Paiute Indian Tribe

Published on October 21, 2010 by John

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Southern Paiutes – Moapa - Las Vegas Paiutes
Southern Paiutes – Moapa
- Las Vegas Paiutes wearing
traditional Paiute basket hats.
Paiute cradleboard and rabbit robe

Paiute (pronounced /ˈpaɪjuːt/, sometimes written Piute) refers to three closely related groups of Native Americans — the Northern Paiute of California, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon; the Owens Valley Paiute of California and Nevada; and the Southern Paiute of Arizona, southeastern California and Nevada, and Utah.

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Origin of name

The origin of the word Paiute is unclear. Some anthropologists have interpreted it as “Water Ute” or “True Ute”. The Northern Paiute call themselves Numa (sometimes written Numu); the Southern Paiute call themselves Nuwuvi. Both terms mean “the people.” The Northern Paiute are sometimes referred to as Paviotso. Early Spanish explorers called the Southern Paiute “Payuchi” (they did not make contact with the Northern Paiute). Early Euro-American settlers often called both groups of Paiute “Diggers” (presumably because of their practice of digging for roots), although that term is now considered derogatory.

Language and culture

The Northern and Southern Paiute both speak languages belonging to the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan family of Native American languages. Usage of the terms Paiute, Northern Paiute and Southern Paiute is most correct when referring to groups of people with similar language and culture and should not be taken to imply a political connection or even an especially close genetic relationship. The Northern Paiute speak the Northern Paiute language, while the Southern Paiute speak the Ute-Southern Paiute language. These languages are not as closely related to each other as they are to other Numic languages. The Bannock, Mono tribe, Coso People, Timbisha and Kawaiisu people, who also speak Numic languages and live in adjacent areas are sometimes referred to as Paiute. The Bannock speak a dialect of Northern Paiute, while the other three people speak separate Numic languages, with Mono language being more closely related to Northern Paiute, Kawaiisu language being more closely related to Ute-Southern Paiute, and Timbisha language being more closely related to Shoshone.

Northern Paiute

The Northern Paiute traditionally have lived in the Great Basin in eastern California, western Nevada, and southeast Oregon. The Northern Paiute’s pre-contact lifestyle was well adapted to the harsh desert environment in which they lived. Each tribe or band occupied a specific territory, generally centered on a lake or wetland that supplied fish and water-fowl. Rabbits and pronghorn were taken from surrounding areas in communal drives, which often involved neighboring bands. Individuals and families appear to have moved freely between bands. Pinyon nuts gathered in the mountains in the fall provided critical winter food. Grass seeds and roots were also important parts of their diet. The name of each band came from a characteristic food source. For example, the people at Pyramid Lake were known as the Cui Ui Ticutta (meaning “Cui-ui eaters”), the people of the Lovelock area were known as the Koop Ticutta, meaning “ground-squirrel eaters,” and the people of the Carson Sink were known as the Toi Ticutta, meaning “tule eaters.” The Kucadikadi of Mono County, California are the “brine fly eaters.” Relations among the Northern Paiute bands and their Shoshone neighbors were generally peaceful. In fact, there is no sharp distinction between the Northern Paiute and western Shoshone. Relations with the Washoe people, who were culturally and linguistically very different, were not so peaceful. Sustained contact between the Northern Paiute and Euro-Americans came in the early 1840s, although the first contact may have occurred as early as the 1820s. Although they had already started using horses, their culture was otherwise largely unaffected by European influences at that point. As Euro-American settlement of the area progressed, several violent incidents occurred, including the Pyramid Lake War of 1860, Owens Valley Indian War 1861-1864, Snake War 1864-1868 and the Bannock War of 1878. These incidents generally began with a disagreement between settlers and Paiutes (singly or in a group) regarding property, retaliation by one group against the other, and finally counter-retaliation by the opposite party, frequently culminating in the armed involvement of the U.S. Army. Many more Paiutes died from introduced diseases such as smallpox. Sarah Winnemucca’s book “Life Among the Piutes” gives a first-hand account of this period, although it is not considered to be wholly reliable. The first reservation established for the Northern Paiute was the Malheur Reservation in Oregon. The federal government’s intention was to concentrate the Northern Paiute there, but its strategy did not work. Because of the distance of that reservation from the traditional areas of most of the bands, and because of the poor conditions on that reservation, many Northern Paiute refused to go there, and those that did soon left. Instead they clung to the traditional lifestyle as long as possible, and when environmental degradation made that impossible, they sought jobs on white farms, ranches or cities and established small Indian colonies, where they were joined by many Shoshone and, in the Reno area, Washoe people. Later, large reservations were created at Pyramid Lake and Duck Valley, but by that time the pattern of small de facto reservations near cities or farm districts often with mixed Northern Paiute and Shoshone populations had been established. Starting in the early 20th century the federal government began granting land to these colonies, and under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 these colonies gained recognition as independent tribes.

