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Anthropological papers of the
American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

**■ Digitized by ^


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A "3 I 3

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Terms of Relationship 209

Marriage 210-

Various Customs 211

Names ; 211

Salutation 211

Smoking 212

Menstrual Lodge 214

Burial 214

Dances , . 216.


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166 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, [Vol. II,


Religion 223

The Soul 226

Ghosts . 227

Medicine 227

Charms 229

Conceptions op the Universe 230

Miscellaneous 232

II. Mythology 233

1. The Creation of the Shoshone 236

2. Wolf and Coyote 239

3. The Theft of Fire 244

4. The Theft of Pine-nuts 246

5. The Flood 247

6. Coyote and his Daughters 248

7. Iron-Man 251

8. The Sun 252

9. The Bear and the Deer 253

10. The Weasels and the Giants 254

11. Dzoavits and the Weasels 257

12. Dzoavits and Mosquito 259

13. The Weasel Brothers 260

14. Dzoavits and the old Woman 261

15. Dzoavits 262

16. Coyote and the Rock 262

17. The Bunglmg Host 265

18. Porcupine and Coyote 267

19. Skunk 268

20. Skunk and Coyote 270

21. Skunk and the Mountain-Lion 271

22. The Bull-frog and the Elk 271

23. Coyote Tales 272

24. Lodge-Boy and Thrown- Away 280

25. The Boy's Travels and the Water- Youths 283

26. The Boy who visited his Grandfathers 285

27. The Disobedient Brother 287

28. The Sheep- Woman 288

29. Thunder 290

30. The Bad Medicine-Man 290

31. Cannibal Stories 291

32. The Buffalo who Stole an Indian Girl 293

33. The Stolen Wife 293

34. The Horse- Woman 294

35. The White Man and the Monster-Bird 294

36. The Poor Boy and his Horse 295

37. The Bear's Son 298

38. Ghost Stories 299

39. Enga-gwacu's Experiences in the Underworld .... 301
Bibliography 303

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Lowie, The Northern Shoshone.




I. Moccasins. Fig. 1 (Museum No. 50-^403 B), length 25 cm.; Fig. 2 (50-1141 A),
length 14 cm.; Fig. 3 (50-6402 B), length 25 cm.; Fig. 4 (50-6409 A), length
25 cm.

Text Figubes.


1. Steatite Cup 174

2. Hide tied to a Frame for Tanning 175

3. Arrangement for Smoking a Tanned Hide 176

4. Loom for Bead-weaving ^ . 177

5. Outlines of Shoshone Basket-forms . 178

6. Pattern of a Shoshone Moccasin 180

7. Bead Necklace 182

8. Sahnon-gig 186

9. Lemhi Hearth and Drill. Wind River Drill 189

10. Cradle-board 190

11. Set of Dice 197

12. Buckskin Ball 198

13. "Spreading Design" on Moccasins 201

14. Beaded Strip on Dance-legging 202

15. Beaded Strip on Dance-legging 202

16. Parfleche Decoration 203

17. Parfleche Decoration 204

18. Parfleche Decoration . . . 205

19. Designs on a Wind River Drum 207

20. Musical Instnmient 219

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In the spring of 1906, the writer left New York on a Museum expedition
to the Shoshone of Lemhi Agency, Idaho. As there were rumors that the
Lemhi people had already been removed to Fort Hall in the southeastern
part of the state, it was necessary to stop off on that reservation in order to
obtain authentic information on this point. After a few days' delay at
Inkom, Pocatello and Ross Fork, I proceeded to Lemhi and remained there
for the remainder of the summer, the removal of the Indians having been
postponed until the following spring. While at Lemhi, I enjoyed the kind
hospitality of Mr. Eugene Duclos, the superintendent of the reservation.
To Dr. Murphy, the government physician, to Mr. J. P. Sherman of Owyhee,
Nevada, and to Mr. Faukner, a half-breed Shoshone from Fort Hall, whom
I met in New York, I am indebted for a few details. Some facts of com-
parative interest were revealed in a conversation with Mr. H. H. St. Clair,
who had visited the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and I have also
drawn on the notes obtained by Mr. St. Clair in connection with specimens
collected for the Museum. Professor Franz Boas kindly offered me the use
of the Shoshone texts recorded by Mr. St. Clair; it merely proved practica-
ble, however, to call attention to some points of comparative interest re-
vealed by this additional material. As much of the material culture of the
Shoshone has disappeared, it seemed advisable to utilize the information
buried in older literature and to weld it, together with my field-notes, into
a somewhat systematic, though necessarily brief, account of the Northern
Shoshone. Mr. Herbert J. Spinden's paper on The Nem Perce Indians
(Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association, Volume II, Part 3,
pp. 165-274) appeared too late to be adequately used for comparative pur-

