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Washoe offers sacred name 'Tahnu Leweh' for Lakeview Commons in South Lake Tahoe

With the Washoe Tribe's offering and support of El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, a move is underway to rename Lakeview Commons Park at South Lake Tahoe in time for an official June 20 dedication, South Tahoe Now reports.
Given its 6,000 year history, the Washoe Tribe has presented the name Tahnu Leweh (Pronounced Tah-New Lay-Way) which, in native language, means "all the people's place." It is a name the Tribe would like to gift to El Dorado County and South Lake Tahoe as a symbol of peace, prosperity and goodness, said Darrel Cruz, Culture and Language Director for the Washoe Tribe.
"I can't think of a more appropriate name, Tahnu Leweh, because of the meaning behind it. The Washoe have always maintained its ancestoral home at the lake to be a gathering and meeting place. For thousands of years it was a place where our people came together, following where the food and game was, where people united and did things for the benefit of the whole tribe."

The Washoe's voice in Lake Tahoe matters has been relatively quiet over the years and it prefers to remain that way, said Cruz. Because the tribe is offering the name as a gift and blessing, it will be up to elected officials of South Shore to decide. The suggestion shouldn't cause a lot of stir because the name itself is meant to celebrate all people who gather at one place. "I would like to be optimistic about this. I know there are plenty good people at South Tahoe who would want to see this happen and share in the good nature of our offering," he said.
The Washoe Tribal Council met and decided to offer the name, he said, as a gesture. He presented the concept to El Dorado County Supervisor Santiago who embraced it.
"I absolutely support the idea of changing the name of Lakeview Commons to something so meaningful as what Tahnu Leweh represents," Santiago said. "This is a precious historical area where the Washoe people met, it represents a place to gather, the people's place, and a beautiful vision that connects this land to the past, present and future."
Traditionally the tribe has kept a low profile at Tahoe, often using the lake as a backdrop for cultural activities. By offering and allowing the use of the sacred name, the tribe hopes to "bring people together" in a cultural context, which is the way the Washoe people have always wanted things, said Cruz.
Tahnu Leweh brings significance and connectivity to "where we gather as a community with pride; where we can celebrate with special events, at family gatherings, as visitors and residents together; a place to gather and celebrate the beauty and gift that is Tahoe," said Santiago. "And, it provides another wonderful way to remember this gift of the Washoe people."
The California Tahoe Conservancy has funded much of the $7.5 million for The Lakeview Commons site, located where Highway 50 meets Lake Tahoe, formerly called El Dorado Beach. The project comprises significant public space within the city. Portions of this 56-acre site were deeded to El Dorado County by D. L. Bliss in 1923 and by the Lake Valley Community Club in 1959. The City of South Lake Tahoe, through a cooperative lease agreement with El Dorado County, operates and manages the on-site facilities and uses for public park, recreation, cultural, and visitor information purposes, according to the CTC.
Originally, when the concept and funding provided this opportunity to make improvements at the 56-acre park site, the city and county convened a steering committee made up of community members and interest groups like the Senior Center, library, businesses, the arts, and residents of the surrounding neighborhood in the project area to create and agree upon a vision and special elements of the project.
The committee helped establish the final design of the project by working directly with the architect. Santiago would like to reconvene the steering committee to make a recommendation to the South Lake Tahoe City Council and the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to consider the proposed name. The county owns the land, and the city operates as a lessee under agreement that any changes on the property must be approved by the Board of Supervisors, including a name change.
"My goal is to have this name dedicated at the official park dedication ceremony on June 20," said Santiago. "The steering committee need only meet in May to approve this concept and then we can have the governing bodies approve it in June. While that leaves us little time, it is quite doable."
The entire 56-acre project has been driven by the community and therefore it is the responsibility of the city and county to honor and respect what the community wants in the naming of the area.
"It is solely about what the community wants to call it. I will hear and abide by what the community wants," Santiago said.
John Dayberry of South Shore and Santiago want the potential re-naming at the park dedication on June 20 to tie in with both the summer solstice and the kickoff of the 5th annual Lake Tahoe Paddle Festival. This festival has brought national press to the area in efforts to promote historical and cultural awareness of the many uses of boats and canoes on Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is set to get even more exposure on an internationall basis this year with word that it has been selected as the host home in the construction of a $2 million Guardians of the Water World Tribal Canoe building project.
This 18-month project will be funded through the Cultural Conservancy, a San Francisco-based Native American and indigenous peoples organization which promotes cross cultural interaction and diversity. The project will bring skilled international wood carvers to Meek's Bay to build a 65-foot vessel that, once finished, will maneuver on rivers and streams around the world as a kind of "floating university" through the Cultural Conservancy.
"There will be a lot of creative ingenuity coming here from Hawaii, New Zealand and places from around the world," said Cruz. "They will be working alongside our Washoe tribal members using native wood to develop this impressive canoe. This news and the promise behind it is unprecedented for Lake Tahoe."
With the canoe project and the paddle festival putting Lake Tahoe in the spotlight, it seems appropriate that the park dedication ceremony include the new Washoe name offered by the tribe, Dayberry said.
"I think this is a very healing gesture on the part of the Washoe to put forth something like this," he said. "There's some out there who probably won't like it, for whatever reason, and will do their very best to kill it. If this happens we will then have to ask ourselves 'why would anyone stand in the way of something as symbolic and good-natured as this gesture of kindness from the Washoe people?'"
Santiago said the offering is designed to unite the people of South Lake Tahoe and its gesture is that of good will.
"The name of a place can establish its character. Significance can be created in a name; the significance of bringing the Washoe and the community together in this gift, a history brought forward, (would be) a celebration of the beauty of the lake and mountains," she said. "This is an important gathering place that provides access to the heart of our community. I can't think of a location along the lake that better demonstrates the combined majesty, and a spiritual connection, of lake, sky, mountain and people."

For more go to www.SouthTahoeNow.com.


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