28th Washeshu ‘Itdeh Arts Festival at Lake Tahoe honors Wašiw traditions | FirstNationsFocus.com

28th Washeshu ‘Itdeh Arts Festival at Lake Tahoe honors Wašiw traditions

Herman Fillmore

Special to First Nation’s Focus

Aztec: Mexican (Meshican) Dancers
Courtesy photo: Herman Fillmore


Miw Ɂaŋawa mi∙bi∙Ɂi tekew di∙milulu wat Wašišiw ɁitdeɁ Ɂi∙bilegi!

It was great to have all of our partners and friends join us once again at the 28th annual Washeshu ‘Itdeh Arts Festival at the heart of the homeland of the Wašiw (Washoe people), along the edges of Lake Tahoe, on July 27-28.

The theme for this year’s festival was stewardship, and we were reminded of how much that means when things started off with a scurry and a bang as two bear cubs and their mother climbed their way to the top of the main building at Valhalla. It reminded us all how important it is to respect the Tahoe Basin and all of the wildlife within it by taking steps to limit the waste produced at this year’s event.

This year’s festival featured traditional performers from all walks of life. The Wašiw people have always welcomed guests into our homeland with open arms, and this year it was an honor to welcome some of our closest neighbors again.

This included the Paiute and Miwok people sharing bits and pieces of their culture, which has been shaped as much by their distinct homelands as by their traditional teachings. The Agai Diccutta Dancers — which include Paiute from the Great Basin and Miwok from just over the Sierra mountains — brought with them not only their own unique songs and dances, but their way of life, telling stories and carrying on the teachings that have been passed along to them.

There was also a more pan-Indigenous flair to this year’s festival, as the Red Hoop Singers invited the crowd to join in and round dance, a traditional Native American dance that is shared among many Tribes and Nations across the country

Aztec/Mexican Dancers also donned their beautiful traditional dress, adorned with macaw feathers and shells, and their drums could be heard up and down the shore, drawing crowds of people to share in Indigenous cultures that have long been separated by boarders.

This year also brought with it the continued celebration of all things Wašiw. This included community members dressed in their handmade shirts and skirts walking the catwalk at the fashion show, as well as women in the community taking over the arena to play Sigayuk — a traditional all-women’s game similar to field hockey, but these Wašiw woman are much tougher than any hockey player you’ve ever seen.

Yet, at the center of it all was the Basket Competition and Basket Display celebrating one of the Wašiw peoples most treasured art forms by recognizing and honoring those weavers from across the West Coast who are teaching and inspiring the next generation of weavers to pick up the mantle.

Within this competition are the roots of Wašiw traditions. As these weavers make their beautiful baskets, they also tend to their gathering sites, with some still gathering from the very same sites that their mothers and grandmothers harvested willows generations before contact.

We only get to see the product of these weavers’ hard work at the festival, but we celebrate the hard work that it takes to craft these items; from harvesting to preparing the willows, to the creation of the final product, there is so much work that goes unseen.

Just like our weavers, we want to celebrate all of the work of the vendors, performers and guests that have dedicated their lives to keeping Indigenous traditions alive for the future. We would not be here without you.

ɁumwaɁaŋawi! (thank you for everything!)

Herman Fillmore is culture/language resources director for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Visit http://www.washoetribe.us to learn more.