Subsistence and Commercial Activities. There was a large variety of fauna available to the Eastern Shoshone, Supplemented by berries and roots, with seeds being of minor importance. Access to these resources was limited somewhat by natural conditions, and by the actions of hostile tribes. Hunters had a right to their kill, with a special sequence of sharing followed for bison. Sites for fish weirs or game traps involved only temporary property rights, and plant gathering involved none. Food was ritualized to only a minor extent, the most important being a taboo on meat eating by women in menstrual or birthing seclusion. Staples were the bison, fish (especially trout), elk, beaver, and mule deer. Major but only occasionally available game included the antelope, jackrabbit, mountain sheep, marmot, and sage hen. These were supplemented by many minor food sources. Lynx, mink, otter, and weasel were not eaten but were valued for their furs. Women, especially in the late summer and fall, picked currants, rose hips, haws, and gooseberries. They dug up roots, camas bulbs, and wild onions. Greens and the sugar content of various honey plants enlivened the diet. Thistles and some kinds of sunflowers served as the only source of seeds. The seasonality of foodstuffs ruled the annual congregating, movement, and dispersal of the various Shoshone groups. The bison was by far the greatest resource but was available only briefly in the spring and for a longer period in the fall. The women were skilled and rapid butchers and were efficient at drying the meat. But the Shoshone could only rarely gain as much as half their annual food supply from bison. The principal food fish were cutthroat trout, Montana grayling, and Rocky Mountain whitefish, taken primarily in the spring and either eaten fresh or preserved by sun-drying or smoking. The basic method of catching fish was by driving them into a weir. After bison and fish in importance were elk, which were run down like bison, or single elk being tracked like mule deer. Berries were eaten fresh, in soups, or pounded with meat and fat to be preserved as pemmican. Roots were cooked in an earth oven. Prickly pear in drier areas was eaten on rare occasions.
The horse, mule, and dog were the domestic animals, with cattle being added in the later nineteenth century. They prized horses and dogs as aids in transportation, hunting, and war; neither animal was eaten except in great need, nor were the hides and bones put to other uses. Both animals were well cared for, with the bison-hunting horse often being sacrificed on a man's grave. Men cared for war horses, women for pack horses and baggage. They used rawhide-lashed wood-handled whips but not spurs, transported the infirm with a horse travois, and raided other tribes for horses. They had a relatively low incorporation of the horse into religion and the formal social structure. The Buffalo Eaters kept dogs for hunting and as guards, and the Mountain Sheep Eaters used dog transport on a large scale.
Industrial Arts. The Eastern Shoshone made a wide variety of leather goods. Tipis, clothing, and containers, as well as hides or furs primarily for trade, were the major manufactures. The latter were of three types: sumptuary, ritual, and craft products; utilitarian objects (coiled basketry, drinking horns, bear-paw snowshoes) ; and improvised expedient productions (temporary housing, bullboats, scrapers). In later years they were heavily involved in the fur trade and in intermarriage with traders and White settlers.
Division of Labor. Bison-skin tipis were made by the women and decorated by their husbands. Leatherworking, Except for shields, bowstrings, drums, and rattles, was women's work. Women possessed special skills in plant gathering, household crafts, curing, household transportation, and gambling. They were socially subordinate to the men who were engaged in hunting, fishing, warfare, working with horses, and trade.