Bannock Tribe

Bannock Native American Indian Tribe by a Wikiup Brush Shelter

The Bannock Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Bannock tribe were nomadic hunter gatherers who inhabited lands occupied by the Great Basin cultural group. The tribe fought in the 1878 Bannock and the Sheepeater Wars. The names of the most famous chief of the Bannock tribe was Chief Buffalo Horn.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Bannock tribe?
The Bannock tribe called themselves the Panati and were closely related to the Northern Paiute people. The Bannock tribe were originally hunters, traders and seed gathers from the Great Basin cultural group of Native Indians. The Great Basin social and cultural patterns were those of the non-horse bands often referred to as the Desert Culture. These people were highly skilled basket makers and wove the baskets so closely that they would hold the finest seeds and even water.  When they acquired the horse they moved to the hospitable lands and adopted the customs and culture of the Plains tribes.

Where did the Bannock tribe live?
The Bannock are people of the Great Basin Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Bannock tribe.

  • The Bannock tribe originally lived in the American Great Basin region

  • Tribal Territories:  Southeastern Idaho, southeastern Oregon, western Wyoming, and southwestern Montana.

  • Land: Deserts, salt flats and brackish lakes

  • Climate: Very hot summers and cold winters with very low levels of rainfall

  • Wildlife: The  animals included deer, sheep, antelope, rabbits, hares and snakes. Fish were also available

  • Natural resources: pine nuts, seeds, berries, nuts, roots, leaves, stalks and bulbs. Indian rice grass was harvested

What did the Bannock tribe eat?
The food that the Bannock tribe ate included Indian rice grass, also known as sandgrass, Indian millet, sandrice and silkygrass.  Rice grass occurs naturally on coarse, sandy soils in the arid lands throughout the Great Basin. Other common names are sandgrass, Indian millet, sandrice and silkygrass. The nutritious seeds of rice grass were a staple food of Native American Indians who lived in the Great Basin area.

Harvesting Wild Rice

What did the Bannock tribe live in?
Wikiups: The Great Basin Bannock tribe lived in temporary shelters of windbreaks in the summer or flimsy huts covered with rushes or bunches of grass called wikiups. The materials used were sagebrush, willow, branches, leaves, and grass (brush) that were available in their area. 

Grass Houses: The more permanent winter homes consisted of cone-shaped huts that were built using a frame of willow boughs and covered with reeds, branches and grass. The grass house was rounded at the base and at the top of the dome was an open smoke hole. Rocks were piled around the base of the grass house for additional insulation. Occasionally these domed grass houses were built over a 2 - 3 foot foundation. Bark and sometimes earth was added to the hut covering in order to keep out the cold.

What clothes did the Great Basin Bannock tribe wear?
The clothes worn by the Great Basin Bannock men traditionally consisted of breechcloths or aprons made from sagebrush bark. In cold weather twined bark leggings and poncho like shirts were also worn. Fibers used to make Bannock clothes were harvested from sagebrush bark and tule (a type of bulrush). The fibers were dampened and then pummeled until they could be woven or twined. Robes, or cloaks, were made from furs, especially rabbit fur, for added warmth. Trade with the white settlers also provided blankets for the tribe. The clothes worn by the women of the Bannock tribe wore knee length woven fiber aprons as a single front covering or double apron that covered the front and the back. The clothes worn by the Bannock tribe also included clothing made of buckskin if deer inhabited their regions. Bannock clothing for both the men and women was adorned with fringes and feathers and jewelry made from beads and shells.

What weapons did the Great Basin Bannock tribe use?
The weapons used by the Bannock tribe were primitive and included bows and arrows, stone knifes, spears, rabbit sticks and digging sticks.

What were the rituals and ceremonies of the Bannock tribe?
The rituals and ceremonies of the Bannock tribe and many other Great Basin Native Indians included the Bannock Bear Dance and the Sun Dance which first emerged in the Great Basin, as did the Paiute Ghost Dance. Another important ceremony was the Round Dance which was associated with the pinyon (pine nut) harvest and performed for increasing the food supply and bringing rain. Tricksters also feature in the legends and mythology of the Great Basin peoples as do heroic figures or "transformers" who transform, or change, the world into its present state.

The Bannock tribe
The migration of the Bannock Tribe from the harsh conditions in the Great Basin required a totally different lifestyle to suit the climate and natural resources of the area. The lives of the Bannock tribe changed from nomadic seed gathers to hunter gatherers who followed the great herds of buffalo. The buffalo was the main source of subsistence on the Plains and the food, weapons, houses and style of clothes worn by the Bannock tribe changed accordingly.

  • Food: The food of the Bannock tribe was predominantly buffalo but also they also hunted deer, elk, bear and wild turkey. Their diet was supplemented with roots and wild fruit and vegetables

  • Shelter: The shelters of the Bannock tribe were tepees, tent-like shelters constructed from wooden poles that were covered with buffalo hides

  • Clothes: The Bannock Breechcloths, fringed buckskin tunics or shirts and leggings with warm buffalo robes to protect against the rain and the cold

Who were the most famous leaders and chiefs of the Bannock tribe?
The most famous leader and chief of the Bannock tribe was Chief Buffalo Horn.

Bannock History Timeline: What happened to the Bannock tribe?
The following history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Nation. The Bannock timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Bannock History Timeline

  • 1000: Woodland Period including the Adena and Hopewell cultures established along rivers in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States which included trade exchange systems

  • 1580: The Spanish make the first white contact with the Bannock tribe

  • 1700's: The Bannock tribe travel south to the Snake River plain of present-day Idaho,and form an alliance with the Shoshone tribe

  • 1700's: During the late 1700's the tribe acquired horses and migrated to Colorado, Utah, Montana and Oregon and adopt the culture of the Great Plains tribes

  • 1781: Smallpox epidemic kills many people

  • 1805: The Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the country but were warned that the tribe were hostile to the whites

  • 1829: Mountain man Jim Bridger (March 17, 1804 July 17, 1881 established trade relations with the Bannock

  • 1847: Mormons settled in the Great Salt Lake valley

  • 1848: Outbreak of a series of devastating cholera and smallpox epidemic

  • 1869: Fort Hall Reservation established in the U.S. state of Idaho

  • 1878: Bannock War between the U.S. army and the Bannock, led by Chief Buffalo in Southern Idaho and Northern Nevada

  • 1878: The Sheepeater War. The 'Sheepeaters' were members of the Bannock and Shoshone tribes who migrated north to the Salmon River Mountains in Idaho and hunted mountain sheep as their main food

  • 1878: The 'Sheepeaters' were moved to Fort hall Reservation with the Bannock and Shoshone

  • 1887: Dawes General Allotment Act passed by Congress leads to the break up of the large Indian Reservations and the sale of Indian lands to white settlers

  • 1911: Battle of Kelley Creek in Nevada. A small group of Bannock and Shoshone killed four men in an incident known as the Last Massacre. They were followed by a posse to Kelley Creek. 9 people were killed

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