Published on February 24, 2012 by Amy
Paiute. A term involved in great confusion. In common usage it has been applied at one time or another to most of the Shoshonean tribes of west Utah, northern Arizona, southern Idaho, eastern Oregon, Nevada, and eastern and southern California. The generally accepted idea is that the term originated from the word pah, ‘water,’ and Ute, hence ‘water Ute’ ; or from pai, ‘true,’ and Ute—’true Ute’; but neither of these interpretations is satisfactory. Powell states that the name properly belongs exclusively to the Corn Creek tribe of south west Utah, but has been extended to include many other tribes. In the present ease the term is employed as a convenient divisional name for the tribes occupying south west Utah from about the locality of Beaver, the south west part of Nevada, and the north west part of Arizona, excluding the Chemehuevi.
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With regard to the Indians of Walker River and Pyramid Lake reservations, who constitute the main body of those commonly known as Paiute, Powell claims that they are not Paiute at all, but another tribe which he calls Paviotso. He says: “The names by which the tribes are known to white men and the department give no clue to the relationship of the Indians. For example, the Indians in the vicinity of the reservation on the Muddy and the Indians on the Walker River and Pyramid Lake reservations are called Pai or Pair Utes, but the Indians know only those on the Muddy by that name, while those on the other two reservations are known as Paviotsoes, and speak a very different language, but closely allied to, if not identical with, that of the Bannocks” (Powell and Ingalls in Ind. Alf. Rep. 1873). The Indians of Walker River and Pyramid lake claim the Bannock as their cousins, and say that they speak the same language. The different small bands have little political coherence, and there is no recognized head-chief. The most influential chiefs among them in modern times have been Winnemucca, who died a few years ago, and Natchez. As a rule they have been peaceable and friendly toward the whites, although in the early sixties they several times came into collision with miners and emigrants, hostility being frequently provoked by the whites themselves.
The northern Paiute were more warlike than those of the south, and a considerable number of them took part with the Bannock in the war of 1878. Owing to the fact that the great majority of the Paiute (including the Paviotso) are not on reservations, many of them being attached to the ranches of white men, it is impossible to determine their population, but they may be safely estimated at from 6,500 to 7,000. In 1906 those on reservations all Nevada were reported to number, at Walker River res., 486; at Moapa reservation, 129; at Pyramid Lake reservation, 554; at Duck Valley (Western Shoshoni agency), 267; not under an agency (1900), 3,700. In Utah there were 76 Kaibab, 154 Shivwits, and 370 Paiute not under an agency; in Arizona, 350 Paiute under the Western Nevada School Superintendent.
As a people the Paiute are peaceable, moral, and industrious, and are highly commended for their good qualities by those who have had the best opportunities for judging. While apparently not as bright in intellect as the prairie tribes, they appear to possess more solidity of character. By their willingness and efficiency as workers they have made themselves necessary to the white farmers and have been enabled to supply thenselves with good clothing and many of the comforts of life, while on the other hand they have steadily resisted the vices of civilization, so that they are spoken of by one agent as presenting the “singular anomaly” of improvement by contact with the whites. Another authority says: “To these habits and excellence of character may be attributed the fact that they are annually increasing in numbers, and that they are strong, healthy, active people. Many of them are employed as laborers on the farms of white men in all seasons, but they are especially serviceable during the time of harvesting and haymaking.” Aside from their earnings among the whites, they derive subsistence from the fish of the lakes, jackrabbits and small game of the sage plains and mountains, and from piñon nuts and other seeds, which they grind into flour for bread. Their ordinary dwelling is the wikiup, or small rounded hut, of tule rushes over a framework of poles, with the ground for a floor and the fire in the center, and almost entirely open at the top. Strangely enough, although appreciating the advantages of civilization so far as relates to good clothing and to such food as they can buy at the stores, they manifest no desire to live in permanent houses or to procure the furniture of civilization, and their wikiups are almost bare of everything excepting a few wicker or grass baskets of their own weaving.