Shoshone Tribe

Shoshone Tribe meets Captain Lewis

The Shoshone Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Shoshone tribe were originally nomadic hunter gatherers who inhabited lands occupied by the Great Basin cultural group. With the advent of the horse the tribe split with many migrating to the Plains and the horse riding and buffalo hunting culture. The most famous Shoshone was Sacajawea who acted as a guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The names of famous leaders of the tribe included Chief Pocatello, Chief Little Soldier, Chief Bear Hunter and Chief Washakie

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Shoshone tribe?
The Shoshone tribe were originally hunters, fishers and seed gathers from the Great Basin cultural group of Native Indians who were closely related to the Northern Paiute people. The Great Basin social and cultural patterns were those of the non-horse bands. These people were highly skilled basket makers and wove the baskets so closely that they would hold the finest seeds. With the introduction of the horse the tribe migrated to many different areas and adopted different life styles and cultures.

  • Western Shoshones, the bands west of the Rockies lived in grass huts, gathered rice and hunted fish, birds, and rabbits

  • The Eastern Shoshones and Northern Shoshones adopted the lifestyle of the Plains, hunting buffalo and living in tepees

For full details of the lifestyle, clothes and grass houses of the Great Basin Shoshone refer to the article on the Bannock Tribe. For information about the lifestyle of the Plains Native Indians, their clothes and their tepees refer to the Kiowa Tribe. The Shoshone began to have extensive contact with white Americans when the Mormons settled at Salt Lake.

Who were the most famous chiefs of the Shoshone tribe? The Shoshone Wars
The most famous leaders and chiefs of the Shoshone tribe included Chief Cameahwait, Chief Pocatello, Chief Little Soldier, Chief Bear Hunter and Chief Washakie. The most famous Native Indian of the Northern Shoshone was Sacajawea who acted as a guide and translator for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Shoshone tribe were allied to the Bannock, Crow, Pawnee and Ute tribes. Their mutual enemies were the Arapaho, Sioux and the Cheyenne tribes. During the Civil War the Shoshone raided Pony Express routes, stagecoaches, wagon trains and cut telegraph lines. In 1863 the Shoshone Tribe were defeated at the battle on the Bear River at Bear Hunter's village in which the Shoshone lost 224 people. The Snake War (18641868) then erupted. After these defeats, the Shoshone resistance to the white invaders crumbled.

What language did the Shoshone tribe speak?
The Shoshone tribe spoke in language, formerly called Plateau Shoshonean which was a division of the Uto-Aztecan language. In their own language the name Shoshone was 'Newi' which meant the People. Shoshones who inhabited the Snake River area in Idaho were called the "Snake People" by the whites.

Shoshone Cultural Groups
The Shoshone were originally people of the Great Basin Native American cultural group. The Shoshone tribe originally lived in the American Great Basin region but with the advent of the horse many migrated to the Great Plains.

  • The location of their homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Shoshone tribe

  • The Tribal Territories of the Shoshone included Idaho, Utah, Nevada, California and Montana

The Shoshone tribe of the Great Basin
The Great Basin with its very hot summers, cold winters and very low levels of rainfall resulted in desolate and difficult living conditions in which the people had to work hard to survive due to limited resources. The Western Shoshone lived in desolate environments. The Goshute band lived on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the Panamint lived in California's Death Valley.

  • Food: The food of the Great Basin Shoshone tribe consisted of rice, pine nuts, seeds, berries, nuts, roots etc. Fish and small game was also available and Indian rice grass was harvested

  • Shelter: The temporary shelters of the Great Basin Shoshone tribe were grass houses or a simple form of lean-to made of sagebrush and willow called wikiups. Their more permanent form of shelter in the winter were grass houses

  • Clothes: The Great Basin Shoshones wore clothes made of twined sagebrush bark with robes typically made of rabbit furs

  • Weapons: The weapons used by the Great Basin Shoshone tribe were primitive and included bows and arrows, stone knifes, spears, rabbit sticks and digging sticks

The Shoshone tribe of the Plains
The migration of the Shoshone 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 people of the Shoshone tribe changed from nomadic fishers, and 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 Shoshone changed accordingly.

  • Food: The food of the Plains Shoshone 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 Shoshone tribe were tepees, tent-like shelters constructed from wooden poles that were covered with buffalo hides

  • Culture: The Shoshone tribe adopted a warrior-like culture

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

  • Weapons: Their range of weapons were extended to include lances and spears, hatchets and axes together with the use of shields

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

Shoshone 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 Shoshone tribe

  • 1637: It was about this time that the Shoshone tribe acquired their first horses

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

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

  • 1781: Smallpox epidemic kills many people

  • 1805: The Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the region and are joined by the Shoshone woman Sacajawea who acted as a guide and translator

  • 1825: Mountain man Jedediah Smith (January 6, 1799 May 27, 1831) established trade relations with the Shoshone tribe and establishes the first Rocky Mountain rendezvous (1825 - 1840) at Green River in Wyoming

  • 1841-1869: The Oregon Trail invades the homelands of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes

  • 1847: Mormons settled in the Great Salt Lake valley

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

  • 1855: The Treaty of Hellgate signed on August 7, 1855. First treaty with the western Shoshone

  • 1857: Comstock Lode major silver discovery in Nevada (then Utah)

  • 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: January 29, 1863 Bear River Massacre. Campaign lead by Colonel Patrick Conner. Shoshone defeated with 224 Native Indians killed

  • 1862: U.S. Congress passes Homestead Act opening the Great Plains to settlers

  • 1863: Full scale war in the Great Plains by an alliance of Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa and Comanche

  • 1863: Treaty of Peace and Friendship made with the Shoshone at Ruby Valley, in the Territory of Nevada

  • 1864: The Snake War (18641868) was fought by the U.S. army against the "Snake Indians" which was the settlers term for Northern Paiute, Bannock and Western Shoshone bands who lived along the Snake River. Fighting took place in Oregon, Nevada, and California, and Idaho

  • 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

  • 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes who are assigned to reservations

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

  • 1876: The Eastern Shoshone allied themselves with the whites and helped them fight the Sioux in the Battle of the Rosebud

  • 1878: Bannock War erupts 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 of Bannock and Shoshone Native Indians

  • 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

  • 1896: April 21, 1896 the Shoshone and Arapahoe tribes signed an agreement for the sale of the Owl Creek or Big Horn Hot Spring

  • 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

  • The Shoshone tribe have reservations in California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

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