A site specific project for Detours: Tahoe City (a site specific exhibition)

"Dat So La Lee" from Women in Tough Terrain, Detours: Tahoe City, by Karen Atkinson

This project for Detours: Tahoe City is a series of images created from a composite of images of women of the west who have some relationship to the Lake Tahoe area juxtaposed with contemporary tourist images of Tahoe City environs. They are printed on placements that are used in local restaurants. A detailed description of each woman is be printed on the place mats as well as on this website (see below).

Sarah Winnemucca from Women of Tough Terrain from Detours: Tahoe City by Karen Atkinson

Myrtle Huddleston from Women in Tough Terrain, Detours: Tahoe City by Karen Atkinson

"Charlie" Parkhurst, from Women in Tough Terrain, from Detours: Tahoe City, by Karen Atkinson

Local Restaurants included in the project are:

The Blue Agave
Fat Cat
Hacienda de Lago
Sawtooth Cafe

Please see the map for details on where these restaurants are located.

Placemat Texts:

Dat So La Lee

Dat So La Lee was one of the colorful women associated with the Tahoe area. She was born in 1829, an indigenous American who was part of the Washoe Indians. She was given the name Dabuda. She is also known at Dat So La Lee which means “The Queen Of Washoe Indian Basketmakers” and Louise Keyser, her married name.

She was one of the most celebrated and accomplished basket weavers of her time, and had to keep her weaving a secret due to a defeat by the Northern Paiute tribe who forbid weaving in order to corner the market with their own baskets. This was devastating to the Washoe people as they were living near poverty.

Later in 1895, she met Abraham and Amy Cohn who recognized the master crafts women’s work and helped support her through the years. They gave her a place to live as well as sold her baskets. Dat So La Lee was married with two children. She developed a signature style and her artistry kept her family supported. Her basketry came to national attention during the arts and crafts movement.

Her baskets are in collections worldwide and her work currently sells for up to a million dollars a basket. She is well known for three types of baskets: the singam (a square ended or blunt cone shape), a mokeewit (cone shaped burden basket), and her best known design, the degikup (day-gee-coop) where the basket begins with a small, circular base, extends up and out to a maximum circumference, and then becomes smaller until the opening at the top is roughly the same diameter at the base. Her primary material was willow.

She lived until the age of 90 (1925) after making more than 300 baskets. She is buried in Carson City, Nevada. She can also be found on Facebook.

Sarah Winnemucca

Sarah Winnemucca was born Thocmentony or Tocmetone, which in Paiute (her native language) means Shell Flower, around 1844 in what is now western Nevada, which was shared by the Northern Paiute and the Washoe. She was the daughter of Chief Winnemucca (Poito) and Tuboitonie, who was the leader of a small band of Paiute. Her grandfather Tru-ki-zo or Truckee (meaning “good” in the Paiute language) was enthusiastically friendly towards white people. Some say that he was called “Truckee” because it means “good” in the Paiute language, while others say that he got his name because he shouted “Tro-kay” which means “hello.” Her grandfather took Sarah on a trip to the Sacramento area and later placed her in the household of William Ormsby of Carson City to be educated, so that she could read and write English.

Sarah translated for the Army during the Bannock War and was highly regarded by the officers. In 1878 when the Bannock Indians revolted and were being pursued by the U.S. Army under General Oliver Howard’s command, Sarah volunteered for a dangerous mission. Locating her father’s band being forcibly held by the Bannocks, she secretly led them away to army protection in a three-day ride over 230 miles of rugged terrain with little food or rest.

The Paiute were forced to march to yet another reservation, the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington Territory. She began to lecture on the plight of her people in California and Nevada in the winter of 1879 and 80. She and her father visited the Secretary of the Interior and asked for the Paiutes to return to Malheur with no success.

While lecturing in San Francisco, Sarah met and married Lewis H. Hopkins, an Indian Department employee. He traveled with her on her speaking tours in which she delivered over 300 lectures. Later, Mary Peabody would help Sarah prepare her lecture materials into a publication, “Life Among the Paiutes” which was published in 1883. Upon returning to Nevada, Sarah built a school for Indian children, which operated until the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 that required Indian children to attend English-speaking boarding schools. After her husband’s death in 1887, she spent the last years of her life retired from public activity. She died in Henry’s Lake, Idaho of tuberculosis.

Myrtle Huddleston

Myrtle Huddleston was born on January 18, 1917. She took a swimming class at the age of 30 and became a long distance endurance swimmer and swam the Catalina Channel in a little over 20 hours. She won the Ocean Championship at Del Ray Beach, Florida in 1928 when she swam for 31 hours. She became a champion swimmer and made more swims and won more awards than any other female of her time. She had previously set a women’s world endurance record by staying afloat 83.5 hours.

Her local exploits included her swim across Lake Tahoe, where the 6,500 altitude makes it mighty difficult to breath and the waters are icy. Mrs. Huddleston decided it was big enough, and decided to make a go for it. Clad in a one-piece bathing suit and covered with a coating of grease to keep from getting hypothermia, she wadded into the water at Glenbrook, NV at 7:45 in the morning and began her swim to Tahoe Tavern, CA.

The swim was tough and she encountered many difficulties. Her pilot boat navigator misdirected her, and winds blew her 8 miles off course. Her goggles began to leak and the water made her almost blind. She suffered from nausea and pains in her arm. She got separated from her pilot boat and was swimming in 1000-foot deep water by herself through the night. When they found her, she fainted twice, but her son kept her going as he yelled encouragement from the boat ahead that they were two miles from shore. Finally after almost 23 grueling hours, she emerged at Tahoe Tavern, walked up the beach unaided and put on her shoes. She had survived the 13-mile test and she held that record for 21 years. She lived to the age of 94.

Charlie Parkhurst

Born Charlette “Mary” Darkey Parkhurst in 1812 she was known throughout the west as Charlie Parkhurst the male stagecoach driver. She was also known as One Eyed Charley, Six-Horse Charlie or Mountain Charlie among other titles and was the “first women in recorded history to vote” in 1868. There is a debate about this claim, since some states allowed women to vote before 1868.

She was raised in an orphanage with her sister due to her poverty stricken parents, and she adopted the name Charley when she left there. She later worked in the stables as a stable hand in various locations. Around 1849, a group of small stage lines were consolidated into the California State Company and Parkhurst moved to California and started to work for them. She lost one eye after a kick from a horse, but was known as one of the finest stagecoach drivers on the west coast, and worked for Wells Fargo.

Stagecoach driving was hard work and risky. They were called “whips”, pulling six horses, requiring strength and agility. “Charlie” was about 5’ 7”, had gray eyes, wore an eye patch, and was as sun burnt and weather beaten as any other driver. She learned to smoke, chew tobacco and drink moderately, as well as shake dice. Her voice became deep and raspy which helped her disguise. She also worked as a muleskinner. During her time as a driver, “Charlie” did her share of brave deeds, such as helping women in labor, setting broken bones, and according to legend, filling outlaw Black Bart’s behind with buckshot.

Parkhurst eventually retired from driving when she was in her 60’s as the rail began to take over the state routes and had a ranch in Watsonville, CA. After doing lumbering, raising chickens and ranching, she finally retired and moved into a small cabin. She died there in 1879 of cancer of the tongue. When neighbors came into the cabin to lie out the body for burial, they discovered that “Charlie” was a female. The examining doctor established that Parkhurst had given birth. A trunk in the house contained a baby’s dress. Her partner Woodward never had a clue.

Additional Resources and Links on these women:

Dat So La Lee

Myrtle Huddleston

Sarah Winnemucca

Charlie Parker