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Book Review - The Female Native American Experience at Lake Tahoe

Updated on July 31, 2013
Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe | Source

Modern Western TV Series vs. 18th Century Lake Tahoe

Who Have the Power:

A Legend of the West

by Mary Sheeran

Bookshelf Press/WingSpan

This work is about the fight for universal equality with the assistance of an overarching spiritual music that is everywhere. We can reach out and touch it. Through a kind of time portal in a theme park dedicated to an Old West TV series much like Bonanza and The Big Valley, a group of diverse women learn many lessons to share. Many involve music.

The book is an authentic representation of Washoe Nation as its people lived around the shores of Lake Tahoe for many years, and of the wide ranging affects on this life made by ambitious Euro-American settlement and gold seeking.

The equality of not only that of our continent's First Peoples and Native Americans, Indigenous Mexicans, and Native Central and South Americans with all other nations of people; but also of women of all nationalities. It is also an equality based in a world view that we as humans are stewards of the Earth and not meant to wantonly or purposely waste, discard, or destroy any resource, whether it be water, animals killed "just because", or a human mind and spirit. Everyone has worth and a contribution and class strictures are artificial and erected out of ego defense.

Native Flute - Anazasi

Jay Red Eagle - Amazing Grace, Flute

This historical fiction, though a novel, combines sources from a comprehensive research list that is thorough and impressive (see Resources). The list includes writings and histories from 18th Century America, the Women's Movement, and the dramatic changes in the status of Native Americans in the Southwest from 9,000 to 12,000 years ago, to after the American Civil War.

The list presents the natural and cultural history of Lake Tahoe in a way that is unforgettable.

The text of the work fairly sings in melodies, harmonies and counterpoint. By the end of the book, we know that the music in the air is not a fiction, but real and part of a larger culture that we need to acknowledge and uplift. Mary Sheeran gives us ways of doing this by sharing this story so that we may become aware of the music.

Robbie Robertson, flute and guitar, Native American themes.

Author Mary Sheeran

Among many accomplishments, Mary Sheeran earned an M.Div. degree at New York Theological Seminary and is a writer, reviewer, and editor. She is also a classically trained soprano and a composer.

Previously, Ms. Sheeran earning a BA from St. Mary's College at Notre Dame in three subjects: History, Humanistic Studies, and Theater.


Lake Tahoe Life

The first inhabitants of the Lake Tahoe Basin were, for centuries, the Washoe Nation.

The Washoe lived in what is now the Carson Valley (named after the scout Kit Carson) and migrated each summer for the abundance of fish and game that was found naturally around Lake Tahoe for many eons. Washoe women became master fine-arts basketmakers, using natural elements from the Lake Tahoe regions (see video below).

Da-ow-a-gais the Wahsoe name for Lake Tahoe and today the nation is called Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. However, their original land holdings were overrun by Euro-American settlers during a silver mining and timber production boom from before the American Civil War until the 1880s, including the famous Comstock Lode. Natural resources have not recovered fully, even as of 2009.

The Comstock Lode was found in Virginia City, Nevada in 1859. Nearby Lake Tahoe became a commerce huh for for silvermining in Virginia City, timber products, and the railroads. By 1890, Lake Tahoe was already a tourist attraction for the rich from San Francisco, Sacramento, and Virginia City. Massive vacation resorts followed. The railroads brought not only vacations and businessmen and the advancement of this part of society, but also racial minorities to work on the rails and to perform cooking and cleaning.

By the last part of the 19th Century, and certainly after the Civil War, racial minorities and women began to increasingly resent the inequality that was their involuntary lot. Who have the Power accurately represents historical events, daily life, and leading attitudes of the latter part of the 19th Century in Nevada, aloing with the rise of human rights and activism form the Civil War to the 21st Century as it relates to women and minorities.

Nevada, Late 1800s

In Ms. Sheeran's book, Elisabeth Barclay at age 15 is a boarding school student in 1866 Nevada, her father an important government personage. She is intelligent, proactive, and a leading proponent of women's rights in the school. Suddenly, she is notified that she is half Washoe "Indian" and that her father is not her father. She is segregated from other students and shunned by all at the school, until her uncle can pick her up and take to his own ranch.

The inhumanity of Elisabeth's treatment is justified by the King James version of the Holy Bible, a translation fraught with translation errors and applied with a chauvinistic interpretation, particularly in the 1800s. This type of artificial, undeserved power and control over others infuriates me and I am glad that the book points it out more than once.

The whites repeatedly tell Elisabeth that former slaves can be taught Christianity, although they will never be as good as whites; but there is no hope at all for "Indians", which are the least among humans - they are subhuman, incapable of entering Heaven. This is also infuriating in its cruel untruth and the total misapplication of Christianity. The late 1800s were an oppressive time in Nevada and elsewhere in America, that oppression lasting well into even the 1960s, when some African Americas were still prevented from their voting rights.

Dat-so-la-lee - Washoe Nation Basketmaker

Hand Drum Song - Reno Nevada

The Music is Everywhere

Elisabeth joins her uncle's family at the Barclay ranch near Lake Tahoe. She lives here with her uncle (her biological father), and his four adult sons, while she learns about her Washoe mother, Native American worth, and how the Washoe have been harmed .

Reminiscent of two 20th Century TV series, the story of the Lake Tahoe Barclays has been a television series in Who Have Power. After the show's 30-year absence from TV, a Barclay theme park at Lake Tahoe is inundated with women visitors that take on the persona of Elisabeth Barclay. However, park officials and staff know of no Elisabeth in the Barclay series cannon. Still, each of these women is looking for something. All find themselves staying together in the nearby home of a female descendant of the real Elisabeth. This descendant is awaiting the birth of her grandchild, who is the 7th generation that will bring about miracles in nature and humanity.

One of the Elisabeth-women is an actor that portrayed Miss Barclay on television, except that no one at the park this year ever saw a female character among the TV Barclays. A female masters level music student travels to the park to learn about Elisabeth's piano compositions (credit stolen by white men), and she too becomes Elisabeth for a time. Timelines overlap, interweave, and merge among several Elisabeths and her real descendants, and a universal mission unfolds.

The spirit of the real Elisabeth and her betrothed Masete travel the timelines as well and inhabit Lake Tahoe, peopling a universal and unending story that others may discover. Through research and restoration, especially with spirit and music, what Elisabeth, Masete, and all the Washoe have lost might be restored to fill the void left in the Earth left by maltreatment of one people toward another.

The music is everywhere. Each of the Elisabeth-women heard it and came to Lake Tahoe for a miracle. By the end of the book, we hear it as well. Ms. Sheeran moves us with her writing to continue to contribute to that music and to life.

This book is fast-paced and captivating and the characters are extraordinary. It is a valuable work for understanding Native Americans, women, and other "minorities" and the important place that each group and each person has in the larger scheme of nature. The story's focus on music and spirituality highlights them as necessary elements for ourselves and our planet.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for reading, Angel of Love! I hope you have a chance to read the book :)

    • Angel Of Love profile image

      Angel Of Love 

      12 years ago

      Great interesting hub!!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks very much - the book is very good and I'm reading it a second time already.

    • advisor4qb profile image


      12 years ago from On New Footing

      Awesome hub! I love the Native American theme.


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