November Curator’s Corner

His headdress is adorned with Golden Eagle feathers; he sports a beaded buckskin vest; and his face is decorated with white paint. Captain Hank Pete stands proudly against the northern Nevada sky, clasping a rattle in one hand and a walking stick in the other. Captain Hank Pete “last of the Washoe Indian Chiefs” (Lake Tahoe Journal 1951), spent much of his life as a spokesperson for the Washoe tribe.

He also worked closely with other tribal members on their claim for the return of ancestral Washoe lands through the Indian Claims Commission.

Captain Hank Pete was the last of these men referred to as Captain, a term that replaced the Washoe word for leader or chief. In 1860, Captain Jim was instrumental in promoting peace and cooperation when he aided white settlers and surrendered his firearms. In 1914, Sarah Mayo, Captain Jim’s daughter and famous Washoe basket weaver, made a coiled, degikup shaped basket with a design featuring her father’s surrender. This basket would later be gifted to President Woodrow Wilson and transported to Washington by her husband Captain Pete Mayo and brother-in-law, known also as Captain Pete. This basket was accompanied by a letter written by Sarah and her sister Agnes Pete, which explained the rights and needs of the Washoe Tribe.

Captain Hank Pete, Captain Pete and Sarah Mayo, Captain Pete and Agnes, and Captain Jim, represent the Native Americans who were, and continue to be instrumental in their fight to reclaim ancestral Washoe lands.

Special thanks to the Washoe Cultural Resource Advisory Committee (WCRAC) for their assistance and consultation.

Professional photographer James A. Lawrence photographed Captain Pete in the 1940s at his Rock Creek Ranch in the Carson Valley.

The headdress and photograph were donated by the Lawrence family in 2013.