Northern Shoshone and Bannock
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Who's Who
All My Relations
Pipe Ceremony and Peacemaking
Great Circle
Intertribal Relations
"How the Indian Averted Famine"
Naming Ceremonies
Agaidika Perspective on Sacajawea
Horses, Trade, & Travel
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Sovereignty & Tribal Government
Arts & Artists
Annual Festival Dances
Recommended Websites

  Relationship with the U.S.
  Early Contact
Fur Trade
Naturalists in Shoshone Country
Missionaries and Emigrants
Making Treaties
Lemhi In Limbo
Lemhi Reservation and  Loss
Shrinking Reservation
References Cited


Sign language for Shoshone

"Hold the right hand, back to right, in front of right shoulder at about height of waist and near it, first and second fingers extended, touching, and pointing to front, others and thumb closed; move the hand several inches to front, and, by wrist action, give a wavy, sinuous motion to extended fingers. Frequently only the index finger is extended. I have also seen signs made for Bad Lodge or Brush Lodge to denote these people" (Clark: 1885).

Nineteenth century territory of Northern Shoshone and Bannock.
Adapted from Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 11, Murphy and Murphy, 1986.
Portion of 1806 map by Lewis and Clark
(Moulton Atlas: 1983).
Explore Captain Wm. Clark's notations for Shoshone/Snake band names on this portion of the 1806 map. Locate the Three Forks of the Missouri River for orientation.
Portion of map showing distribution of Shoshonean groups in the Great Basin.
(Steward: 1937)

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Robert "Red" Perry
Where the Bannocks come from.



Tukudikas join with Agaidikas

Lemhi Pass > Culture > Who's Who

Shoshone people call themselves ne'we, or in the plural ne'we-ni, "the people".

When Europeans first wandered into their lands, the tribes who spoke the Shoshonean language occupied a large part of the western United States, centered in the Great Basin but extending across the Rocky Mountains into Wyoming and Montana for buffalo hunts.

Portion of J.W. Powell's 1890 Map of Linguistic Stocks of American Indians, From Bureau of Ethnology.
Courtesy of The University of Montana Mansfield Library.
Shoshone wicciup from Wilson
Drigg's The White Indian Boy.
According to John Rees, former agent on the Lemhi Reservation in the late 19th century, the name Shoshone comes from the Indian words "shawnt" which means "abundance", and "shaw-nip", meaning "grass", or "abundance of grass". This name was attached to them because they camped in places where there was sufficient grass for their horses and because they used grass woven into mats to construct their "houses" or "wickiups". As these Indians were grass weavers they were known among the Indians as the "grass house people".
Shoshone people lived in extended family bands, gleaning a living from a mixed diet in a relatively harsh country. The earliest mention of northern Shoshone groups by fur traders in the region generally refers to the people as Snakes or Shoshones.
Click on the map, then you can click on the yellow areas for detailed descriptions of Shoshone bands from Alexander Ross in 1820s.
Adapted from 1821 Alexander Ross Map of Columbia.
Courtesy of Ellensburg Public Library

Various Names from Early Observers

One of the early fur traders with the Hudson's Bay Company, Donald McKenzie, reported "The Great Snake nation may be divided into three divisions, the Shirry-dikas, or dog-eaters; the War-are-ree-kas, or fish eaters; and the Ban-at-tees, or robbers, but as a nation they all go by the name Sho-shone or Snakes. The word Shoshone means in their language 'inland'" (Ross: 1956).

The Shoshones were the most northerly tribe of this huge language family. Their habitat was along the watershed of the Snake River in Idaho, although they roamed over much of the adjacent country.

Through the decades of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, alliances between bands changed as a result of warfare with surrounding tribes.

"Evidence points to the fact that enemies, possibly the Blackfeet, drove a wedge in their ranks. Those to the north fled to the mountains and westward into Idaho, where they came, perhaps for a second time, under the influence of their Plateau neighbors. Although the term did not originate until a half-century later, they have gone down in history as Lemhi Indians" (Trenholm and Carley, 1964:viii).

All of the changes in band composition made it difficult for observers to distinguish who was who. Some observers even failed to note the language differences between Shoshone and Bannock. Virginia Trenholm and Maurine Carley, in their book The Shoshonis, Sentinels of the Rockies, discuss three groups of Shoshones on the northeastern frontier of the Shoshone territory, in addition to the Sheep Eaters of the Yellowstone Park area. Only one of these bands can be directly correlated with Shoshonean groups noted by Alexander Ross and other early fur traders.
Agaidukas = Salmon Eaters "Lemhi Shoshone" (Lemhi and Salmon River area). (The Agaidukas correspond to Ross' War-are-ree;
Pohogues = People of the Sage (Ft. Hall area people) can be considered to be "mixed bands of Shoshones and Bannocks;"
Kogohues= Green River Shoshones, often joined Lemhis and mixed bands for excursions;
Tukadukas = Sheep Eaters. Lived in the mountains, without horses.

