The origin of the word Paiute is unclear. Some anthropologists have interpreted it as "Water Ute" or "True Ute". The Northern Paiute call themselves Numa (sometimes written Numu); the Southern Paiute call themselves Nuwuvi; both terms mean "the people". The Northern Paiute are sometimes referred to as Paviotso. Early Spanish explorers called the Southern Paiute Payuchi (they did not make contact with the Northern Paiute). Early Euro-American settlers often referred to both groups of Paiute as "Diggers" (presumably because of their practice of digging for roots for food). As the Paiute consider the term derogatory, they discourage its use.
Language and culture
The Northern and Southern Paiute both speak languages belonging to the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan family of Native American languages. The terms Paiute, Northern Paiute and Southern Paiute apply most correctly when referring to groups of people with similar language and culture. It does not imply a political connection or even an especially close genetic relationship. The Northern Paiute speak the Northern Paiute language, while the Southern Paiute speak the Colorado River Numic language. These languages are not as closely related to each other as they are to other Numic languages.
The Bannock, Mono, Coso, Timbisha and Kawaiisu peoples, who also speak Numic languages and live in adjacent areas, are sometimes also referred to as Paiute. The Bannock speak a dialect of Northern Paiute. But, the Mono Tribe and other three peoples speak distinctly separate Numic languages: Mono is related more closely to Northern Paiute, as is Coso; the Timbisha language is related more to the Shoshoni language, and the Kawaiisu language is more closely related to Colorado River Numic.
The Northern Paiute traditionally have lived in the Great Basin in eastern California, western Nevada, and southeast Oregon. The Northern Paiute's pre-contact lifestyle was well adapted to the harsh desert environment in which they lived. Each tribe or band occupied a specific territory, generally centered on a lake or wetland that supplied fish and water-fowl. Communal drives, which often involved neighboring bands, would take rabbits and pronghorn from surrounding areas. Individuals and families appear to have moved freely between bands. Pinyon nuts gathered in the mountains in the fall provided critical winter food. Grass seeds and roots were also important parts of their diet. The name of each band came from a characteristic food source. For example, the people at Pyramid Lake were known as the Cui Ui Ticutta (meaning "Cui-ui eaters"), the people of the Lovelock area were known as the Koop Ticutta, meaning "ground-squirrel eaters", and the people of the Carson Sink were known as the Toi Ticutta, meaning "tule eaters". The Kucadikadi of Mono County, California are the "brine fly eaters".
Relations among the Northern Paiute bands and their Shoshone neighbors were generally peaceful. There is no sharp distinction between the Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone. Relations with the Washoe people, who were culturally and linguistically very different, were not so peaceful.
Sustained contact between the Northern Paiute and Euro-Americans came in the early 1840s, although the first contact may have occurred as early as the 1820s. Although the Paiute had adopted the use of horses from other Great Plains tribes, their culture was otherwise largely unaffected by European influences at that point. As Euro-American settlement of the area progressed, several violent incidents occurred, including the Pyramid Lake War of 1860, Owens Valley Indian War 1861-1864,Snake War 1864-1868; and the Bannock War of 1878. These incidents generally began with a disagreement between settlers and the Paiute (singly or in a group) regarding property, retaliation by one group against the other, and finally counter-retaliation by the opposite party, frequently culminating in the armed involvement of the U.S. Army. Many more Paiutes died from newly introduced infectious diseases such as smallpox than in warfare. Sarah Winnemucca's book Life Among the Piutes (1883) gives a first-hand account of this period, although it is not considered to be wholly reliable.
The government first established the Malheur Reservation for the Northern Paiute in eastern Oregon. The federal government's intention was to concentrate the Northern Paiute there, but its strategy did not work. Because of the distance of the reservation from the traditional areas of most of the bands, and because of its poor environmental conditions, many Northern Paiute refused to go there. Those that did, soon left. They clung to their traditional lifestyle as long as possible; when environmental degradation made that impossible, they sought jobs on white farms, ranches or in cities. They established small Indian colonies, where they were joined by many Shoshone and, in the Reno area, Washoe people.
Later, the government created larger reservations at Pyramid Lake and Duck Valley, Nevada. By that time the pattern of small de facto reservations near cities or farm districts, often with mixed Northern Paiute and Shoshone populations, had been established. Starting in the early 20th century, the federal government began granting land to these colonies. Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, several individual colonies gained federal recognition as independent tribes.
