Until recently the Washo Indians were regarded as constituting a distinct linguistic stock, but it is now believed that they were related to some of the tribes of California.
J. P. Harrington has announced a linguistic connection between them and the Chumash, but other students place them in the controversial Hokan linguistic family.
Washo Indians comes from the native term Washiu, signifying “person.” Also called:
Tsaisuma, name given them by the northeastern Maidu.
Lowie gives the following:
Ha’nale’lti, about Woodfords and in Antelope Valley.
Pa’walu, near Minden and Gardnerville.
We’lmelti, about Reno.
California and Nevada. On Truckee River as far down as the Meadows, though their right to the latter was disputed by the Northern Paiute tribes; Carson River down to the first large canyon below Carson City; the borders of Lake Tahoe; and Sierra and other valleys as far as the first range south of Honey Lake, California.
There is some evidence that the Washo were once established in valleys farther east than the locations given above, and were driven there by Northern Paiute tribes. In 1860-62, according to Mooney, the Northern Paiute conquered them in a contest over the site of Carson and forbade them to own horses in the future.
They had little contact with Whites until fairly recent years. In later times they lived between Reno and a point a short distance south of Carson City, where they depended almost entirely on the towns and ranches.
In 1865 it was proposed to set aside two reservations for these Indians in Carson and Washoe Valleys, but white settlers had already occupied the territory and the plan was abandoned.
Mooney made an estimate of 1,000 as of 1845. In 1859 they numbered about 900. In 1907, 300 were reported. The census of 1910 reported 819; that of 1930, 668. In 1937, 629 were reported.