Southern Paiute (and Chemehuevi) - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Given that men and women contributed about equally to subsistence, there was little status differentiation along sex lines in former times. The elderly were held in high esteem, although if food resources were scarce, they might not take a share or otherwise sacrifice themselves. Sharing still remains a primary value in most households, so that individuals rarely accumulate or hoard if family members are in need.

Political Organization. Prior to contact with Europeans, each local group had a headman or adviser, but few had Leadership positions beyond this. Men who had dreamed of Certain large game animals (usually deer, antelope, mountain sheep) were leaders of communal hunts. Headmen, usually senior males or perhaps owners of spring sites, addressed the camp group each morning, suggesting a subsistence routine. They also announced any visitors or special events. With the advent of Europeans, some who learned English early acted as go-betweens and were referred to as "chiefs" or "captains." Some, because of their skills, spoke for larger groups than might have been the case before. The authority of most was minimal, rarely going beyond that of former days. Presently reservation and colony communities are organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 or the reinstatement legislation of 1980 (Paiute Tribe of Utah). Their councils are duly elected and serve specified terms.

Social Control. In former times, social control was handled within extended families on a face-to-face basis or by ridicule or, in severe cases, ostracism. Headmen attempted to get conflicting parties to agree to a solution, but they had Little ultimate power. Tribal governments today exercise control through their own police or through cooperative agreements with state, county, or city authorities.

Conflict. In former times, most Southern Paiute were peaceful and rarely engaged in fighting with each other or with neighbors. An exception may be the wars between the Chemehuevi and the Mohave, said to have resulted in the partial extermination of the latter in the eighteenth century. In the historic period, the slave trade brought troubles with the Utes, Navajos, and a variety of non-Indians. There was some raiding by Southern Paiute local groups along the Old Spanish Trail, which operated from roughly 1820 to 1850 in the central and southwestern sections of their territory. Southern Paiutes were also accused of massacring a wagon train of emigrants en route to California near Enterprise, Utah, in 1857, an event that later turned out to have as many Mormon participants as Indian. With Mormons and other settlers, accommodation was generally peaceful and remains so today. Little intermarriage has taken place across ethnic boundaries.

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Dec 1, 2010 @ 8:08 am
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