Historic Northern Paiute tribes

Hunipuitöka (‘Hunipui-Root-Eaters’, often called Walpapi,lived along Deschutes River, Crooked River and John Day River in central Oregon, today known as Burns Paiute Tribe) Goyatöka (‘Crayfish-Eaters’, often called Yahuskin, also known as Upper Sprague River Snakes or even Upper Sprague River Klamath, lived along the shores of the Goose, Silver, Warner and Harney Lake, living along Sprague River in Oregon) Wadadökadö (Wada Ticutta, Wada-Tika – ‘Wada-Root -and Grass seed-Eaters’, today known as Burns Paiute, lived along the shores of Malheur Lake, between the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon and Payette Valley north of Boise, Idaho, as well as in the southern parts of the Blue Mountain in the vicinity of the headwaters of the Powder River, north of John Day River, southward to the desertlike surroundings of Steens Mountain) Koa’aga´itöka (‘salmon caught in traps-Eaters’, lived in the Snake River Plain) Tagötöka (Taga Ticutta – ‘Root-Tuber-Eaters’, literal ‘Eaters of the Root-Tuber of the desert parsley’, an edible plant, because powder biscuits were baked from it was also called biscuits roots, lived along Jordan River and Owyhee River in Oregon and Idaho) Tsösö’ödö tuviwarai (‘Those who live in the cold’, lived in the surroundings of Steens Mountain in Oregon) Kidütökadö (Gidu Ticutta – ‘Yellow-bellied marmot-Eaters’, also called Northern California Paiute, lived around Goose Lake, in Surprise Valley of northern California and Warner Valley in Oregon, and in the valley along the eastern mountains of the Warner Range along the Oregon-Nevada border to the south to Long Valley and the Lower Lake) Atsakudökwa tuviwarai (‘Those who live in the red mesas’, lived in the northwest of Nevadas along the Oregon-Nevada border in the Santa Rosa Mountains, north of the Slumbering Hills, west to the Jackson Mountains, northeast to Disaster Peak and east back to the Santa Rosa Mountains, Quinn River was the most important water resource, today known as Ft. McDermitt Tribe) Makuhadökadö (also called Pauida tuviwarai, lived around Battle Mountain and Unionville in Nevada, parts of the Humboldt Valleys, in the desert valleys of Buena Vista Valley, Pleasant Valley, Buffalo Valley as in the Sonoma and East Mountains) Moadökadö (Moa Ticutta – ‘Wild-Onion-Eaters’, also called Agaipaninadökadö / Agai Panina Ticutta – ‘Lake-Fish-Eaters’, lived around Summit Lake in Nevada and along the southern border of Idaho, east of the Kidütökadö, today known as Summit Lake Paiute Tribe) Sawawaktödö (‘Sagebrush-Eaters’, also called Sawakudökwa tuviwarai – ‘Sagebrush-Eaters, who live in the mountains’, lived in the Winnemucca area, from the Osgood Mountains and the Sonoma Mountains in the east to the Jachson Mountains in the west, from the Slumbering Hills and Santa Rosa Mountains in the north to Table Mountain in the south, now known as Winnemucca Tribe) Kamodökadö (Kama Ticutta – ‘Hare-Eaters’, lived north of Pyramid Lake in the Smoke Creek and Granite Creek deserts, today known as Yerington Paiute Tribe) Tasiget tuviwarai (‘Those who live amidst the mountains’, lived in Winnemucca Valley, today known as Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe) Kuyuidökadö (Cui Ui Ticutta – ‘Cui-Ui-Fish-Eaters’, lived along the shores of Pyramid Lake, today known as Pyramid Lake Paiute) Küpadökadö (Koop Ticutta – ‘Ground-squirrel-Eaters’, lived along the shores of Humboldt Lake, their territory in the east was limited by the Shoshone, including the Pahsupp Mountains Kamma Mountains and Majuba Mountains and the Humboldt River and Sink River, today known as Lovelock Paiute Tribe) Toedökadö (Toi Ticutta – ‘Broadleaf Cattail-Eaters’, ‘Tule-Eaters’, lived in the Carson Sink) Aga’idökadö (Agai Ticutta – ‘Cutthroat-Trout-Eater’, today known as Walker River Paiute) Pakwidökadö (Pugwi Ticutta – ‘Chub-Carp-Eaters’, today known as Walker River Paiute) Tövusidökadö (Tobusi Ticutta – ‘Pine-nut-Eaters’, lived in the mountain foothills of Nevada, today known as Yerington Paiute Tribe) Kutzadika’a (Ku Zabbi Ticutta – ‘Brine fly larvae Eaters’, derived from Kutsavi – ‘fly larvae’ and Dika’a – ‘Eaters’, also called Mono Lake Paiute or Western Mono, derived from Monoache – ‘Fly larvae-Eaters’ the designation of the Yokut for the Kutzadika’a) Onabedukadu (‘Salt-Eaters’, lived in California) Yamosöpö tuviwarai (Yamosopu Tuviwa ga yu – ‘Those, who live in Crescent Valley’, lived in Paradise Valley, which was called by them Crescent Valley, Nevada, as well as in the Santa Rosa Mountains and along the Little Humboldt, southward along the Oregon-Nevada border in the Osgoods Mountains, today known as Ft. McDermitt Tribe) Pogidukadu (Poo-zi Ticutta – ‘Onion-Eaters’, today known as Yerington Paiute Tribe)

