Piute Indians Essay

This essay has a total of 1166 words and 9 pages.

Piute Indians



The Paiutes, or Piutes (pronounced PIE-oot), included many different bands, spread out
over a vast region. They are recognized as some of the North American Indian tribes. They
are usually organized into two groups for study: the Northern Paiutes and the Southern
Paiutes. The northern branch occupied territory that is now northwestern Nevada,
southeastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho, and northeastern California. The southern branch
lived in territory now part of western Utah, southern Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and
southeastern California.


The Northern and Southern Paiutes spoke varying dialects of the Uto-Aztecan language
family, related to the Shoshone dialect. The name Paiute is thought to mean “true Ute” or
“Water Ute,” also indicating and ancestral relationship with the Ute Indians of Utah. The
Paiute, are one of the best-known peoples of the Intermountain Great Basin area.


Some Paiutes were nomadic, moving from place to place in search of game and wild plant
foods. For the Paiute bands, their activities and whereabouts in the course of a year were
dictated by the availability of food. They traveled a great deal, constructing temporary
huts of brush and reeds strewn over willow poles, known as wickiups, which were similar to
Apache dwellings. The first plant food available in the springtime was the cattail
growing in marsh ponds. The Indians ate the shoots raw. Other wild plant foods--roots
and greens--soon followed. Spring was also a good time to hunt ducks in ponds on the
birds’ migration northward, and, in the highlands to the north the Great Basin, to fish
the rivers and streams during annual spawning runs.


In summertime, many more wild plant foods ripened, such as berries and rice grass. The
Indians ground the seeds of the latter into meal. In the autumn, the primary food was
pine nuts. The Indians collected them from pinon trees growing on the hills and plateaus
rising above the Great Basin. In the late fall, the Indians returned to the desert
lowlands to hunt game throughout the winter, especially rabbits. Year-round, Paiutes ate
whatever else they could forage, such as lizards, grubs, and insects. The Paiutes, along
with other Great Basin tribes, have been called Digger Indians by whites because they dug
for many of their foods.


The Northern Paiutes, who occupied areas of California, Nevada, and Oregon in the 19th
century, were friendly with American settlers until the gold rush began in 1848. At first,
in contacts with fur trappers and traders, such as Jedehiah Smith in 1825, Peter Skene
Ogden in 1827, and Joseph Walker in 1833, the Northern Paiutes were friendly. With large
numbers of prospectors entering their land and disrupting their way of life, the Indians
turned hostile. They played a prominent role in wars such as the Coeur d’ Alene war of
1858-59, the Snake War in 1866-67, and the Bannock War of 1878. They fought with the
invaders a number of times until 1874, when the last Paiute lands were taken by the U.S.
government.


The Paiutes had great chiefs that led them through wars and conflicts. Some of the names
include Paulina and Old Weawea. They were from two Northern Paiute bands called the Snake
warriors. Chief Buffalo Horn, Chief Egan, a medicine man Oytes, Wovoka (also known as
Jack Wilson), and Tavibo.





The Southern Paiutes, who lived in parts of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California, had
relatively little conflict with settlers and remained peaceful. The Southern Paiutes were
indirectly involved in a conflict in 1888. In 1990, 11,142 people in the U.S., living
mainly on reservations in Nevada and California, claimed Paiute ancestry.


A Paiute from Nevada by the name of Wovoka founded a religion called the Ghost Dance. He
was the son of another mystic, Tavibo, and was affected by his father’s teachings. Wovoka
experienced a vision during an eclipse of the sun and afterward began preaching that the
earth would soon perish, then come alive again in a natural state with lush prairie grass
and huge herds of buffalo. There would be more whites. The Indians, as well as their
dead ancestors, would inherit this new world.


Wovoka believed that in order to bring about this new existence, Indians had to purge
themselves of the white man’s ways, especially alcohol, and live together harmoniously.
He also called for meditation, prayer, chanting, and most of all dancing. He claimed that
Indians could catch a glimpse of this future paradise by performing the Ghost Dance.


The Ghost Dance religion spread to tribes all over the West, especially Arapahos,
Shoshones, and Sioux. Some of the Sioux medicine men called for violence against the
whites, claiming that magical Ghost Dance Shirts could protect the Indians from the
soldiers’ bullets. This new found faith and militancy led up to the massacre of Indians
by whites at Wounded Knee in 1890.


They were simple people as were their native arts. Paiutes traded blankets and baskets
with other native american tribes.
Continues for 5 more pages >>




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