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NRCSUT97001 - Utah (6477)(NRCS Photo Gallery).tif
Milton Hooper (left), Environmental Specialist at the Goshute Indian Reservation reviews plans for the reservation
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 United States
( Nevada and  Utah)
Shoshoni language,[1] English
Native American Church, Mormonism,[2]
Related ethnic groups
other Western Shoshone peoples, Ute people

The Goshutes are a tribe of Western Shoshone Native Americans. There are two federally recognized Goshute tribes today:


The Goshute lived in a remote part of what is now the western portion of Utah and eastern portion of Nevada. In aboriginal times they lived at a minimum subsistence level with no economic surplus on which a more elaborate social structure could be built. Organized primarily in nuclear families, the Goshutes hunted and gathered in family groups and would often cooperate with other family groups that usually made up a village.[3] Most Goshutes gathered with other families only two or three times a year, typically for pine nut harvests, communal hunts for no more than two to six weeks, and winter lodging which was for a longer period.[4]:336 These gatherings often lasted no more than two to six weeks, although winter gatherings were longer, with families organizing under a dagwani, or village headman.[5]

The Goshutes hunted lizards, snakes, small fish, birds, gophers, rabbits, rats, skunks, squirrels, and, when available, pronghorn, bear, coyote, deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.[4]:335–36 Hunting of large game was usually done by men, the hunters sharing large game with other members of the village. Women and children gathered harvesting nearly 100 species of wild vegetables and seeds, the most important being the pine nut.[6] They also gathered insects the most important being red ants, crickets and grasshoppers.[7] However a family was able to provide for most of its needs without assistance.[8] Their traditional arts include beadwork and basketry.[2]

Prior to contact with the Mormons, the Goshutes wintered in the Deep Creek Valley in dug out houses built of willow poles and earth known as wiki-ups. In the spring and summer they gathered wild onions, carrots and potatoes, and hunted small game in the mountains.


The Goshute Shosone of Utah use the seeds of Oxybasis rubra for food. [9] The name of the plant in the Goshute Shoshone language is on’-tǐm-pi-wa-tsǐp, on’-tǐm-pi-wa, on’-tǐm-pi-a-wa or on’-tǐm-pai-wa.[10]


Their language is a dialect of the Shoshoni language.


The Goshute are an indigenous peoples of the Great Basin, and their traditional territory extends from the Great Salt Lake to the Steptoe Range in Nevada, and south to Simpson Springs. Within this area, the Goshutes were concentrated in three areas: Deep Creek Valley near Ibapah on the Utah-Nevada border, Simpson’s Springs farther southeast, and the Skull and Tooele Valleys.[8]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Navajo and Ute slave raiders preyed upon the Goshute. Unlike their neighbors, the Goshutes only obtained horses in the late 19th century.[11] The Goshute diet depended on the grasslands, and consisted mostly of rats, lizards, snakes, rabbits, insects, grass-seed, and roots.[12] They could not have horses, since horses would trample the grassland and diminish their food sources.[13]

The first written description of the Goshute was made in the journal of Jedediah Smith while returning from a trip to California on his way to Bear Lake. For the next two decades white contact with the Goshutes remained sporadic and insignificant.

There were five divisions or subtribes[14]:

  • Pagayuats, formerly on Otter cr., s. w. Utah
  • Pierruiats, living at Deep cr., s. w. Utah, in 1873
  • Torountogoats, formerly in Egan canyon, e. Nevada
  • Tuwurints, formerly living on Snake cr., s. w., Utah
  • Unkagarits, formerly in Skull valley, s. w. Utah

Contact with Mormons[edit]

In 1847, Mormon pioneers settled in the neighboring Salt Lake Valley, and shortly afterwards began to invade Goshute territory. Tooele valley soon became a major grazing ground for Mormon cattle owners from Salt Lake and Utah Valley.[15]:4 In 1849, the Mormons starting building permanent structures in Goshute territory, beginning with the a saw mill commissioned by Ezra T. Benson. Other Mormon families followed and by 1850 Tooele County was established.[8] The Mormon encroachment severely interrupted the Goshute way of life. They occupied the best camping sites near reliable springs, hunted in Goshute hunting grounds, and overgrazed the meadowland, leaving it unfit for sustaining the animals and plants used by the Goshutes. Mormons believed that Utah was a promised land given to them by God, and did not recognize any Goshute claim to the land.[15]:5

