President Obama honors sanctity of Lake Tahoe to Washoe Tribe

The White House on YouTube: 20th Anniversary of the Lake Tahoe Summit

President Barack Obama honored the sanctity of Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, recognizing it as a "sacred" place for the Washoe Tribe.

In his first visit to Lake Tahoe -- whose name comes from the Washoe language -- Obama said he was struck by its beauty. He pledged to return after he finishes his term in the White House.

"It’s no wonder that for thousands of years, this place has been a spiritual one," Obama said at the 20th annual Lake Tahoe Summit. "For the Washoe people, it is the center of their world. And just as this space is sacred to Native Americans, it should be sacred to all Americans."

A view of Lake Tahoe. Photo by
Lara Farhadi

In discussing the importance of the area, Obama quoted former Washoe chairman A. Brian Wallace, who has been a fierce defender of the tribe's interests in an around Lake Tahoe.

"The health of the land and the health of the people are tied together, and what happens to the land also happens to the people," Wallace once said in the quote relayed by the president.

Lake Tahoe is home to Cave Rock, one of the most powerful places to the Washoe people. Only qualified medicinal and spiritual practitioners are allowed to approach the site.

"There’s a special significance with relation to the values and relationships of Washoe cosmology associated with Cave Rock," Wallace told the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for an oral history project.

President Barack Obama speaks at the 20th annual Lake Tahoe Summit on August 31, 2016. Photo by Pete Souza / White House

In recognition of the site's sacred nature, the U.S. Forest Service has barred recreational climbing at Cave Rock. The ban has been upheld in the federal courts.

The Washoe Tribe is holding its 19th annual Tahoe Forest Appreciation Day on September 10. The event helps protect the watershed habitats that surround Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe spans the Nevada-California border and the Washoe Tribe has communities in both states.

White House Documents:
TRANSCRIPT: Remarks by the President at the 20th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit | FACT SHEET: At Lake Tahoe Summit, Obama Administration Underscores the Importance of Strong Partnerships and Innovation in Tackling our Shared Climate and Conservation Challenges |

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