Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Shoshone Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students
and teachers to visit our Shoshone Indian homepage for more in-depth information
about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Shoshone pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.
How do you pronounce the word "Shoshone"? What does it mean? Should it be spelled
'Shoshone' or 'Shoshoni'? Shoshone is pronounced show-SHOW-nee. Nobody knows where this word came from or what it meant. Probably it was an English corruption of a
name for their tribe in a different Indian language. In their own language, the Shoshones call themselves Newe (pronounced nuh-wuh) which means "people."
Some bands prefer the spelling 'Shoshoni,' and others prefer 'Shoshone.' Either spelling is fine to use.
Where do the Shoshones live?
The Shoshone Indians were far-ranging people. Different bands of Shoshoni Indians lived in what is now
Utah, and even parts of California.
Most Shoshone people still live in these areas today.
How is the Shoshone Indian nation organized?
There are nine different Shoshone tribes today. Each Shoshone tribe lives on its own reservation, which is land that belongs to
them and is under their control. Each Shoshone tribe has its own government, laws,
police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Shoshones are also US citizens and must obey American law.
In the past, each Shoshone band was ruled by a chief, who was usually were chosen by a tribal council.
Today, most Shoshone tribes are led by a chairman and council members elected by all the people.
What language do the Shoshones speak?
Most Shoshone people speak English today. More than a thousand Shoshones also speak their native
If you'd like to know a few easy Shoshone words,
"behne" (pronounced similar to buh-nuh) is a friendly greeting, and "aishen" (pronounced similar to eh-shun) means "thank you."
You can also read a Shoshone picture glossary here.
These words come from a dialect of Shoshone spoken in Idaho. Some Shoshone words are different among Nevada Shoshones,
just like English sounds different when spoken by British and American people.
What was Shoshone culture like in the past? What is it like now?
There are some cultural differences between the Eastern Shoshone people, the Western Shoshone people,
and the Northern Shoshone people. In particular, the Eastern Shoshones adopted more elements of Plains Indian culture.
Here are links to the homepage of the Eastern Shoshone tribe,
the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone,
Shoshone-Bannock tribe (Northern Shoshones.)
On their sites you can find information about the Shoshone people in the past and today.
How do Shoshone Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house.
Many Shoshone children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more
chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have
dolls, toys, and games to play.
Shoshone kids also enjoyed footraces, and girls and women played
a ball game called shinny. A Shoshone mother traditionally carried a young child in a
on her back--a custom which many American parents have
What were Shoshone men and women's roles?
Shoshone women were in charge of the home. Besides cooking and cleaning, a Shoshone woman built her family's tepee
and dragged the heavy posts with her whenever they moved. Shoshone men were hunters and warriors,
responsible for feeding and defending their families. Only men became Shoshone chiefs, but
both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.
What were Shoshone homes like in the past?
The Eastern and Northern Shoshones lived in the tall, cone-shaped buffalo-hide houses
known as tipis (or teepees). Since the Shoshone tribe
moved frequently as they gathered food, a tipi had to be carefully designed to set up and break down quickly, like a modern tent.
An entire Shoshone village could be packed up and ready to move on within an hour.
The Western Shoshones, who didn't do much hunting, built less portable wickiup homes.
Here are some pictures of tipis, wickiups, and other Native American houses.
Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter.
Most Shoshones live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Shoshone clothing like? Did the Shoshones wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Shoshone women wore long deerskin dresses with wide sleeves.
Shoshone men wore breechcloths and leggings, as well
as buckskin shirts when the weather was cool. Both men and women wore
moccasins on their feet.
A Shoshone lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills and beadwork.
Later, Shoshone people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and vests, which they also decorated
with beading and traditional ornaments. Here is a site with photographs of
Shoshone beaded clothing, and some photos and links
about Indian clothing in general.
Shoshone men did not originally wear Plains Indian warbonnets
like the Sioux, but in the 1800's some Shoshone leaders adopted this custom from
their neighbors. Shoshone women often wore basket hats.
Traditionally, Shoshone people only cut their hair when they were in mourning.
Shoshone men and women both wore their hair either loose or in two long braids.
Shoshone men often styled the front of their hair into pompadours or other styles, and sometimes wrapped their braids in fur.
Some Shoshones wore facial tattoos, and they commonly
painted their faces for special occasions.
They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.
Today, some Shoshone people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they
wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths...
and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.
What was Shoshone transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Shoshone Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built rafts.
Originally the Shoshones would use dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to
help them carry their belongings. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Shoshones
could travel quicker and further.
What was Shoshone food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Eastern Shoshone were big game hunters. Men worked together to hunt buffalo on the plains, and also hunted deer, mountain sheep, and other animals.
The Northern Shoshone occasionally hunted buffalo, but relied more on salmon fishing, deer, and small game,
as well as roots gathered by the women. The Western Shoshone had a more plant-based
diet, particularly pine nuts, roots, and seeds, and also hunted antelopes and rabbits.
Here is a website with more information
about Native hunting.
What were Shoshone weapons and tools like in the past?
Shoshone hunters used bows and arrows. Fishermen used spears, nets, and basket traps. In war, Shoshone men fired their bows or fought with
war clubs and buffalo-hide shields.
Here is a website of pictures and information about Native American weapons.
What other Native Americans did the Shoshone tribe interact with?
Shoshone bands traded regularly with each other and also with neighboring tribes such as the
Crow, Nez Perce,
and Paiute tribes. The Shoshone were especially friendly with the Paiutes,
and intermarried with them frequently.
The Shoshone also fought wars with other tribes, especially the . Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than
European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties
rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included
counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him),
stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat.
So the Shoshone sometimes were enemies of Plains Indian tribes like the
Cheyenne, and other times they were peaceful.
The Europeans who first met them were surprised by how often the Plains tribes fought with their neighbors,
yet how easily they made peace with each other when they were done fighting. The Western Shoshone, who lived farthest from the
Plains, did not fight other tribes often.
What kinds of stories do the Shoshones tell?
There are lots of traditional Shoshone legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the
Shoshone Indian culture. Here is one story about the origin of death.
Here's a website where you can read more about Shoshoni mythology.
What about Shoshone religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately
in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about
Shoshone rituals or this site about
Native American religion in general.
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and
Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization
working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization
here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in
Thanks for your interest in the Shoshone Indian people and their language!