Paiute (sometimes written as Piute) is the name given to two related groups of native Americans — the Northern Paiute of California, Nevada and Oregon, and the Southern Paiute who originate in the modern day states of Arizona, southeastern California and Nevada, and Utah. The web page Paiute says that the southern group moved in California in about 1100 C. E. The name may mean either Water Ute or True Ute. Members of both groups speak languages which belong to the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan family of Native American languages.
Other people groups, namely the Bannock, Mono, Timbisha and Kawaiisu peoples, also speak Numic languages and live in adjacent areas, so they too are sometimes referred to as Paiute, though in some cases are more closely related genetically to the Shoshone people. Powell and Ingalls, in their Ind Alf. Rep. , 1873 said that the name originally belonged to only one group, those from Corn Creek in Utah, but was gradually extended to other bands.
The group generally known as the northern Paiutes are closer in relationship to the Shoshone than they are to Southern Paiutes and the southern group are closer to the Utes than to the northern Paiutes.
It is in language and customs that they are most closely alike. Ethnologue . com reports that the language of the Northern Paiute, alternately called Paviotso, is spoken over a distance of about 1000 miles although each reservation, there are twenty, tends to have its own dialect. There are about 1,600 speakers out of a population of 6,000, most of these speakers being older people. The group have several names. The Northern group call themselves Numa or Numu while those in the south refer to themselves as Nuwuvi.
These terms have an identical meaning , “the people. ” The northern people are on occasions called Paviotso. There was contact between early Spanish explorers and some Southern Paiute who called them the “Payuchi” (they did not make contact with the Northern Paiute). Other early settlers referred to both groups as ‘Diggers’, now thought of as a derogatory term, but which referred to the people’s practice of digging up roots. Life styles Before other settlers arrived in their areas the people of the north existed in their desert environment.
Each smaller band had a specific territory which generally centered on an area of lake or other wetland that ensured a supply of both fish and water-fowl says one web page, but the web page Paiute says definatively that the northern group did not eat fish. Food gathering tended to follow a seasonal pattern, including trading with coastal groups by Southern Paiutes. Communal drives in conjuction with neighbouring bands were the means of hunting animals such as mountain sheep, rabbits and the larger pronghorns, a form of antelope.
There seems to have been quite free movement of individuals and families between the various bands. Pinyon nuts, a form of pine nut were gathered on mountain trips in the fall. Pinon nuts have outstanding nutritional value, supplying all amino acids and various vitamins and compare well with pecans, peanuts, and walnuts. They supply all amino acids and provide significant amounts of vitamin A, and have been likened to soya beans as an important food source according to the ‘Goods From The Woods’ web pages.
The seeds of wild grasses, berries and other fruit and vegetables such as musk melons, beans, tubers and roots were also food sources. Important implements were a grinding stone and hand stone ( metate and mano) and these were used to crush seeds and make a paste which could be cooked as shown on the Surweb site page Paiute People of Southern Utah. Cultivation was in the hands of the women who created irrigation channels using sticks as digging tools.
Each band came from a characteristic food source, the people of the Lovelock area for instance being known as the Koop Ticutta or Eaters of Ground Squirrel. Michael Hittman, in his 1996 book, “Corbett Mack, the Life of a Northern Pauitr, mentions, ( page 2) the Tabooseedokado or ‘Grass Nut Eaters’ of Smith and Mason valleys, Nevada In the fall the various groups would gather together for dances, ceremonies and marriages, the latter not being marked by any ceremony, but was simply the setting up of a household jointly.
Edward Curtis in his book ‘the North American Indian, (Volume 15, page 66) describes dances both for amusement and as a prelude to war. He describes the war dancers as wearing head dresses of eagle feathers and kilts of cords including downy feathers Although monogamy was the most usual form of marriage variants such as sororal polygamy i. e. one man marrying a groups of sisters, as is sometimes the pattern among Mormons, and polyandry, which is when one woman has several husbands, also took place according to Ronald Host in the Utah History Encyclopedia.