Observers, through the years have tried to distinguish one Shoshone band from another on the basis of their focal food but, as Brigham Madsen has pointed out, "one day a Shoshoni group might happen to be rock chuck eaters; another day the same Indians might be camas eaters, or deer eaters, or fish eaters" (Madsen: 1990:25). Locational references, including Lemhi Shoshone and Fort Hall Shoshone, have proved to be longer lasting.

Read Capt. Haller's 1854 description of Shoshone bands.

Shoshone and Bannocks of Fort Hall
Pohogues, "People of the Sage" are the Shoshone and Bannock at Fort Hall, Idaho. They belong to two different linguistic groups (although both belong to the Uto-aztecan linguistic families). On one hand there are the so-called "pohague," "sagebrush people," belonging to the Shoshone linguistic tribe, and on the other hand there are the Bannock, whose language is more closely related to the Northern Paiutes or Paviotsos. Both groups, since the beginning of 1800's, have liked to operate together and the connection between them has been strengthened by several marriages.

"The Bannocks have - probably rather late - turned away from their linguistic friends in Oregon. They have been spread over great parts of Idaho and bordering parts of Montana and Wyoming; and a great number of Shoshones on the Wind River reservation have Bannock blood in their veins, several families having typical Bannock names. The Bannocks appeared in several groups: some were in scattered single families or small bands, with or without horses, in the northern and western part of the area which they inhabited; mounted Bannock were found near Fort Hall and along the Snake River, who, in later times, could collect into larger bands. The Shoshone in Wyoming tell about the Bannocks that visited Salmon River, calling them Northern Bannocks, while those who lived on the lower sections of Snake River are called Southern Bannocks.

"The Bannocks didn't distinguish themselves much from their Shoshone neighbors as far as mode of living and habits are concerned. Those Bannocks who stayed around Fort Hall (which happened to be the winter quarter even before the time of the reservation) congregated often, as we just mentioned, into bands which fought with the military organization reminiscent of the Washakie Shoshones, although it was not of the same firm type. And the chieftains like Tagi or Buffalohorn made expeditions to the buffalo countries east of the mountains, often along the famous Bannock trail in Yellowstone Park" (Hultkrantz 1974:13-22).

Who are the Lemhi Shoshone?
John Rees, former Indian Agent on the Lemhi Reservation, helps to give some perspective about the coalescing of these different groups through the 19th century:

"At the time Lewis and Clark visited the Lemhi country in 1805 there were about 500 Shoshonis then occupying the land under Chief Cameahwait. In 1855 the Mormons found the country still inhabited by Shoshonis under Chief Snagg together with some roving Bannacks, but the gold miners of 1866 found a mixed tribe which was composed of Shoshonis, Tukuarikis (Sheepeater) and Bannacks who had gathered into one congregation and had selected Tendoy as their chief, and as they did not constitute a separate tribe, they became known as "Tendoy"s Band." After becoming settled on the Lemhi Reservation in Lemhi Valley in 1875 where they intermarried, they soon coalesced in to a tribe now called the "Lemhis", and so extensively did they intermarry that in 1900, excepting some old people, there were no full blooded Shoshonis, Tukuarikas or Bannacks among them, so they were enumerated in the census, as a single tribe. In 1905 they gave up the Lemhi reserve and were later removed to Ft. Hall numbering at the time 474 Souls" (Rees: 1992).

Salmon Eaters, Agaidika

The following excerpts are from Ake Hultkrantz's research report produced and submitted to the Indian Claims Commission in the 1950's.

Agaidika (salmon eaters) along the Lemhi River, Idaho. "Agaidikas called themselves "pia agaidika," "big salmon eaters" - "because we caught big salmon," an old man told me. The same name, however, has been given to those salmon eating Shoshones who lived on the Camas prairie.

"The Agaidikas still remember the time when they had no horses and lived on wild grass, berries, fruits, pinyon nuts, fish (salmon and trout) and some big game which existed in the neighborhood: antelopes and deer and sheep in the mountain. Although fishing played a very important role and among other things, demanded collective effort, it was not dominating; but it put its stamp on the daily lives of the Shoshone culture, a culture which showed many different economic activities" (Hultkrantz: 1974).