The majority of the myths were told by old informants and taken down
from the translation of my interpreters. Several stories were told in the
Shoshone-English jargon of a middle-aged Indian sufficiently conversant
with English to make himself understood. The tales of Iron-Man, the
Bear and the Deer, and some of the Dzo'avits and minor Coyote stories
were recorded as texts. The footnotes to the myths are not exhaustive,
calling attention only to striking similarities and to homologies of compara-


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170 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, [Vol. II,

live interest. In order to facilitate both comparative studies and a survey
of the incidents of each story, every paragraph has been furnished with
head-lines in marginal indentations. Though the representation of tales
by such skeletal outlines as suggested by Mr. Joseph Jacobs at the Inter-
national Folk-Lore Congress of 1891 did not prove practicable in the present
stage of the catchword movement, the superiority of even the headlines
here presented over the conventional abstracts appended to collections of
North American tales will, I think, be conceded.

As the time at my disposal permitted but a very superficial consideration
of linguistic questions, no attempt is made in the following paper to render
with more than approximate accuracy the intricacies of Shoshone phonetics.
A constant error, which, however, it was not deemed advisable to remedy
by wholesale correction, is the substitution of surds for sonants pronounced
with surd force. Thus, p in pi'a does not represent the English sound,
but a medial, and the same applies to t and k.

a, e, i, o, u have their continental sounds.

a, o, ii, are approximately the modified German vowels.

E an obscure vowel.

* whispered final vowel.

V Spanish b.

r ''Shoshone r," related to d.

dz intermediate between English dz and j in judge.

X German ch in ach.

c English sh.

Robert H. Lowie.
New York,
December, 1908.

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1909.] Lovne, The Northern Shoshone, 171



The Shoshone, or Snakes, constitute the northernmost division of the
Shoshonean family. They occupied western Wyoming and Montana, central
and southern Idaho, northern Utah and Nevada, and all but the western-
most part of Oregon. Offshoots of the tribe fished on the Des Chutes
every spring,^ and were even found on the upper Willamette (Multnomah) f
so that the boundaries customarily assigned to Shoshone territory must be
extended rather considerably towards the west. In Utah, most of the
settlements were north of Great Salt Lake in Weber, Bear and Cache
Valleys and in the neighborhood of Goose Creek Mountains. In Nevada,
several bands roamed from Humboldt River to a hundred miles south, the
chief of one of them living near Honey Lake, California.^ In Wyoming,
the special territory of the Shoshone was on Green and Sweetwater Rivers;
and they are said to have extended eastward as far as the North Platte.*

The earliest notice of a meeting with the tribe is due to Lewis and Clark,
who sighted the first Shoshone in southwestern Montana, and, after crossing
the divide, visited the village on Lemhi River in August, 1805. From ex-
plicit statements on the part of natives as well as from their riding-gear,
they gathered that there had already been intercourse with Spanish traders.^
From early accounts it is clear that the only constant allies of the Snakes
were the Datci'ba (Tushepaws), a subdivision of the Flathead,, who joined
their fishing-parties and accompanied them on their hunting excursions
into the Plains.® The Bannock, though never hostile, do not seem to have
afforded their congeners any protection against their eastern foes in the
early days. Largely on account of their comparative lack of firearms,
perhaps partly on account of their natural timidity, the Shoshone were
warred upon and despoiled of their possessions by the majority of Plains
tribes. Thus, in the summer of 1805, the Atsina had deprived them of
their skin-lodges and stolen many of their horses.^ On their westward trip
Lewis and Clark met a number of tribes which were in the habit of harassing
the Snakes. The Mandans were preparing an expedition against them,

1 Lewis and Clark, III, 147; IV, 366.

2 Ibid., IV, 280.

8 Burton, 474; Schoolcraft, V, 201.

* Schoolcraft, V, 199.

