Legislation to preserve prime federal land at Lake Tahoe for the Washoe Tribe was signed Friday by President Bush, prompting tribal representatives to praise members of Nevada’s congressional delegation for their help.
The bill designates 24 acres of federal land just north of Skunk Harbor, on Tahoe’s east shore, for Washoe cultural purposes. It prohibits commercial, residential or recreational development.
Washoe Tribal Chairman Brian Wallace singled out U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying he worked on the bill for five years. He also said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., co-sponsored the plan while U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., introduced a companion measure in the House.
The measure transfers the land from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of the Interior to be held in trust for the Washoe Tribe. At the tribe’s insistence, there’s a requirement that the land be left in its present natural state.
The transfer will give the Washoe people “a sanctuary and a place of solitude where they can go for important tribal ceremonies and cultural practices, many of which involve Lake Tahoe itself, the core of the Washoe’s historic homeland and culture,” Wallace said.
“It has been almost a century and a half since the Washoe people were forcibly removed from Lake Tahoe,” said Wallace. “It has always been the center of our existence.”