Explorer John C. Fremont observed Salmon Eaters in his journals in 1843. The following scene was described at "Fishing Falls", today's Shoshone Falls on the Snake River.
Portion of 1848 Fremont map of Oregon and Upper California.
Courtesy of University of Montana Manfield Library.
Shoshone Falls,
image taken as part of the U.S. Corps of Engineers western survey expedition of 1874.
Courtesy the Corps of Engineers.

"... encamped at sunset on the river, near several lodges of Snake Indians.

"Our encampment was about one mile below the Fishing falls, a series of cataracts with very inclined planes, which are probably so named because they form a barrier to the ascent of the salmon; and the great fisheries from which the inhabitants of this barren region almost entirely derive a subsistence commence at this place.

"These appeared to be unusually gay savages, fond of loud laughter; and, in their apparent good nature and merry character, struck me as being entirely different from the Indians we had been accustomed to see. From several who visited our camp in the evening, we purchased, in exchange for goods, dried salmon. At this season they are not very fat, but we were easily pleased. The Indians made us comprehend, that when the salmon came up the river in the spring, they are so abundant that they merely throw in their spears at random, certain of bringing out fish.

"These poor people are but slightly provided with winter clothing; there is but little game to furnish skins for the purpose; and of a little animal which seemed to be the most numerous, it required 20 skins to make a covering to the knees. But they are still a joyous talkative race, who grow fat and become poor with the salmon, which at least never fail them-the dried being used in the absence of the fresh. We are encamped immediately on the river bank, and with the salmon jumping up out of the water, and Indians paddling about in boats made of rushes, or laughing around the fires, the camp to-night has quite a lively appearance" (Fremont: 1845).

Sheep Eaters, Tukadika

"Tukudika (the proper name is "meat-eaters," but the word has also the meaning of "eaters of big horn sheep"). These people lived in the high areas around Salmon River, Idaho. They were also called "toyaino," "mountain dwellers," and in later times have also been called Agaidika.

"The Tukudikas built up their economy in the same way as the Agaikikas; they collected herbs, berries, and roots, fished and hunted. But unlike the Agaidikas they spent comparatively more time at fishing than in other ways of gathering food; moreover, the Tukudikas spent more time at hunting than at fishing. Now and then they hunted deer and those who did so were called "Tihiyadika," "Deer eaters" - but they killed mainly the mountain sheep" (Hultkrantz: 1974).

In W. A. Allen's The Sheep Eaters (published in 1913), Allen relates this story told him by a 115 year old Sheep Eater named "The Woman Under the Ground." According to Allen, she spoke in sign language:

"My people lived among the clouds. We were the Sheep Eaters who have passed away, but on those walls are the paint rocks, where our traditions are written on their face, chiseled with obsidian arrow heads. Our people were not warriors. We worshipped the sun, and the sun is bright and so were our people. Our men were good and our women were like the sun. The Great Spirit has stamped our impressions on the rocks by His lightenings; there are many of our people who were outlined on those smooth walls years ago; then our people painted their figures, or traded them with beautiful colored stones, and the paleface calls them "painted rocks."

"The Woman Under the Ground", a 115 yr. old Sheepeater interviewed by W. A. Allen.
(Allen: 1913)

"Our people never came down into the valleys, but always lived among the clouds, eating the mountain sheep and the goats, and sometimes the elk when they came high on the mountains. Our tepees were made of the cedar, thatched with grey moss and cemented with the gum from the pines, carpeted with the mountain sheep-skins, soft as down. Our garments were made from the skins of the gazelle, and ornamented with eagle feathers and ermine and otter skins.

"We chanted our songs to the sun, and the Great Spirit was pleased. He gave us much sheep and meat and berries and pure water, and snow to keep the flies away. The water was never muddy. We had no dogs nor horses. We did not go far from our homes, but were happy in our mountain adobe" (Allen: 1913).

The Tukuarikas or sheepeaters tribe

"were driven into the hills and mountains by the Blackfoot Indians. They adopted a new mode of living which consisted of living on bighorn sheep, dressing in furs and skins, and dwelling in rocks and caves. They did not have horses nor firearms, and used the dog as a beast of burden, and had bows and arrows. They were slender and wiry. Their homes were in the most secluded, highest points in the mountains. They had no modern implements, used the obsidian knife and hatchet, dressed in animal skins. They were called the wild men of the mountains. Lewis and Clark called them the Broken Moccasin Indians. They were removed to the Lemhi Reserve and became amalgamated with that tribe" (Rees: ISU Manuscripts).

Background: Shoshone Falls, image taken as part of the U.S. Corps of Engineers western survey expedition of 1874. Courtesy the Corps of Engineers.