Northern Shoshone and Bannock - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Bison were hunted by groups using the Plains Indians' technique of flanking the herds on horses and shooting them with bows and arrows or rifles. The summer was spent collecting wild foods and hunting. The mounted Shoshone of the Boise, Payette, and Weiser rivers in southwestern Idaho depended on the spring and fall salmon runs for most of their subsistence, but sometimes they took part in the Fort Hall bison hunt. The remainder of the Idaho Shoshone population was largely unmounted, did not participate in the bison hunt, were largely peaceful. Antelope were taken by individual hunters and by running them on horses. Elk, mountain sheep, and deer were pursued by individuals or small parties of hunters. Salmon fishing was basic all through the area, and salmon was the principal food source below Shoshone Falls (near Twin Falls in south-central Idaho) and in the western Idaho region. Salmon were speared from platforms in the streams or while wading, or were captured in weirs built across small streams and channels. Sturgeon, suckers, perch, and trout were also caught. Principal vegetables collected included camas bulbs, yampa roots, tobacco-root, and bitter-root, all dug from the ground by women using digging sticks. Some residents south of Bannock Creek, and south of Fort Hall, relied on pine nuts. Chokecherries, service berries, sunflower seeds, and roots, such as prairie turnips, were also collected, often incidental to hunting expeditions. All the groups had horses, introduced from the south and the Plains, with dogs also available. Nowadays, they engage in farming, livestock raising, and other agriculturally related enterprises, and are heavily involved with the mainstream economy.

Industrial Arts. Among the mounted people in the east, who were influenced by Plains Indians, both sexes wore bison robes in the winter and dressed elk skins with the hair removed in the summer. Both men and women at Lemhi added leggings and breechclouts to their dress. Breechclouts and robes of the fur of smaller animals were standard farther west. Moccasins were made of elk, deer, and bison hide, although people often went barefoot. Some crude pottery was made, but baskets, both coiled and woven, were more common and important. They were made watertight by applying pitch on the interiors. Rawhide containers were important among the eastern groups. Among other manufactures were steatite cups, bowls, and pipe bowls; cradle boards of willow sticks and buckskin; and leather snow goggles. They had arrowheads and knives made from chipped obsidian and, in later times, from metal. High-wheeled wooden wagons drawn by horses were a basic mode of transport from the later nineteenth century to modern times.

Trade. Trade was extensive throughout the region, with the Western Shoshone to the south and the Paiute to the west, as well as with the Nez Percé and Flathead to the north. By the 1820s, the fur trade had become important to some groups, particularly the mounted peoples. The Nez Percé joined the Cayuse, the Umatilla, and the Shoshone at an annual trading market on the Weiser River in the far northwest of Shoshone territory, and some mixed villages of Nez Percé and Shoshone have been reported.

Division of Labor. Women took care of leather- and hideworking, house construction, and most of the gathering. Men did the hunting and fishing, took care of the horses, and engaged in warfare.

Land Tenure. Both groups apparently lacked any form of ownership of land or of the resources upon it. But tools, weapons, and other artifacts, as well as foods after they were obtained were considered private property.


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