» Lewis and Clark, IV, 74, 77.

« Ibid., Ill, 27; Irving, (b) I, 274.

7 Lewis and Clark, II, 383; III, 38.

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172 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. II,

the Hidatsa had captured Shoshone women, the Ankara professed to have
learned the bead-making industry from Shoshone prisoners,^ the Blackfoot
and Crows were dreaded enemies,^ though the former were occasionally
repelled by both Bannock and Shoshone.^ The Wyoming Shoshone had
to suffer from the depredations of the Cheyenne and Arapaho/ In the
south the Shoshone had to contend against the Ute until a treaty of peace
was concluded under the influence of Brigham Young.^ Practically all
the Columbian tribes, such as the Nez Perc^, Cayuse and Walla Walla,
were hostile; * but against some of these the Shoshone seem to have held
their own7 Some of the western bands were at war with the Klamath.*
Of course, practically none of these statements as to tribal relations applies
rigorously to all the local Shoshone groups, or to any one group at all periods.
In some cases friendship and hostility alternated irregularly. Thus, the
Crow in 1806 were temporarily at peace with the Snakes,® ousted them from
the upper Missouri region in 1822,^° were allies in 1842 against the Gros
Ventres, Ogallala and Cheyenne,*^ and in still later times formed a confedera-
tion with Snakes, Bannock and Nez Perc6 against the Blackfoot, Sioux,
Cheyenne and Arapaho." Similarly, the Ute, who in 1834 were reported
as at war with the Shoshone," were found at other times at peaceable rendez-
vous on Green River with Shoshone, Nez Perc6, and Flathead Indians."

While the Bannock have occasionally given the government cause for
forcible intervention, the relations of the Shoshone to the whites, with the
exception of local disturbances,^ have been almost uniformly amicable.
The friendship of the Lemhi was tested in 1877, when they remained neutral,
refusing to join the Nez Perc6 under Chief Joseph. The Shoshone are now
confined to three reservations. Fort Hall, Idaho; Wind River Reservation,
Wyoming; and Western Shoshone Reservation, Nevada. The Lemhi
were moved to Fort Hall in 1907. The total population is probably about
3300, corresponding to an estimated total of 4000 in 1847 for Shoshone and

1 Lewis and Clark, I, 210, 220. 249, 272, 283.

2 Ibid., II, 252; V, 270. Wyeth, 206-7. Irving, (b) II. 159.

3 Ross, I, 226. Townsend. 242.
* Fremont, 127.

« Remy, I, 291.

6 Lewis and Clark, IV, 280, 331, 362; V, 6, 24. 106. Ross, I, 223, et passim.

7 Lewis and Clark, III, 145. 149. 168.

8 Gatschet, 28.

« Lewis and Clark, V, 273.
10 Schoolcraft, V, 198.
" Fremont, 41, 59, 146.
" Clark, 14.
13 Ibid., 338.
" Parker, 80, 83.
" Bancroft, 247. 259-60. 433. 515-16.

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1909.] Lowie, The Northern Shoshone. 173

Bannock combined.^ Lewis and Clark's estimate of over 13,000^ and
Ross's of 36,000 ^ are of course purely conjectural.