Northern Paiute tribes

These are federally-recognized tribes with significant Northern Paiute populations: Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon – Burns, Oregon Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs – Warm Springs Indian Reservation (Oregon) Fort Bidwell Indian Community of the Fort Bidwell Reservation of California – Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation (California) Fort Hall Indian Reservation, Southeastern Idaho. Lemhi and Northern Shoshone tribes with the Paiute tribe, the Bannock Indians Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes of the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation – Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation (Nevada and Oregon) Klamath Tribes, includes the Yahooskin Band of Paiute – Chiloquin, Oregon Lovelock Paiute Tribe of the Lovelock Indian Colony – Lovelock, Nevada Paiute-Shoshone Tribe of the Fallon Reservation and Colony – Fallon, Nevada – (The Fallon Indian Reservation is also known as Stillwater) Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of the Pyramid Lake Reservation – Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation (Nevada) Reno-Sparks Indian Colony – Reno, Nevada Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation – Duck Valley Indian Reservation (Nevada) Summit Lake Paiute Tribe of Nevada – Summit Lake Indian Reservation (Nevada) Walker River Paiute Tribe of the Walker River Reservation – Walker River Indian Reservation (Nevada) Winnemucca Indian Colony of Nevada – Winnemucca, Nevada XL Ranch – Alturas, California Yerington Paiute Tribe of the Yerington Colony and Campbell Ranch – Yerington, Nevada Duck Valley Indian Reservation Owyhee County, Idaho Notable Northern Paiutes Nellie Charlie, basketweaver Egan, 19th c. warrior Chief Paulina, war leader, d. 1868 Tau-gu, late 19th c. chief Lucy Telles, award-winning basketweaver, ca. 1885–1955 Chief Tenaya, leader of the Ahwahnees Truckee, 17th/18th c. medicine chief Wahveveh, war chief, d. 1866 Chief Winnemucca, d. 1882 Sarah Winnemucca, ca. 1841-1891 Wovoka, prophet and founder of the Ghost Dance


Further information: Population of Native California Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber thought that the 1770 population of the Northern Paiute within California was 500. He estimated their population in 1910 as 300. Others put the total Northern Paiute population in 1859 at about 6,000. Owens Valley Paiute Owens Valley Paiute live on the California-Nevada border, near the Owens River on the eastern side of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Owens Valley and speak the Mono language.Their self-designation is Numa, meaning ‘People’ or Nün‘wa Paya Hup Ca’a‘ Otuu’mu – ‘Coyotes children living in the water ditch’


In the 1990s, approximately 2,500 Owens Valley Paiutes lived on reservations.

Owens Valley Paiute tribes

Big Pine Band of Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Indians of the Big Pine Reservation, Big Pine, California Bridgeport Paiute Indian Colony of California, Bridgeport, California Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians of the Fort Independence Reservation, Independence, California Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Lone Pine Community of the Lone Pine Reservation, Lone Pine, California Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony, Bishop, California Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe of the Benton Paiute Reservation, Benton, California.

