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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
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Paiute, Native American tribes in California, Indigenous peoples of the Great Basin, Native American tribes in Arizona, Wovoka, Shoshone, Ute people, Paulina, Ghost Dance, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe of Arizona, Numaga
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