Shoshoni

From Britannica Online


Also spelled SHOSHONE, North American Indian group that in historic times occupied the territory from southeastern California across central and eastern Nevada and northwestern Utah into southern Idaho and western Wyoming. A comparatively recent offshoot of the Wyoming Shoshoni are the Comanche. The Shoshoni language belongs to the Numic group (formerly called Plateau Shoshonean) of the Uto-Aztecan family. Shoshoni dialects are so similar that speakers from Death Valley, Calif., have no difficulty conversing with Comanche.

The Shoshoni of historic times may be roughly divided into four groups: Western (unmounted) Shoshoni, centring in Nevada, lacking horses, and early designated Diggers along with other far western Indians; Northern (mounted, or horse) Shoshoni of northern Utah and Idaho; Wind River Shoshoni in western Wyoming; and Comanche in western Texas.

The Western Shoshoni were divided into loosely affiliated family bands that subsisted on wild seeds, small mammals, fish, and insects. Each family was independently nomadic during most of the year and joined other families only briefly for rabbit drives, antelope hunts, or dancing. Hostilities were confined to feuds between families. A few Western Shoshoni obtained horses after whites settled Nevada and Utah.

Wind River Shoshoni and Northern Shoshoni probably acquired horses as early as 1680, before white settlers occupied their lands. They formed loosely organized bands of mounted buffalo hunters and warriors and adopted such Plains Indian traits as tepees, skin clothing, and counting coup (striking or touching an enemy in warfare in a prescribed way) as war honours.

After acquiring horses, the Comanche split off from the Wind River Shoshoni and moved south into Texas. The Comanche developed predatory bands that were feared by the Spaniards of the Southwest because they subsisted as much by plunder as by buffalo hunting.

The Wind River Shoshoni population is estimated to have been 2,500 in the early 19th century, that of the Comanche 7,000. The Northern and Western Shoshoni together did not exceed 10,000 at that time. In the late 20th century the combined total was about 9,000 for all groups; most now live on reservations in territory they once held.


 

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Last Updated 18 Feb 2000 by CSmith