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Shoshone beaded moccasins, Wyoming, ca. 1900
Total population
12,300 (2000)
Regions with significant populations
 United States
( Idaho,  California,
 Nevada,  Oregon,
 Utah,  Wyoming)
Shoshone,[1] English
Native American Church, Sun Dance,
traditional tribal religion,[2] Christianity, Ghost Dance
Related ethnic groups
Bannock, Goshute, Northern Paiute, and Comanche

The Shoshone or Shoshoni ( or ) are a Native American tribe with four large cultural/linguistic divisions:

They traditionally speak the Shoshoni language, part of the Numic languages branch of the large Uto-Aztecan language family. The Shoshone were sometimes called the Snake Indians by neighboring tribes and early European-Americans.[2]


  • Name origin 1
  • Language 2
  • History 3
  • Historical population 4
  • Bands 5
  • Reservations and Indian colonies 6
  • Notable Shoshone people 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Name origin

The name "Shoshone" comes from Sosoni, a Shoshone word for high-growing grasses. Some neighboring tribes call the Shoshone "Grass House People," based on their traditional homes made from soshoni'. Shoshones called themselves Newe, meaning "People."[2]

Meriwether Lewis recorded the tribe as the "Sosonees or snake Indians" in 1805.[2]


The Shoshoni language is spoken by approximately 1,000 people today.[1] It belongs to the Central Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Speakers are scattered from central Nevada to central Wyoming with the largest numbers of speakers (including children) on the Duck Valley and Goshute Reservations. The Idaho State University has Shoshoni language classes.[1]


A Shoshone encampment in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, photographed by W. H. Jackson, 1870

The Shoshone are a Native American tribe, who originated in the western Great Basin and spread north and east into Idaho and Wyoming. By 1500 CE some Eastern Shoshone had crossed the Rocky Mountains into the Great Plains. After 1750, warfare and pressure from the Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho pushed Eastern Shoshone south and westward. Some of them moved as far south as Texas, to become the Comanche by 1700.[2]

As more European-American settlers migrated west, tensions rose with the indigenous people. Wars occurred throughout the second half of the 19th century. The Northern Shoshone, led by Chief Pocatello, fought during the 1860s with settlers in Idaho (where the city Pocatello was named for him). As more settlers encroached on Shoshone hunting territory, the natives raided farms and ranches for food, and attacked migrants. The warfare resulted in the Bear River Massacre (1863), when US forces attacked and killed an estimated 410 Northwestern Shoshone, who were at their winter encampment. A large number of the dead were civilians, including women and children, deliberately killed by the soldiers. This was the highest number of deaths which the Shoshone suffered at the hands of United States forces.

Allied with the Bannock, to whom they were related, the Shoshone fought against the United States in the Snake War from 1864 to 1868. They fought US forces together in 1878 in the Bannock War. In 1876, by contrast, the Shoshone fought alongside the U.S. Army in the Battle of the Rosebud against their traditional enemies, the Lakota and Cheyenne.


In 1879 a band of approximately 300 Eastern Shoshones (known as "Sheepeaters") became involved in the Sheepeater Indian War. It was the last Indian war fought in the Pacific Northwest region of the present-day United States.

In 1911 a small group of Bannock under a leader named Mike Daggett, also known as "Shoshone Mike", killed four ranchers in Washoe County, Nevada.[3] The settlers formed a posse and went out after the Native Americans. They caught up with the band on February 26, 1911 and killed eight. They lost one man of the posse, Ed Hogle.[4] The posse captured three children and a woman. A rancher donated the partial remains of three adult males, two adult females, two adolescent males, and three children (believed to be Shoshone Mike and his family, according to contemporary accounts) to the Smithsonian Institution for study. In 1994, the institution repatriated the remains to the Fort Hall Idaho Shoshone-Bannock Tribe.[5]

In 2008 the Northwestern Shoshone acquired the site of the Bear River Massacre and some surrounding land. They wanted to protect the holy land and to build a memorial to the massacre, the largest their nation had suffered. "In partnership with the American West Heritage Center and state leaders in Idaho and Utah, the tribe has developed public/private partnerships to advance tribal cultural preservation and economic development goals." They have become a leader in developing tribal renewable energy.[6]

Historical population

In 1845 the estimated population of Northern and Western Shoshone was 4,500, much reduced after they had suffered infectious disease epidemics and warfare. The completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 was followed by Euro-American immigrants arriving in unprecedented numbers in the territory.

In 1937 the Bureau of Indian Affairs counted 3,650 Northern Shoshone and 1,201 Western Shoshone. As of the 2000 census, there were 12,000 Shoshone.


Shoshone people are divided into traditional bands based both on their homelands and primary food sources. These include:

Tindoor, Lemhi Shoshone chief and his wife, ca. 1897, photograph by Benedicte Wrensted

Reservations and Indian colonies

"Shoshone at Ft. Washakie, Wyoming Native American reservation. Chief Washakie (at left) extends his right arm." Some of the Shoshones are dancing as the soldiers look on, 1892

Notable Shoshone people

Tina Manning (left), John Trudell, and their children

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Shoshoni." Ethnologue. Retrieved 20 Oct 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Loether, Christopher. "Shoshones." Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. Retrieved 20 Oct 2013.
  3. ^ America's Last Indian Battle
  4. ^ Ed Hogle memorial
  5. ^ NMNH - Repatriation Office - Reports - Great Basin - Nevada
  6. ^ "Tribe remembers nation's largest massacre", Indian Country Times, 10 Mar 2008, accessed 6 Mar 2010
  7. ^ a b c Shimkin 335
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Murphy and Murphy 306
  9. ^ a b c Murphy and Murphy 287
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Thomas, Pendleton, and Cappannari 280–283
  11. ^ "Northwestern Band of Shoshone Tribal Profile." Utah Division of Indian Affairs. Retrieved 23 Dec 2012.


  • Murphy, Robert A. and Yolanda Murphy. "Northern Shoshone and Bannock." Warren L. d'Azevedo, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1986: 284–307. ISBN 978-0-16-004581-3.
  • Shimkin, Demitri B. "Eastern Shoshone." Warren L. d'Azevedo, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1986: 308–335. ISBN 978-0-16-004581-3.
  • Thomas, David H., Lorann S.A. Pendleton, and Stephen C. Cappannari. "Western Shoshone." Warren L. d'Azevedo, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1986: 262–283. ISBN 978-0-16-004581-3.

Further reading

  • Gould, Drusilla & Loether, Christopher (2002). An introduction to the Shoshoni language: dammen da̲igwape. University of Utah Press.  
  • Bial Raymond. The Shoshone. 

External links

  • Northern Shoshoni treaties
  • Ely Shoshone Reservation
  • Goshute Indian Reservation
  • Great Basin Indian Archives
  • Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
  • Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada
  • Timbisha Tribe of the Western Shoshone Nation
  • U.S. Treaty with the Western Shoshone 1863, Ruby Valley
  • Western Shoshone Defense Project
  • The Sheepeaters
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