While by community of habitat and frequent intermarriage the Shoshone
are most closely aflfiliated with the Bannock, they belong linguistically to
the same subdivision as the Comanche, who are commonly regarded as a
rather recent offshoot from the Wyoming Shoshones.*

The theory has been put forward that the Shoshone formerly occupied
the Plains country and were driven westward by the attacks of Prairie
tribes. According to Brinton,^ all the Shoshoneans once inhabited the area
between the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains. In a recent paper,
Professor Kroeber finds this view ** highly improbable on account of the
general distribution of dialectic groups" and "without support on linguistic
grounds."* This conclusion is corroborated by the complete absence of
migration legends among the Lemhi and Nevada Shoshoneans, and by a num-
ber of cultural traits. The old type of Shoshone dwelling, the development
of fishing, the chase for small game, the weaving of sage-brush bark and of
rabbit-skin blankets, the extreme simplicity of their social organization, the
virtual absence of buffalo tales and the mythological importance of the
coyote and the wolf, all bear out the supposition of a long occupancy of the
Plateau region. The historically recorded westward movements of Sho-
shone bands driven by Plains tribes thus shrink into purely local migrations
not affecting the tribe as a whole. The influence of Prairie culture is, of
course, undeniable, but its operation belongs to a relatively late period.


Objects of Stone, Bone and SJwll. The Shoshone made knives by break-
ing pieces of obsidian,^ which was common in their country, and selecting
suitable, sharp-edged fragments, often of irregular shape. A piece an
inch or two long was not rejected so long as it would cut. The edge was
renewed by means of an elk or deer horn. Sometimes a wooden or horn
handle was attached, but this was frequently lacking.® In fashioning arrow
points, similar pieces of obsidian were broken off, laid upon a hard stone,

1 Schoolcraft. VI. 697.

2 Ibid., VI. 118-119.

8 Ross, I, 251 ; II, 150.
* Mooney, (a) 1043. Kroeber, (d) 111.
6 Brinton, 121.
6 Kroeber, (d) 165.

'' Obsidian (du'pi) is still favorably^compared with iron, because it is na'rOyunt (powerful,
strong), which iron is not.

8 Lewis and Clark, III, 19; Wyeth. 213.

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174 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. II,

and struck with another stone or finished with a deer or elk horn. The
points were about three-quarters of an inch long, half an inch wide and
rather thin. According to Wyeth, those intended for hunting were widened,
so that the head might be withdrawn with the shaft, while arrows for war
lacked this feature.^ The Shoshone had no axes; smaller branches were
seized and broken with the hands, for larger trunks they had to depend on
windfalls. Wood was split by means of a sharpened antler.^

Lewis noted pots of white soft stone which became black and very hard
by burning.^ According to information obtained by the writer, the stone
formerly employed by the Shoshone was called to'sa-tak (white + ?) or
ba'mu-tak (tobacco + ?). As it is known that the Shoshone made steatite
pipe-bowls,* there can be little doubt that the vessels seen by Lewis were

Fig. 1 (50-1165). Steatite Cup. Diameter, 12 cm.

of the same material. Wyeth pictures a "stone cooking pot and mortar"
of pure lava, truncate, but curved at the bottom, widening towards the open-
ing and recurved at the top. In his text, he states that these pots, which
had a capacity of about two quarts, were very rare, and that he never saw
them used either as mortars or pots, though he believes they could have
stood fire as a boiling-vessel.^ The Museum contains a (probably unfin-
ished) flat-bottomed steatite cup with handle from Wind River; the out-
side bears the marks of a picking instrument (Fig. 1). Stone mortars and
pestles were seen by Culin among the Washakie Shoshone and Fort Hall

1 Wyeth, 212; Lewis and Clark, III, 12, 19.

2 Lewis and Clark, III, 9, 19.
« Ibid., Ill, 19.

* Wyeth, 214.
« Ibid., 211.

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LowiBf The Northern Shoshone,


Bannock.^ Stone scrapers consisting of thin segments of quartzite, made
by striking the rock a smart blow, were found by Leidy both in actual use
and in an old grave .^ They were circular or oval, sharp-edged, convex on
one side and flat on the other.

Awls, salmon-gigs, and sometimes the caches in the hand-game, were
of bone. Besides antlers, sharpened ribs were used as scrapers in the
preparation of hides. Drinking cups and spoons ^ were made of mountain-
sheep or buffalo horn. In the manufacture of bows, the horns of mountain-
sheep and elk were used, after being molded by heating and wetting; they
were worked smooth by scraping with sharp stones and drawing between
two rough stones.* Shells were used for personal decoration only. Abalone
ornaments were obtained in trade from the coast Indians.^

Preparation of Hides, Buffalo, elk, and, in recent times, cowskins.

