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Shoshone

How do you pronounce the word "Shoshone"? What does it mean?

It's pronounced show-SHOW-nee. Nobody knows where this word came from or what it meant. Probably it was an English corruption of a name for their tribe in a different Indian language. In their own language, the Shoshones call themselves Newe (pronounced nuh-wuh) which means "people."

Where do the Shoshones live?

The Shoshone Indians were far-ranging people. Different bands of Shoshoni Indians lived in what is now Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and even parts of California. Most Shoshone people still live in these areas today.

What language do the Shoshones speak?

Most Shoshone people speak English today. More than a thousand Shoshones also speak their native Shoshone language. If you'd like to know a few easy Shoshone words, "behne" (pronounced similar to buh-nuh) is a friendly greeting, and "aishen" (pronounced similar to eh-shun) means "thank you."

How do Shoshone Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?

They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Shoshone children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Shoshone kids also enjoyed footraces, and girls and women played a ball game called shinny.

A Shoshone mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were Shoshone men and women's roles?

Shoshone women were in charge of the home. Besides cooking and cleaning, a Shoshone woman built her family's tepee and dragged the heavy posts with her whenever they moved. Shoshone men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Only men became Shoshone chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Shoshone homes like in the past?

The Eastern and Northern Shoshones lived in the tall, cone-shaped buffalo-hide houses known as tipis (or teepees). Since the Shoshone tribe moved frequently as they gathered food, a tipi had to be carefully designed to set up and break down quickly, like a modern tent. An entire Shoshone village could be packed up and ready to move on within an hour.

What was Shoshone clothing like? Did the Shoshones wear feather headdresses and face paint?

Shoshone women wore long deerskin dresses with wide sleeves. Shoshone men wore breechcloths and leggings, as well as buckskin shirts when the weather was cool. Both men and women wore moccasins on their feet. A Shoshone lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills and beadwork.

Shoshone men did not originally wear feather warbonnets like the Sioux, but in the 1800's some Shoshone leaders adopted this custom from their Plains Indian neighbors. Shoshone women often wore basket hats. Shoshone people only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Shoshone men and women both wore their hair either loose or in two long braids. Shoshone men  sometimes wrapped their braids in fur. Some Shoshones wore facial tattoos, and they commonly painted their faces for special occasions.

What was Shoshone transportation like in the days before cars?

Shoshone Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built rafts. Originally the Shoshones would use dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Shoshones could travel quicker and further.

What was Shoshone food like in the days before supermarkets?

The Eastern Shoshone were big game hunters. Men worked together to hunt buffalo on the plains, and also hunted deer, mountain sheep, and other animals. The Northern Shoshone occasionally hunted buffalo, but relied more on salmon fishing, deer, and small game, as well as roots gathered by the women. The Western Shoshone had a more plant-based diet, particularly pine nuts, roots, and seeds, and also hunted antelopes and rabbits.

What were Shoshone weapons and tools like in the past?

Shoshone hunters used bows and arrows. Fishermen used spears, nets, and basket traps. In war, Shoshone men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and buffalo-hide shields.

What are Shoshone arts and crafts like?

Shoshone artists are famous for their beadwork, baskets, and painting arts. Here is an article with pictures of different Shoshone and other Plains Indian beadwork.

What kinds of stories do the Shoshones tell?

There are lots of traditional Shoshone legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Shoshone Indian culture. Here is one story about the origin of death.