Houses were of the most basic kind, because the bands moved frequently, and little clothing was worn, but blankets made of rabbit fur were used according to Spartacus Educational. Contacts with Settlers Although the first contact with westerners may have taken place in the 1820s, really sustained contact between the Northern Paiute and Euro-Americans did not occur until 1840s. At that point the native culture was not particularly influenced by the settlers except that they began to use horses. Large numbers however fell victim to smallpox brought to them by infected settlers.
However there were some bands in the south who remained more or less in their pristine, pre-settlement state until the1870’s having acces to neither guns nor horses according to S. G. Ellsworth. in ‘the New Utah Inheritance’. In 1851, Mormon settlers began to occupy Paiute water sources. Relations between the Paiutes and the Mormons were on the whole peaceful, mainly because of the efforts of Mormon leader Jacob Hamblin. In 1854, Brigham Young had sent Jacob Hamblin and others to open the Santa Clara Region. The goal was to befriend the Indians and eventually convert them to Mormonism.
Hamlin believed that if he never killed Indians, they would kill him Hamblin, together with some Paiutes, was able to establish a settlement near the Santa Clara River where dams were built in order to irrigate the area on a much larger scale than previously according to the Surweb site. There were a number of violent disputes between the natives and settlers such as the Pyramid Lake War of 1860 and the Bannock War of 1878. Such incidents in general began with disagreements between settlers and Paiutes about property.
Such disputes would escalate until they required the involvement of the military. European contact with the Southern Paiutes happened first 1776 when Roman Catholic missionaries Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Dominguez came across them while seeking an overland route to the Spanish missions in California. They reported seeing beard men and much later photographs were taken showing bearded Paiutes by John Hilliers, as can be seen on the Surweb page ‘ The Paiute People of Southern Utah’. Between 1854 and 1858 the Mormons tried hard to convert the Paiutes to their beliefs.
The two sides on occasions worked together in negative ways as when, in 1857 A mixed group of Mormon militia and Paiutes attacked and killed a group of migrants at Mountain Meadows, Utah according to Virginia Simmons in her book of 2000, ‘The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico’. A treaty was signed between The Utah Paiutes and the federal government in 1865, but the senate failed to ratify this. In early 1871 John Wesley Powell reached Southern Utah following his exploration of the Grand Canyon. On his first trip the party had run out of food.
With the aid of the Paiutes, and their immense knowledge of the area Powell was able to arrange a successful second expedition according to the Surweb page the Paiute People of Southern Utah. The second trip was a scientific one and John Hilliers, a photographer, accompanied Powell. He was able to take many pictures of people who up to that point had had no or minimal contact with westerners. His pictures can be seen on the Surweb Pages, the Paiute People of Southern Utah. The Europeans of whatever origin practised settled agriculture and also introduced large herds of cattle, which led to over grazing.
This made it hard for the native people to continue with their traditional life habits. Those living near rivers practised agriculture using the river waters as their means of irrigation. They grew corn, various types of squash and gourds, sunflowers, melons and, in later years, winter wheat. Although there were chiefs, some very influential, leadership was often to do with abilities and so was task orientated such as hunting or making baskets. With the coming of settlers there also came slaving raids from other native groups such as the Utes and Navajos, who then sold their slaves to Europeans.
There were other important intrusions into Paiute life. Beatrice Grabish in her article of 1999 ‘Dry Tears of the Aral’ mentions the Owens Valley which was originally populated by Paiutes, but where the water was an attraction to urban developers seeking a permanent supply of water for Los Angeles. She reports how the local environment was devastated by the loss of ground water. Religion The supernatural belief world of the Paiutes revolved around Wolf and Coyote There was a tradition of storytelling about the activities of Wolf and Coyote together with those of other spirit animals. t the fall and winter gatherings.
