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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 name Goshute derived either from a leader named Goship or from Gutsipupiutsi, a Shoshone word for Desert People.


The Goshute lived in the most desolate 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.


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.[9] The Goshute diet depended on the grasslands, and consisted mostly of rats, lizards, snakes, rabbits, insects, grass-seed, and roots.[10] They could not have horses, since horses would trample the grassland and diminish their food sources.[11]

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. Only after the arrival of the Mormons in 1847 did the Goshutes come into continual and prolonged contact with whites. Soon 49ers and later wagon trains of emigrant groups continually passed through their territory on the way west to California. Mormons moved into the Tooele Valley by 1855 and were wintering stock in Rush Valley. The Mormons established communities at Tooele, Grantsville, and Ibapah, all important sites to the Goshutes. Domestic livestock from these sources represented an important source of competition for the Goshutes food resources. In the fragile environment of the Great Basin desert, the animals would eat the plants and grass which they relied upon for seeds and fiber and they drank a great deal of water, always in short supply. Goshutes began to kill their livestock and threaten settlers, in a vain attempt to force the whites off of their homelands.

Contact increased when the military established Camp Floyd at Fairfield, later the Pony Express and Butterfield Overland Mail set up stations along the Central Overland Route between Fairfield, Simpson Springs, Fish Springs, and Deep Creek. Soon after telegraph lines were strung along that route. Ranchers and farmers moved into the region, like the stations, taking the best lands available with water and forage, significant water and resource sites for the Goshutes in the otherwise barren land.

Goshute War[edit]

Finally after attacks on the Central Overland stage stations and coaches in the early 1860s, California Volunteers of the Union Army, under Brigadier-General Patrick E. Connor, attacked the Goshutes, killing many and forcing the survivors to sign a treaty. The treaty did not give up land or sovereignty but did agree to end all hostile actions against the whites and to allow several routes of travel to pass through their country. They also agreed to the construction of military posts and station houses wherever necessary. Stage lines, telegraph lines, and railways would be permitted to be built through their domain; mines, mills, and ranches would be permitted and timber could be cut. The federal government agreed to pay the Goshutes $1,000.00 a year for twenty years as compensation for the destruction of their game. The treaty was signed on October 12, 1863, ratified in 1864 and announced by President Lincoln on January 17, 1865.

The tribe ratified their constitution in 1940. In 1993, they had 413 enrolled members.[12]

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,[13] 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 Defa, Goshute Indians]
  9. ^ Pritzker 222
  10. ^ Simpson, Report of Explorations, May 9, 1859, 52.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Pritzker 241
  13. ^ 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]