The Southern Paiute

The Southern Paiutes are the living descendants of ancient Numic speakers, a group which includes the Northern Paiute, Southern Paiute, Goshute, Ute and Shoshone people.  At the time of the first contact with Euro-Americans they lived from the Rocky Mountains to northern California and from central Idaho south to the Colorado River. Wickiups

The Numic speaking people arrived in Utah about 700 years ago.  They originally came from the Death Valley area (southwest Nevada, southern California).  Favored dwelling places for the Numic were caves or rock overhangs, or brush shelters called wickiups. Constructed of locally available resources (grass, cattails, sagebrush, willows, pine boughs), wickiups were designed according to weather and needs.

The Southern Paiute people were nomadic hunters and gatherers who depended on wild plants and animals.  They also ate fish, waterfowl, and marsh plants.  They gathered seeds and hunted game animals such as deer, bison, elk, mountain sheep, antelope, and rabbits.  Insects such as Mormon crickets and grasshoppers were also gathered and eaten.

A Paiute camp.








From spring through fall, the Southern Paiute would travel in small family bands, fishing, hunting and gathering seeds, as well as developing complex irrigation systems for local gardens.  In the fall they would gather to harvest ripe pine nuts. During winters several families would gather to form a winter village where they would share food they had gathered and stored during the warmer months.

Burden baskets

Among other innovative crafts, the Paiute people were skilled basket makers.  They made winnowing trays that were used for parching seeds and winnowing wild seeds and nuts.  They also made large carrying baskets (burden baskets) for collecting wild foods, cradle boards for carrying babies, as well as water jugs. In addition, based on the construction materials and design, archaeologists have identified a pottery type recognized as being distinctly “Paiute.