Hunipuitöka or Walpapi (‘Hunipui-Root-Eaters’, often called Snake Indians, lived along Deschutes River, Crooked River and John Day River in central Oregon, federally recognized as part of the Burns Paiute Tribe)
Goyatöka or Yahuskin (Yahooskin) ("Crayfish eaters"), often called Snake Indians, also known as Upper Sprague River Snakes or even Upper Sprague River Klamath, lived along the shores of the Goose, Silver, Warner and Harney Lake, living along Sprague River in the area now comprising Lake and Harney counties of Oregon, and hunted in the Klamath Basin, federally recognized as part of the Klamath Tribes)
Atsakudökwa tuviwarai ("Those who live in the Red Mesas") lived in the northwest of Nevada along the Oregon-Nevada border in the Santa Rosa Range, north of the Slumbering Hills, west to the Jackson Mountains, northeast to Disaster Peak and east back to the Santa Rosa Mountains, Quinn River was the most important water resource, federally recognized as part of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe)
Yamosöpö tuviwarai ("Those who live in Crescent Valley", lived in Paradise Valley, Nevada, which was called by them Crescent Valley, as well as in the Santa Rosa Range and along the Little Humboldt River, southward along the Oregon-Nevada border in the Osgoods Mountains, federally recognized as part of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes)
Moadökadö ("Wild onion Eaters", also known as Agaipaninadökadö or Agai Panina Ticutta —"Lake-fish Eaters", literally "Summit Lake Fish Eaters" or "Trout Lake Fish Eaters", lived around Summit Lake (called Agaipaninadi) in Nevada and along the southern border of Idaho east of the Kidütökadö, federally recognized as the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe of Nevada)
Pakwidökadö or Pugwi Ticutta ("Chub carp]] Eaters", residing on the Walker River Indian Reservation)
Onabedukadu ("Salt-Eaters", lived in California)
Tagötöka ("Lomatium dissectum Root Tuber Eaters", lived along the Jordan River and Owyhee River in Oregon and Idaho. Lomatium dissectum is known as "fernleaf biscuitroot" for its use in baking biscuits and as "desert parsley".)
Tsösö'ödö tuviwarai ("Those who live in the cold", lived in the surroundings of Steens Mountain in Oregon)
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber thought that the 1770 population of the Northern Paiute within California was 500. He estimated their population in 1910 as 300. Others put the total Northern Paiute population in 1859 at about 6,000.
Owens Valley Paiute live on the California-Nevada border, near the Owens River on the eastern side of the southern Sierra Nevadas in the Owens Valley and speak the Mono language. Their self-designation is Numa, meaning "People" or Nün‘wa Paya Hup Ca’a‘ Otuu’mu—"Coyote's children living in the water ditch"
In the 1990s, approximately 2,500 Owens Valley Paiutes lived on reservations.
The first European contact with the Southern Paiute occurred in 1776, when fathers Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Domínguez encountered them during an attempt to find an overland route to the missions of California. They noted that the some of the Southern Paiute men "had thick beards and were thought to look more in appearance like Spanish men than native Americans". Before this date, the Southern Paiute suffered slave raids by the Navajo and the Ute. The arrival of Spanish and later Euro-American explorers into their territory increased slave raiding by other tribes. In 1851, Mormon settlers strategically occupied Paiute water sources, which created a dependency relationship. But, the presence of Mormon settlers soon ended the slave raids, and relations between the Paiutes and the Mormons were basically peaceful. The Mormon missionaryJacob Hamblin worked at diplomatic efforts. The introduction of European settlers and agricultural practices (most especially large herds of cattle) made it difficult for the Southern Paiute to continue their traditional lifestyle, as it drove away the game and reduced their ability to hunt, as well as to gather natural foods.
The Pah Ute War, also known as the Paiute War, was a minor series of raids and ambushes initiated by the Paiute and which had an effect on the development of the Pony Express. It took place from May through June 1860, though sporadic violence continued for a period afterward.
Fowler, Catherine S. and Liljeblad, Sven (1978). Northern PaiuteIn d'Azevedo, Warren L. (editor) (1978) Great Basin, 435–465, Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 11. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Hogan, C. Michael (2008). "Morro Creek" at Megalithic Portal edited by A. Burnham electronic copy
Kelly, Isabel T. and Catherine S. Fowler. "Southern Paiute". D'Azenvedo, Warren L., vol. ed. Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1986. ISBN 978-0-16-004581-3.
Kroeber, A. L. (1925). Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
Liljeblad, Sven and Fowler, Catherine S. "Owens Valley Paiute". D'Azenvedo, Warren L., vol. ed. Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1986. ISBN 978-0-16-004581-3.
Pritzker, Barry M. (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.