Goshute Tribe

Great Basin Indians Harvesting Wild Rice

The Goshute Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Goshute tribe were nomadic hunter gatherers who inhabited lands occupied by the Great Basin cultural group. The Goshute tribe suffered at the hands of the white slave traders, trappers, and early settlers. The neighbours of the Goshute tribe on the Great Plains included the Ute, Bannock, Navaho, Paiute, and the Shoshone tribes.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Goshute tribe?
The Goshute tribe were originally seed gathers, fishers, hunters, traders and from the Great Basin cultural group of Native Indians. The Goshutes lived in small family groups in small camps of grass houses or temporary wikiups. They spent most of their time gathering food. The tribe also dug the ground for roots and because of this were often referred to as the "Diggers" by the white settlers. The Goshute tribe lived in the desert regions southwest of the Great Salt Lake, particularly centered in Utah where they came into conflict with the Mormons. The tribe had a hard life due to the hostile desert area they inhabited with its limited natural resources. The Great Basin social and cultural patterns of the Goshute tribe were those of the non-horse bands. The Goshute tribe were highly skilled basket makers and wove the baskets so closely that they could contain the smallest of seeds and even hold water. Neighboring Native Indian tribes of the Goshute were the Bannock, Navaho, Paiute, Shoshone and the Ute. During the period of the American Civil War the Goshute tribe joined raids on the Pony Express routes, stagecoaches, wagon trains and cut telegraph lines.

What language did the Goshute tribe speak?
The Goshute tribe spoke in language, formerly called Plateau Shoshonean which was a division of the Uto-Aztecan language. In their own language the name Goshute is derived either from a leader named Goship or from Gutsipupiutsi, a word meaning "Desert People".

What did the Goshute tribe live?
The Goshute 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 Goshute tribe.

  • The Goshute tribe originally lived in the American Great Basin region but with the advent of the horse many migrated to the Great Plains

  • Tribal Territories of the Goshute:  Mainly Utah but also Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada

  • Land: Deserts, salt flats and brackish lakes

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

  • Animals: The  animals included deer, sheep, antelope, rabbits, hares, lizards and snakes. Fish was also available

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

What did the Goshute tribe eat?
The food that the Goshute 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, sandrice, Indian millet, and silkygrass. The seeds of rice grass were a staple food of Native American Indians, including the Goshute tribe, who lived in the Great Basin area.

Harvesting Wild Rice

What did the Goshute tribe live in?
Wikiups: The Great Basin Goshute 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 of the Goshute consisted of cone-shaped huts that were built using a frame of willow boughs and covered with reeds, branches and grass. The Goshute 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 added insulation. Occasionally these domed grass houses were built over a 2 - 3 foot foundation. Bark and sometimes earth was added to the Goshute grass house covering to keep out the cold.

What clothes did the Goshute tribe wear?
The clothes worn by the Great Basin Goshute men traditionally consisted of breechcloths or aprons made from sagebrush bark. In cold weather they wore twined bark leggings and poncho-like shirts. Goshute clothes were made from fibers harvested from sagebrush bark and tule (a type of bulrush). The fibers were dampened and then pummeled by the women of the Goshute tribe 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 Goshute tribe. The clothes worn by the Goshute women were knee length woven fiber aprons as a single front covering or double apron that covered the front and the back. The Goshute tribe clothing also included clothes made of buckskin if deer inhabited their regions. Goshute clothing for both the men and women was adorned with fringes and feathers and jewelry made from beads and shells. With the advent of the white traders, western clothes were then worn by the Goshute triibe. 

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

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

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

Goshute 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 Goshute tribe

  • 1598: The Spanish settle and trade is established with the tribe

  • 1781: Smallpox epidemic kills many people of the Goshute tribe

  • 1821: Spanish rule is replaced by Mexico and the Santa Fe trail opens

  • 1847: Mormons settled in the Great Salt Lake valley

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

  • 1853: The Walker War (18531854) with the Ute Indians begins over slavery among the Indians. Wakara (Walker) leads the Utes in Utah in a series of raids on Mormon settlements

  • 1854: The Ute War starts

  • 1861: The American Civil (1861 - 1865). During this time the Shoshone raided Pony Express routes, stagecoaches and wagon trains

  • 1862: Colonel Patrick Conner founded Fort Douglas Salt Lake City

  • 1863: October 12, Treaty of Tooele Valley

  • 1865: Ute Wars (1865 - 1872) broke out in Utah due to Mormon settlers taking over their lands

  • 1869: Union Pacific and Central Pacific transcontinental Railroad met at Promontory Point, Utah

  • 1912: Skull Valley Reservation established

What happened to the Goshute tribe?
There are now two bands of the Goshute Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation of Wendover that covers 112,870 acres, Utah/Nevada and the Skull Valley Band of Goshute located at Tooele County, at Skull Valley, Utah that covers 17,920 acres. 

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