Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests that the Southern Paiute expanded north and eastward to fill their present territory approximately one thousand years ago. Prior to that time, the central and eastern portions were occupied by Puebloan Anasazi groups related to archaeological Cultures in the Southwest. Although Southern Paiute-Anasazi relationships are the subject of some debate, the two peoples seem to have been different. Anasazi withdrawal from these lands is placed at roughly A.D. 1200. By the time of first Contact by Spaniards in the 1770s, the Southern Paiute were in exclusive possession of their historic territory. Trade relationships were well established with Yuman tribes to the south and west and with the Hopi to the southeast. With the Ute relationships were initially friendly, although beginning in the late 1700s, Ute raids on Southern Paiute camps for children to be sold as slaves in the Spanish and Mexican settlements of Santa Fe and Los Angeles led to enmity. This traffic continued until roughly 1850, when Mormon and U.S. interventions ended it. Mormon settlement of the area in the 1850s to 1870s brought additional hardships, reducing the area available for aboriginal subsistence drastically.
Although a reservation was established at Moapa in southern Nevada in 1872, and it was alternatively proposed to remove all the Southern Paiute there or to the Uintah Ute reservation in northeastern Utah, few people actually settled on reserved lands until after 1900. In 1903 a reservation was established at Shivwits for groups in southwestern Utah and northern Arizona, and in 1907, the Kaibab Reservation was set aside for people around Kanab, Utah. Some Chemehuevi obtained a reserve in Chemehuevi Valley in 1907, and small colonies and reserves were established at Las Vegas, Nevada, and Indian Peaks, Koosharem, and Kanosh, Utah, between 1911 and 1929.
In 1957 the federal government terminated control over several Utah Southern Paiute subgroups and their lands (Shivwits, Kanosh, Koosharem, Indian Peaks). In 1980, these same groups were reinstated, although the intervening years had resulted in the loss of over half of their lands. New lands and federal and tribal programs have improved conditions in recent years, although all admit that there is a long way to go toward economic self-sufficiency and the full Development of human potential.
Settlements. Southern Paiute territory has been divided into fifteen subareas within which groups could hunt and gather enough resources to sustain themselves. All groups moved camps according to a seasonal round of resource exploitation. Several subgroups also practiced a limited amount of horticulture. For these groups, summer camps were in proximity to fields so that irrigation and crop protection could be facilitated. Camps in all seasons consisted of a single family or a few related families with friends, roughly ten to thirty persons. Larger groups occurred during the fall pine nut harvest or at the time of communal rabbit hunts. In several subareas, individual ownership of springs determined seasonal shifts of camp groups. Winter was usually the time groups were most sedentary, camping at lower elevations in proximity to water, fuel, and stored foods. Today some Individuals know of former camping places and occasionally use them for hunting and pine nut camps.
The common winter house was conical or subconical, made of willow or juniper poles and covered with brush. The doorway faced east, and smoke from an interior fire hearth exited through a smokehole in the roof. The Chemehuevi built gabled houses like the Mohave except that the front was left open. All groups utilized temporary shelters, such as semicircular windbreaks and four-post shades. All reservation Communities have participated in housing projects since the 1970s, so that today houses are comparable to those of their non-Indian neighbors.