Southern Paiute

The Southern Paiute traditionally lived in the Colorado River basin and Mojave Desert in northern Arizona and southeastern California including Owens Valley,southern Nevada and southern Utah. The Utah Paiutes were terminated in 1954 and regained federal recognition in 1980. Many of these Paiutes traded with coastal tribes; for example. tribes of the Owens Valley have been proven to trade with the Chumash of the Central Coast, based upon archaeological recovery at Morro Creek. A band of Southern Paiutes at Willow Springs and Navajo Mountain, south of the Grand Canyon, reside inside the Navajo Indian Reservation. These “San Juan” Paiutes were recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1980. First European contact with the Southern Paiutes occurred in 1776 when Fathers Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Domínguez chanced upon them during their failed attempt to find an overland route to the missions of California. Even before this date, the Southern Paiute suffered from slave raids by the Navajo and the Utes, but the introduction of Spanish and later Euroamerican explorers into their territory exacerbated the practice. In 1851, Mormon settlers strategically occupied Paiute water sources, which created a dependency relationship. However, the Mormon presence soon ended the slave raids, and relations between the Paiutes and the Mormons were basically peaceful. This was largely because of the diplomacy efforts of Mormon missionary Jacob Hamblin. But there is no doubt that the introduction of European settlers and agricultural practices (most especially large herds of cattle) made it difficult for the Southern Paiutes to continue their traditional lifestyle. Southern Paiute communities are located at Las Vegas, Pahrump, and Moapa, in Nevada; Cedar City, Kanosh, Koosharem, Shivwits, and Indian Peaks, in Utah; at Kaibab and Willow Springs, in Arizona; Death Valley and at the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation and on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in California. Some would include the 29 Palms Reservation in Riverside County, California.

Historic Southern Paiute tribes

Tudinu (‘Desert-People’, lived in the area of todays Las Vegas, Nevada, also known as Las Vegas Paiute) Indian Peak Band Cedar Band Kaivavwits (allgemein Kaibab genannt) Kaiparowits Koosharem Kumoits Kwiengomats Kwiumpats Matisabits Moapats Paguits Pahranagats (Pahranigats, lived in Pahrangat Valley and in the Pahroc Ridge) Paroosits Parumpats Pegesits San Juan Shivwits (She-bits, Sübü’ts, derived from Sipicimi – ‘East’ or Si-vints’ – ‘People, who live in the East’ , hunted and cultivated along the Santa Clara River and Virgin River in southwestern Utah) Tonoquints Uinkarets Chemehuevi (most warlike group of the Southern Paiutes, are now viewed as a group itself) Howaits (Hokwaits, lived in the Ivanpah Mountains, therefore called Ivanpah Mountain Group) Kauyaichits (lived in the area of Ash Meadows, therefore called Ash Meadows Group) Mokwats (lived in the Kingston Mountains, therefore called Kingston Mountain Group) Moviats (Movweats, lived on Cottonwood Island, therefore called Cottonwood Island Group) Palonies (span. ‘the bald-headed’ , traveled to the area north of Los Angeles) Shivawach (one group of them lived at Twentynine Palms, the second one in Chemehuevi Valley) Tümplsagavatsits (Timpashauwagotsits, lived in the Providence Mountains, therefore called Providence Mountain Group) Yagats (lived in the Amargosa Valley and along the Amargosa River, therefore called Amargosa River Group)

Southern Paiute tribes

Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians of the Kaibab Indian Reservation, Arizona – Kaibab Indian Reservation, Arizona Las Vegas Tribe of Paiute Indians of the Las Vegas Indian Colony – Las Vegas, Nevada Moapa Band of Paiute Indians of the Moapa River Indian Reservation – Moapa River Indian Reservation, Moapa, Nevada Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah – Cedar City, Utah Cedar City Band of Paiutes Kanosh Band of Paiutes Koosharem Band of Paiutes Indian Peaks Band of Paiutes Shivwits Band of Paiutes San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe of Arizona – Tuba City, Arizona

Notable Southern Paiutes

  • Tony Tillohash, linguist and politician

Pah Ute War

The Pah Ute War, also known as the Paiute War, was a minor series of raids and ambushes initiated by the Paiute and which had an effect on the development of the Pony Express. It took place from May through June 1860, though sporadic violence continued for a period afterward.

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