Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Paiute (sometimes written as Piute) refers to two related groups -- Northern Paiute and Southern Paiute--of Native North Americans speaking languages belonging to the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan family of Native American languages. The name the Paiute use for themselves is written as Numu or Numa, which means "our people" (some other Numic speaking peoples name themselves similarly, such as the Commanche whose self-name is written as Nemene, or sometimes Numa-Nu or Numa).
These "groups" are not entirely distinctive in that patterns of exogamy (out-marriage) and neo-local residency creates a seamless network of familial relations throughout the Great Basin.
The Northern Paiute range over the Great Basin in eastern California, western Nevada, and southeast Oregon. The Mono people, who speak a language closely related to that of the Northern Paiute, are also some times referred to as Paiute.
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 which supplied fish and water-fowl. Rabbits and Pronghorn were taken from surrounding areas in communal drives, which often involved neighboring bands. Pinon 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 Pyramid Lake Paiute 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").
Relations among the Northern Paiute bands and their Shoshone neighbors were generally peaceful. Relations with the Washoe people, who were culturally and linguistically very different, were not so peaceful.
First contact between the Northern Paiute and Euro-Americans came relatively late, in the early 1850s. Although they had already started using horses, their culture was otherwise 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 and the Bannock War of 1878. These incidents took the general pattern of a settler steals from, rapes or murders a Paiute, a group of Paiutes retaliate and a group of settlers or the US Army counter-retaliates. Many more Pauites died from introduced diseases such as small pox. Sarah Winnemucca's book "Life Among the Piutes" gives a first-hand account of this period, although it is not considered to be wholly reliable.
Today about half of the enrolled members of Northern Paiute tribes live on reservations in Nevada, California and Oregon.
The Southern Paiute occupy northern Arizona, southeast California, southern Nevada, and southern Utah. The Utah Paiutes were terminated in 1954 and regained Federal Recognition in 1980. A band of Southern Paiutes at Willow Springs and Navajo Mountain, south of the Grand Canyon, reside inside the Navajo Indian Reservation. They, too were recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1980.
First European contact with the Southern Paiutes (Payuchis) was in 1776 when Fathers Dominguez and Escalante chanced upon them on their failed attempt to find an overland route to the missions of California. In 1851, Mormon settlers strategically occupied Paiute water sources creating a dependency relationship.
Southern Paiute communities are located at Las Vegas, Pahrump, and Moapa, Nevada; Cedar City, Kanosh, Koosharem, Shivwits, and Indian Peaks,Utah; at Kaibab and Willow Springs, Arizona; and at Death Valley and Chemehuevi on the Colorado River in California. Some would include the 29 Palms Reservation in Riverside County California.
- Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation
- Walker River Indian Reservation
Famous members of the Northern Paiute tribe:
NotesHopkins, Sarah Winnemucca (1994). Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (Vintage West Series). University of Nevada Press. ISBN 0874172527
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