Digger Indians

Digger Tribe. Said by Powell to be the English translation of Nuanuints, the name of a small tribe near St George, southwest Utah. It was the only Paiute tribe practicing agriculture, hence the original signification of the name, ‘digger.” In time the name was applied to every tribe known to use roots extensively for food and hence to be “diggers.” It thus included very many of the tribes of California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, tribes speaking widely different languages and embracing perhaps a dozen distinct linguistic stocks. As the root-eaters were supposed to represent a low type of Indian, the term speedily became one of opprobrium.

The more northerly and easterly Shoshoni were horse and buffalo Indians, and in character and in warlike prowess compared favorably with most western tribes. To the west in western Idaho along Snake River and to the south in Nevada the tribes represented a lower type. Much of this country was barren in the extreme and comparatively devoid of large game, and as the nature of the country differed, so did the inhabitants. They depended for food to a large extent on fish, which was supplemented by rabbits, roots, nuts, and seeds. These were the Indians most frequently called “Diggers.”


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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