The term was used as early as 1739 by French trader and explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Verendrye when he described hearing of the Gens du Serpent ("Snake people") from the Mandans. This is probably the first written mention of the Shoshone people. The term "Snakes" is also used to refer the Shoshone by British explorers David Thompson and Anthony Henday.
This term was widely used by American immigrants on the Oregon Trail in the Snake River and Owyhee River valleys of southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon. The term "Snake Indian" later included the Northern Paiute tribes found in the basins between the Cascade Mountains and these valleys in Oregon and northern Nevada and northeastern California. These people were the opponents of the California and Oregon Volunteers and U.S Army, in the Snake War.
- Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of Oregon, Volume II, 1848-1888. The History Company, San Francisco, 1888, p.462 note 4.
- "Wyoming History - Shoshoni and the Seeds of Change". Wwcc.cc.wy.us. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
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