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"Shoshone" redirects here. For other uses, see Shoshone (disambiguation).

The Shoshone or Shoshoni (/) are an indigenous people of the Great Basin with three large divisions:

They traditionally speak the Shoshoni language, part of the Numic languages branch of the large Uto-Aztecan language family. The Shoshone were sometimes called the Snake Indians by neighboring tribes and early European-Americans.[1]


The name "Shoshone" comes from Sosoni, a Shoshone word for high-growing grasses. Some neighboring tribes call the Shoshone "Grass House People," based on their traditional homes made from soshoni'. Shoshones called themselves Newe, meaning "People."[1]

Meriwether Lewis recorded the tribe as the "Sosonees or snake Indians" in 1805.[1]


The Shoshone language is spoken by approximately 5,000 people today.[1] It is one of the Uto-Aztecan languages, spoken by numerous peoples ranging from the Great Basin to coastal Southern California in present-day United States, and down through central, western and southern Mexico; into Central America and South America.

Shoshone is a Shoshoni-Goshiute language, belong to the Central Numic language family and is primarily spoken on the Fort Hall Reservation and northeastern Nevada. Shoshone has two dialects: Gosiute, spoken in western Utah, and Northern Shoshone, spoken on the Wind River Reservation.[2]

Children speak the language on the Duck Valley and Goshute Reservations. The Idaho State University has Shoshone language classes.[2]


The Shoshone are indigenous peoples of the Great Basin, who had been in the territory for thousands of years. Ancestral Shoshone people are called the Numa, and lived primarily in Nevada and Utah, with some in Idaho and Wyoming.[1]

Shoshone people established seasonal villages as high as 10,000 feet in elevation in the Wind River Range, dating from 700 to 2000 BCE. These were used during piñon nut harvesting season. One, dubbed "High Rise", has 60 lodges over a space of 26 acres and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

By 1500 CE, some Eastern Shoshone had crossed the Rocky Mountains into the Great Plains. After 1750, warfare and pressure from the Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho pushed Eastern Shoshone south and westward. Some of them moved as far south as Texas, to become the Comanche by 1700.[1]

As more European-American settlers migrated west, tensions rose with the indigenous people. There were wars throughout the second half of the 19th century. The Northern Shoshone, led by Chief Pocatello, fought during the 1860s with settlers in Idaho (where a city was named for him). As more settlers encroached on Shoshone hunting territory, the natives raided farms and ranches for food, and attacked migrants. The warfare resulted in the Bear River Massacre (1863), when US forces trapped and murdered an estimated 350–500 Northwestern Shoshone, including women and children, who were at their winter encampment. This was the highest number of deaths which the Shoshone suffered by the forces of the United States.

Allied with the Bannock, to whom they were related, the Shoshone fought against the United States in the Snake War from 1864–1868. They fought US forces together in 1878 in the Bannock War. In 1876, by contrast, the Shoshone fought alongside the U.S. Army in the Battle of the Rosebud, as it was against their traditional enemies, the Lakota and Cheyenne.

In 1879 a band of approximately 300 Eastern Shoshones (known as "Sheepeaters") was involved in the Sheepeater Indian War. It was the last Indian war fought in the Pacific Northwest region of the present-day United States.

In 1911 a small group of Bannock under a leader named Mike Daggett, also known as "Shoshone Mike" killed four ranchers in Washoe County, Nevada.[4] The settlers formed a Posse and went out after the Native Americans. They caught up with the band on February 26, 1911 and killed eight. They lost one man of the posse, Ed Hogle.[5] The posse captured three children and a woman. The partial remains of three adult males, two adult females, two adolescent males, and three children, believed to be Shoshone Mike and his family, according to contemporary accounts, were donated by a rancher to the Smithsonian Institution for study. In 1994, the institution repatriated the remains to the Fort Hall Idaho Shoshone-Bannock Tribe.[6]

In 2008, the Northwestern Shoshone acquired the site of the Bear River Massacre and some surrounding land. They wanted to protect the holy land and build a memorial to the massacre, the largest their nation had suffered. "In partnership with the American West Heritage Center and state leaders in Idaho and Utah, the tribe has developed public/private partnerships to advance tribal cultural preservation and economic development goals." They have become a leader in developing tribal renewable energy.[7]

Historic population

In 1845 the estimated population of Northern and Western Shoshone was 4,500, much reduced after they had suffered infectious disease epidemics and warfare. The completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 was followed by Euro-American immigrants arriving in unprecedented numbers in the territory.

In 1937 the Bureau of Indian Affairs counted 3,650 Northern Shoshone and 1,201 Western Shoshone. As of the 2000 census, there were 12,000 Shoshone.


Shoshone people are divided into traditional bands based both on their geographic homelands and primary food sources. These include:

  • Eastern Shoshone people:
  • Northern Shoshone people:
  • Agaideka, Salmon Eaters, Lemhi, Snake River and Lemhi River Valley[9][10][9]
  • Doyahinee', Mountain people[1]
  • Kammedeka, Kammitikka, Jack Rabbit Eaters, Snake River, Great Salt Lake[9]
  • Hukundüka, Porcupine Grass Seed Eaters, Wild Wheat Eaters, possibly synonymous with Kammitikka[9][11]
  • Tukudeka, Dukundeka', Sheep Eaters (Mountain Sheep Eaters), Sawtooth Range, Idaho[10][9]
  • Yahandeka, Yakandika, Groundhog Eaters, lower Boise, Payette, and Wiser Rivers[10][9]
  • Western Shoshone people:
  • Cedar Valley Goshute
  • Deep Creek Goshute
  • Rush Valley Goshute
  • Skull Valley Goshute, Wipayutta, Weber Ute[11]
  • Toole Valley Goshute
  • Trout Creek Goshute[11]
  • Kuyatikka, Kuyudikka, Bitterroot Eaters, Halleck, Mary's River, Clover Valley, Smith Creek Valley, Nevada[11]
  • Mahaguadüka, Mentzelia Seed Eaters, Ruby Valley, Nevada[11]
  • Painkwitikka, Penkwitikka, Fish Eaters, Cache Valley, Idaho and Utah[11]
  • Pasiatikka, Redtop Grass Eaters, Deep Creek Gosiute, Deep Creek Valley, Antelope Valley[11]
  • Tipatikka, Pinenut Eaters, northernmost band[11]
  • Tsaiduka, Tule Eaters, Railroad Valley, Nevada[11]
  • Tsogwiyuyugi, Elko, Nevada[11]
  • Waitikka, Ricegrass Eaters, Ione Valley, Nevada[11]
  • Watatikka, Ryegrass Seed Eaters, Ruby Valley, Nevada[11]
  • Wiyimpihtikka, Buffalo Berry Eaters[11]

Reservations and Indian colonies

Notable Shoshone people

See also



Further reading

External links

  • Northern Shoshoni treaties
  • Ely Shoshone Reservation
  • Goshute Indian Reservation
  • Great Basin Indian Archives
  • Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
  • Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada
  • Timbisha Tribe of the Western Shoshone Nation
  • U.S. Treaty with the Western Shoshone 1863, Ruby Valley
  • Western Shoshone Defense Project
  • The Sheepeaters
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