Fig. 2. Hide tied to a Frame for Tanning.

were stretched out on the ground and pegged down; whereas deerskins
were hung up (Fig. 2). The hair is removed either by means of the elk-
horn scraper having an iron blade secured by a buckskin thong, or with a
horse's rib. The flesh is removed with the typical serrate Prairie fleshing
tool. The brains of a deer were formerly dried for a length of time varying
from a few days to several weeks, then boiled with deer-bones, and the mix-
ture was rubbed in to soften the hide. The hide is put in cold water, wrung

1 Culin, 13, 89.

2 Leidy, 653.

* Spoons were sometimes made of wood (Townsend, 260).

4 Wyeth, 212.

« Lewis and Clark, II, 372, 378.

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176 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History [Vol. II,

out, suspended from a cross-beam and scraped. The scraper is either the
elk-hom adze of the Plains, or a small elliptical sharp-edged stone. The
scraping is continued until one side is perfectly white and smooth. The
skin is repeatedly immersed in water, wrung and scraped in this fashion.
In wringing, the left hand seizes one part of the hide from below, and the
right twists the portion directly beneath, while the worker sits on the ground.
The wringing operation is continued ad infinitum, the main worker being
relieved from time to time by other women of the family or by visitors. In-
stead of sitting on the ground, the worker will sometimes tie the hide to a
frame; standing before it, she twists and untwists every section of the hide

in succession about a wringing stick. In
ig the skin, it is often placed
sinew cord stretched between
•orts, and vigorously moved back
1. This method is said to have
?d regularly with buffalo hides.
;aw the cord stretched vertically
of transversely, one end being
to a tree near the ground and
r several feet above. The fibres
ifuUy removed on one side and
remain on the other. Now-
adays, as a rule, but one side
is smoked, especially in mak-
ing gauntlets for trade; for-
merly both sides were usually

Two smoking - frames

Fig. 3. Arrangement for Smoking a Tanned Hide. ^^^ observed by the writer.

One consisted of a cross
beam connecting the stump of a branch with the fork of two poles tied
together so as to rest on the ground as the sides of an isosceles triangle.
On one side quite near the tree, a hole was made, perhaps 45 cm. deep, and
a fire built. On the one occasion when the process of smoking itself was
witnessed, the deerskin was sewed together so that the side to be smoked
formed the inner surface of a hollow cylinder. The lower end of the hide
was staked down with wooden pegs to the perimeter of the firehole, the
upper part was tied to the crotch of a tripod frame (Fig. 3). The woman
built a fire of wooden sha\ings in a one-foot excavation. The smoke played
on the inner half of the skin for from ten to fifteen minutes, turning it yellow.

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LowiCf The Northern Shoshone,


According to Mason/ the Shoshone employed three kinds of buckskin,
— white, yellow and brown. The hair was often removed by rolling up the
hide in ashes wet with warm water for a few days. **The hair was then
removed by means of a wooden knife, a rib, or in later times with an old
case-knife or bit of hoop-iron. The yellow and the brown skins received
their tint by drying them over a smoldering fire of dry willow for the former
and green willow for the latter color. The skins were vigorously pulled
and stretched in every direction while the drying and smoking were going
on." Mason's account is probably derived from descriptions of the method
of Paiute and Ute tanners, whose implements are reproduced in his paper
(Plates XC and XCII).

Pottery, **Co'go-wi'towE," earthen pots, were referred to by several
of my informants, and an old woman professed to have seen some in her
youth. The existence of pottery is affirmed by Lewis,^ who speaks of *'pots
in the form of a jar made either of earth, or of a white soft stone." Still

Fig. 4 (50-6404.) Loom for Bead-weaving. Length, 55 cm.

more explicit is a statement by Ross, who pronounces the Shoshone the best
of western potters. "The clays to be found all over their native soil are of
excellent quality, and have not been overlooked by them." Reference is

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

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