Published on October 23, 2010 by John
The derivation of the Shoshone name, also spelled Shoshoni, both pronounced shuh-SHOW-nee, is unknown. Some tribal elders still write the name as Soshonies. The name is applied to a number of bands, spread over a vast area between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Based on dialect, lifeways, and history, the Shoshone are divided into three groups: the Western Shoshone in present-day central and eastern Nevada, eastern California, and northwestern Utah; the Northern Shoshone in present-day southeastern Idaho and northern Utah; and the Eastern Shoshone (who branched off from the Northern Shoshone) in present day western Wyoming. Some Shoshone groups also ranged into present-day western Montana.
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It is difﬁcult to place the Shoshone groups culturally. As a whole, they are placed by scholars in the Great Basin Culture Area (see GREAT BASIN INDIANS). The Great Basin is the vast, cupped desert area lying west of the Rocky Moutains and east of the Sierra Nevada, broken up by intermittent highlands. Native Americans living in this arid and barren environment foraged for scarce food, such as roots,nuts, seeds, lizards, insects, squirrels, and rabbits.
This foraging way of life was especially true of the Western Shoshone, who lived in primitive brush shelters, open at one end. The Goshute, or Gosiute, a band of Shoshone living along the desolate shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, were typical of this group. Their name indicates the ancestral relationship among the Shoshone, UTE, and PAIUTE. The Panamint (or Koso) Shoshone band in eastern California, living in one of the most extreme environments in all of North America—the Panamint Mountains and Death Valley—also were typical foragers.
The Northern Shoshone shared cultural traits with the PLATEAU INDIANS to their north, fishing in the Snake and other rivers for salmon and collecting wild roots.
The Eastern Shoshone hunted game on the forested slopes of the Grand Teton and Wind River Mountains,part of the Rocky Mountain chain in present-day Wyoming. And with the acquisition of the horse in the late 1600s, the Eastern Shoshone gained greater mobility in their hunting. The pronghorn antelope was a favorite game for meat and hides, as was the buffalo. The Eastern Shoshone came to live in tipis like the PLAINS INDIANS east of the Rocky Mountains. They were traditional enemies of the ARAPAHO and BLACKFEET, living to their east.
Source: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES by CARL WALDMAN