Northern Shoshone and Bannock - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The main feature of their social organization was a looseness and lack of definition of groups. The presence or absence of bands or chieftains depended upon the type of economic pursuit in which the people were engaged. Organization was needed for the bison hunts and for protection from tribal enemies.

Political Organization. The Northern Shoshone and Bannock showed a wide range of types of political organization and grouping from bands to villages to the scattered groups of foot-going families living in the Sawtooth Range and south of the Snake River. The Shoshone and Bannock of the upper Snake River formed into large composite bands of varying composition and leadership. The Shoshone were always the majority, but the chieftaincy was sometimes held by a Bannock. Most of the Fort Hall and Lemhi peoples formed into single groups each fall to hunt bison in the east and Returned west for the winter. The large bands split into smaller groups for the spring salmon fishing. Apart from Fort Hall and Lemhi, the population was widely scattered and villages were small, with chieftainship and larger forms of political organization being absent. The power of the chiefs was limited by camp or band councils which existed among the bison hunters. The office of chief was an achieved role and was not firmly institutionalized, and his powers were quite limited. Band organization in the western part of the region was almost nonexistent. At the base of organization were the basic Shoshone characteristics of loose and shifting group association and individual autonomy.

Social Control and Conflict. A few "police" were needed to keep order in the larger bands, but there were no police societies or sodalities. They shared in the warfare practices of the Plains Indians, counting coup and taking the scalps of enemies. They also borrowed the Scalp Dance from the Plains Indians. There was periodic conflict with the Blackfeet, Usually at the time of bison hunts. Otherwise, contacts with neighboring tribes were peaceful.


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