Wolf was considered to be the elder brother and so the more responsible god, while Coyote was often given the role of the trickster. Jesse Jennings, who has studied closely the anthropology of Utah said in 1957 in ‘Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology’, No 14, when speaking of the people’s traditional life style :- In such situations there is little leisure, and almost no certainty about the morrow. No long-term building projects, no complicated rituals, no extensive amassing of personal property nor any long range plans can be undertaken in such circumstances.
Reservations In 1874 the American government took away all Paiute land. The Malheur Reservation in Oregon was the first reservation for the northern Pauite. The government’s intention was that the Northern Paiute would be concentrated there, but because of the distance from the traditional areas of th emajority of the bands, together with poor conditions on that reservation, many Northern Paiute refused to go there or quickly left. When it became impossible for them to continue to follow their traditional patterns of life they either looked for work on white farms or in the cities. stablished Small Indian colonies were also formed where they were joined by many Shoshone and Washoe people. Later other large reservations were created such as those at Pyramid Lake and Duck Valley, but the usual pattern was small reservations near cities or farm districts.
These often had mixed inhabitants including both Northern Paiute and Shoshone people. 20th Century “For many Indians the depression years were a relatively good period,” stated Professor Ronald L. Holt of Weber State University as quoted by Becky Bartholomew ‘History Blazer’ on the web page ‘Utah History to Go’ In the early 20th century the colonies began to be awarded land by the government. In 1927 a Paiute agency was created in Cedar City under the auspices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Despite this there was little real help available for the Paiutes. The women worked as maids and the Paiute men worked on the railroad, sometimes taking intermittent work on farms as well as working their own small plots on reservation land.
In 1933 President Roosevelt had appointed John Collier as a new commissioner of Indian Affairs. With the passing of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 colonies were given recognition as independent tribes. Known as the IRA, this act protected existing Indian lands as well as providing the means for additional land purchases. The establishment of tribal and band constitutions and councils was encouraged and funds were provided for the purchase of water rights and the creating of irrigation systems were needed.
In the 1950’s the government had a policy of terminating aid to certain groups and the Paiutes were included, although Holt makes it clear that the department of Indian Affairs knew that by the they were then incapable of coping without help. Some of these terminations took a long time to come into effect. Prucha in his 1984 book ‘The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians’ states, ( page 1048) that in the case of the Southern Paiutes there was a three year gap between the act of termination and the date on which it took effect.
Over the years the Paiutes campaigned for compensation for their lost lands and this was eventually paid, but at extremely low rates. In 1980 the then president Jimmy Carter ensured that the Paiute people again received federal recognition. In 1984 the Paiutes received 4,470 acres of poor land, not all in one place, but scattered throughout southwestern Utah. There was also a fund of $2. 5 million fund from which the group could draw on the interest. This was to be used for economic and tribal services and has been used to build houses, to open two factories and to provide health and educational facilities.
The Future The future for this relatively small people group, probably about 4000 people according to Spartacus International, looks promising at present. Other estimates are rather higher, such as that on the Paiute Indian Tribe History, which claims there are up to 7,000. Naturally as time goes by there will be ever more mixing with the surrounding populations, but, unless there are major legislative changes, Paiutes will be able to follow at least some of their traditional way of life, while at the same time being active citizens of the United States.
However it is obvious that certain things are in decline. A language with so few speakers spread over a vast area will soon be only of academic interest, a second language at best rather than a living mother tongue, unless there are moves such as with the Celtic languages in Europe to sustain them for example the Celtic tongues are used in the media and as a teaching medium in schools.
There should be no need for war dances in modern America, so these will be just a focus for tourist cameras. With an increased interest in sustainable life styles and the protection of the planet’s resources however the Paiute still could have a valuable role if ancient skills are not lost , but passed on generation to generation.
Cite this essay
Paiute Indians. (2016, Dec 05). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/paiute-indians-essay