The Goshutes did not accept the Mormon claim of exclusive rights to natural resources. They began confiscating cattle that would trespass onto their property.[8] At first the cattle were herded to Utah Valley, suggesting cooperation with the Timpanogos.[15]:10 After the Timpanogos suffered the massacres at Battle Creek and Fort Utah, many of the survivors came and combined with the Goshutes, intermarrying and assuming leadership roles.[8]. By 1851 the Goshutes had confiscated approximately $5,000 in cattle that had been grazing in their traditional homelands. In response, the Mormons sent an army with orders to kill the Goshute. The army ambushed a Goshute village, but the Goshute were able to defend themselves without any casualties.[8] Later that year, a group of Goshute confiscated cattle that belonged to Charles White, that had invaded their territory. An army of fifty Mormons attacked the Goshute camp and killed nine Goshutes.[8] In April 1851, a group of Goshute confiscated some horses that had invaded their territory near Benson Grist Mill. General Daniel H. Wells sent a posse led by Orrin Porter Rockwell to pursue the Goshute. They lost the trail of the Goshute that had taken the horses and encountered another group of 20 or 30 people, whom they took prisoner but did not disarm. When some of the Indians tried to escape, one was shot by Custer, a non-Mormon member of the posse. Custer was then shot by an Indian, who was in turn shot by another posse member. All but four or five prisoners escaped, and Rockwell inexplicably executed these.[15]:11-12 The Mormons continued to push further into Goshute territory, and by 1860, there were 1008 non-Indians in the traditional Goshute homelands of Tooele, Rush, and Skull Valleys. With the settlement of Ibapah, the Mormons had completely pushed the Goshutes out of any favored land.[16]

Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians of Utah[edit]

The Skull Valley Indian Reservation is located in Tooele County, Utah,[2] about half-way between the Goshute Reservation and Salt Lake City, Utah. The tribe consists of about 125 people,[17] of whom 31 live on an 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) reservation located at 40°23′15″N 112°44′09″W / 40.38750°N 112.73583°W / 40.38750; -112.73583 in Tooele County. The Dugway Proving Grounds lies just south of Skull Valley. To the east is a nerve gas storage facility and to the north is the Magnesium Corporation plant which has had severe environmental problems. The reservation was a proposed location for an 820-acre (330 ha) dry cask storage facility for the storage of 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. Only 120 acres (49 ha) are for the actual facility, and the rest of the land is a buffer area. 8½ years after application, this facility was licensed by the NRC.

The current tribal Chairwoman is Lori Bear Skiby, replacing her late father Lawrence Bear. The office of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute is at 1198 N. Main Street in Tooele, Utah. Tribal membership at the end of 2008 is 133.


  1. ^ "Goshute." Countries and Their Cultures. (retrieved 23 Aug 2011)
  2. ^ a b c Pritzker 242
  3. ^ Dennis R. Defa, Goshute Indians, in UTAH HISTORY ENCYCLOPEDIA 228,(Allan Kent Powell ed., 1994)
  4. ^ a b Chamberlin, Ralph V. (1911). "The ethno-botany of the Gosiute Indians of Utah" (PDF). Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association. 2: 330–384.
  5. ^ Julian H. Steward, Culture element distributions: XXIII Northern and Gosiute Shoshoni p.279 (1943); Dennis Ray Defa, A History of the Gosiute Indians to 1900, 12–13 (June 1979) (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Utah) (on file with University of Utah Library, University of Utah) note 10, at 16–18.
  6. ^ James B. Allen & Ted J. Warner, The Gosiute Indians in Pioneer Utah, 39 UTAH HIST. Q. note 11, at 163 (1971)
  7. ^ Ouida Blanthorn, A History of Tooele County, note 8, p.56 (1998)
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Defa, Goshute Indians]
  9. ^ Chamberlin, Ralph V., 1911, The Ethno-Botany of the Gosiute Indians of Utah, Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 2(5):331-405., page 366
  10. ^ Chamberlin, Ralph Vary (1911). "The Ethno-botany of the Gosiute Indians of Utah" (PDF). Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association Vol II, part 5. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  11. ^ Pritzker 222
  12. ^ Simpson, Report of Explorations, May 9, 1859, 52.
  13. ^ Robert S. MacPherson, "Setting the Stage: Native America Revisited," in Cuch, A History of Utah's American Indians, 17 note 16; Defa, "Goshute Indians," 228.
  14. ^ Handbook
  15. ^ a b c d Todd M. Compton. Becoming a "Messenger of Peace": Jacob Hamblin in Tooele (PDF).
  16. ^ Pritzker 241
  17. ^ http://www.skullvalleygoshutes.org/


  • Pritzker, Barry M. (2000) A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • James B. Allen, and Ted J. Warner, "The Gosiute Indians in Pioneer Utah," Utah Historical Quarterly 39 (Spring 1971)
  • Carling I. Malouf, "The Goshute Indians," Archaeology and Ethnology Papers, Museum of Anthropology, University of Utah 3 (1950).

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas, David Hurst, Lorann S. A. Pendleton, and Stephen C. Cappanari (1986). "Western Shoshone." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 11, Great Basin, edited by Warren L. d'Azevedo, 262-283. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

External links[edit]