Northern Shoshoni Indians

Shoshoni, Northern. Significance of the word Shoshoni is unknown. Also called:

  • Aliatan, a name taken originally -from that of the Ute and subsequently applied to many Shoshoni tribes, including the Shoshoni proper.
  • Bik-ta’-she, Crow name, signifying “grass lodges.”
  • E-wu-h’a’-wu-si, Arapaho name, signifying “people that use grass or bark for their houses or huts.”
  • Gens du Serpent, by the French.
  • Ginebigônini, Chippewa name, signifying “snake men.”
  • Kinebikowininiwak, Algonkin name, signifying “serpents.”
  • Ma-buc-sho-roch-pan-ga, Hidatsa name.
  • Miká-atí, Hidatsa name, signifying “grass lodges.”
  • Mi’kyashĕ, Crow name, signifying “grass lodges.”
  • Pezhi’-wokeyotila, Teton Dakota name, signifying “grass-thatch dwellers.”
  • Pi-ci’-kse-ni-tup’i-o, Siksika name.
  • Sin-te’-hda wi-ca-sa, Yankton Dakota name, signifying “rattlesnake Indians.”
  • Sisízhanǐn, Atsina name signifying “rattlesnake men.”
  • Snake Indians, common English name.
  • Snóă, Okanagon name.
  • Wákidohka-numak, Mandan name, signifying “snake man.”
  • Wĕs’ănikacinga, Omaha and Ponca name, signifying “snake people.”
  • Zuzéca wićása, Teton Dakota name, signifying “snake people.”

Northern Shoshoni Connections. The Northern Shoshoni belonged to the Shoshoni-Comanche dialectic group of the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family.

Northern Shoshoni Location. The Northern Shoshoni occupied eastern Idaho, except the territory held by the Bannock; western Wyoming; and north-eastern Utah.

Northern Shoshoni Subdivisions. Their only subdivisions were a number of bands headed by popular chiefs, the make up of which was constantly shifting.

Northern Shoshoni Villages

Lemhi and Central Idaho:

  • Bohodai, near the junction of Middle Fork with the Salmon, and an unnamed site on upper Salmon River where a few families from Sohodai sometimes wintered.
  • Guembeduka, about 7 miles north of the town of Salmon.
  • Padai, scattered along Lemhi River about Salmon.
  • Pagadut, on Red Rock Creek, about Liina, Mont.; possibly a few families lived near Dillon, Mont.
  • Pasasigwana, at a warm spring in the mountains north of Clayton. Pasimadai, on Upper Salmon River.
  • Sohodai, on the upper Middle Fork of Salmon River, near Three Rivers.

Fort Hall Shoshoni:

  • No band names given.

Bannock Creek (Kamduka) Shoshoni (Pocatello’s Band) :

  • Biagamugep, the principal village, near Kelton.

Cache Valley (Pangwiduka) Kwagunogwai:

  • Along the Logan River above its junction with the Little Bear River. Salt Lake Valley:

There are said to have been bands in the Ogden, Weber, and Salt Lake Valleys, but their names have not been preserved; they are sometimes called Ute, but Steward is certain that they were affiliated with the Shoshoni.

Northern Shoshoni History. At one time the Northern Shoshoni extended farther eastward into the Plains but there is no reason to suppose that they did not at the same time retain the mountain territories later held by them. They were affected only indirectly by the Spanish settlements to the south and southwest. In 1805 they were met by Lewis and Clark who were guided by a famous woman of their nation, Sacagawea, and from that time on contact with the Americans became fairly common. The Northern Shoshoni, particularly those under the famous chief Washakie, were unusually friendly to the Whites. They were finally gathered upon the Lemhi and Fort Fall Reservations in Idaho and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. By the Treaty of Fort Bridger, July 3, 1868, the eastern bands of the Shoshoni and Bannock ceded all rights to their territories in Wyoming and Idaho except the Wind River Reservation in the former state for the Shoshoni and a reservation to be set apart for the Bannock whenever they desired it. On July 30, 1869, Fort Hall Reservation was set aside for the Bannock but subsequently occupied in part by the Shoshoni. February 12, 1875, the Lemhi Reservation was established for these two tribes and the Sheepeater band of Western Shoshoni.

Northern Shoshoni Population. Mooney (1928) estimated 4,500 in the year 1845, including the Western Shoshoni. The United States Census of 1910 gave 3,840 “Shoshoni,” of which number about 2,000 appear to have belonged to this division. The Report of the Office for Indian Affairs of 1917 indicated about 2,200. The census of 1930 reported 3,994 for the Northern and Western Shoshoni combined, but in 1937 the United States Office of Indian Affairs reported 3,650 Northern Shoshoni alone.

Connections in which the Northern Shoshoni have become noted. The Northern Shoshoni are the most prominent and strongest tribe of the upper plateau. They were also distinguished by the fact that their name was employed by Gallatin (1936) and later adopted by Powell (1891) for application to a linguistic stock, a stock now considered a branch of a much larger group, the Uto-Aztecan. The Shoshoni came into prominence in the last century
(1) because Sacagawea or Bird Woman, the famous guide and interpreter of Lewis and Clark in their expedition to the Pacific, was a member of this tribe; and
(2) because of the ability of chief Washakie and his constant friendship for the ‘Whites.

The name Shoshone has been applied to rivers and mountains in Wyoming and Nevada; to a lake in Yellowstone National Park; to the Shoshone Falls of Snake River; to a county in Idaho; and to places in Inyo County, Calif.; Lincoln County, Idaho; White Pine County, Nev.; and Fremont County, Wyo.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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