been on the edge of oblivion (Mooney, Kroeber, etc.), and population estimates have been well under one thousand for the past fifty years. However, I find myself in agreement with d'Azevedo that the Washo are a vigorous and continuing cultural entity. My own rather impressionistic estimate of population is that there are perhaps two thousand Indians in the area who consider themselves as Washo and form a part of a viable cultural unit.

My own field work was devoted to an attempt to trace the patterns of change among these people since the entrance of the white man into their area. To this end I spent a great deal of time with older informants, but my work was not exclusively "salvage ethnography." Many aspects of Washo culture have changed dramatically in the past century; this is particularly true in the area of material culture and subsistence activities.

On the other hand, I was impressed by the tenacity of the less material aspects of the culture. The always-difficult-to-define world view or ethos of the Washo, which so clearly separates them from other cultures, is very much an entity expressed in the attitudes and actions of the Washo Indians, whether they are oldsters who can remember many aspects of the "old days" or children who have not yet entered the newly integrated schools of Nevada. This continuity seems most clearly expressed in the area which we subsume under the title "Religion." Almost all Washo, even the youngsters, are familiar with, or at least aware of, Washo mythology, attitudes about ghosts, spirits, medicine, and a number of ritual actions and beliefs which are common elements in Washo life today.

112 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover
ISBN-10: 1610335376
ISBN-13: 9781610335379

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