NAME OF CULTURE ASSIGNED: Paiute
WEBSITE OF TRIBE: http://www.burnspaiutensn.gov/
The Burns Paiute Native American Tribe is the ancestor of the Wadatika band who lived in the central and southern regions of modern-day Oregon. The Burns Paiute tribe was and remains a part of the Northern Paiute group, who share a common language and region but are otherwise distinct. Traditionally, the Paiute were semi-nomadic due to their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and lived in communities comprised of individual families who moved to better foraging grounds as the seasons changed. Many families, however, did have a seasonal home that they would return to each winter. During the more forgiving times of the year, living arrangements consisted of a conical structure covered with mats of grasses or animal skins. To prepare for winter, the Paiute built more solid dwellings into the ground close to a storehouse pre-stocked with goods.
2. Colonial Experience of the Culture
Widespread contact between Paiute and American immigrants did not occur until the early to mid 1800s. However, after a relationship was established between natives and settlers it was tarnished quickly, resulting in several wars between the Native Americans and the American Immigrants, which started in the 1860s. Treaties and reservations were created and destroyed amidst these conflicts but ultimately continued to evolve throughout the 20th century as the U.S Government balanced demand for natural resources with Native American rights.
In her autobiographical work Life Among the Piutes Sarah Winnemucca recounts how as a small child she remembers the eagerness and glee with which her grandfather, chief of the entire Piute of Nevada, welcomed a party of American Immigrants who were returning from California. Referring to them as his “...long looked for white brothers,” the Chief went to great lengths to earn their trust and build a friendship with the new waves of travelers and settlers that were immigrating to traditionally Paiute regions. Primarily due to competition for resources, Sarah Winnemucca’s grandfather was not able to see his dream of peaceful coexistence realized. As populations increased and once reliable resources such as game, fish, and timber became scarce, tensions mounted between American Immigrants and Native Americans. This tension was sadly typical of relations between settlers and Paiute. The conflict escalated with the killings of individuals from both sides before, eventually manifesting itself into Nevada’s largest ever battle between Native Americans and American Immigrants, called the Pyramid Lake War.
The Pyramid Lake War was initiated by approximately 100 settlers of the area as a final revenge measure for a series of killings that came about in response to competition for various natural resources. Although they suffered great losses during their initial skirmish, after regrouping with support of the United States Army the American Immigrants greatly outmatched the Paiute by both numbers and technology and forced them out of their historic Pyramid Lake settlements. The Owens Valley Indian War ended with a similar result, as Paiute Chief Captain George surrendered after two years of a struggle defined by a mismatch of resources. Almost 1000 Paiute were escorted to Sans Sebastian Indian Reservation in the wake of their surrender. Their time there would be short lived, as the reservation dissolved only a year later due to lack of resources. The Bannock War was a final skirmish between Native Americans of the Great Basin and American Immigrants, stimulated by an escalating series of broken treaties. Starting with a 1867 treaty by a band of Paiute known as the Bannock in Idaho, the Bannock attempted to peacefully transition from their traditional lifestyles into a pragmatic coexistence with EuroAmerican settlers. However, due to increasing demands and revisions of treaties tailored to fit the need of growing population of settlers searching for gold and consuming other natural resources, and the incapability of Bannock Paiute to adapt to the agricultural lifestyle thrust upon them at their reservation in lieu of their traditional hunter gathering lifestyles, peaceful coexistence proved hard to sustain. The war started and ended in 1878, after which Native Americans were escorted to previously established Malheur Reservation which would soon disband due to discontent with its inhabitants and demand for resources and land that the reservation occupied.
The volatility of the relations between Paiute and American Immigrants lingered long after resolution of their physical confrontations. Treaties and reservations continued to fluctuate as improperly managed and unsustainable reservations were abandoned. Precious land was also gobbled up by an increasing number of settlers whose needs took priority. It wasn’t until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 that Paiute started to experience concrete compromises with the American government, when they were able to organize themselves as a federally recognized tribe and earn certain benefits and services that this recognition entailed. This recognition and some of the benefits it brought about were challenged in 1954 when several tribes lost their recognition and additional chunks of land, and not fully restored again until 1980. Today almost thirty distinct Paiute bands exist both on and off reservations across the Great Basin.
"Countries and Their Cultures." Paiutes. Advameg Inc. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
3. Contemporary developments or issues
Like many other American Indian tribes, contemporary Paiute communities are centralized on reservations. These reservations are found dotted around the Great Basin and were established in 1980 after Congress officially recognized the tribe and granted them lands. Also like other American Indian nations, the Paiute way of life is threatened by outside influences. Correspondingly, there is a push within the Paiute tribe to protect their language, culture, and environmental assets, as well as to secure for themselves economic stability and autonomy.
On their reservations, the Paiute govern their own land and wildlife resources. Preserving their natural surroundings is an important part of Paiute life and is taken very seriously. Some bands of the Paiute nation, like the Kaibab Paiute band, have even scripted legislature so as to “ensure proper management” of these resources, vowing to maintain the “Spiritual, Cultural, and Economic value” of the wildlife around them. Measures taken to ensure this range from licensing hunting and fishing to promoting their traditional land customs and spiritual values. Their aims are long term; the Paiute have adopted this conservative legislation in order to “preserve and improve [the land and its resources] for future generations.” The Paiute are thinking ahead, hoping to pass along their land in its most natural, pristine state.
In an increasingly modernizing America, the Paiute are also trying to strike a balance between their ancient cultural roots and contemporary ways of life. The loss of their native languages and dialects continues to threaten Paiute bands across the United States. Sustained attempts are made to preserve their language. Classes in Paiute are offered at various high schools and colleges in the Great Basin area. Their language has been explored, analyzed, and written about by various scholars. Linguist Catherine Fowler is one such scholar, and has published several essays on Paiute linguistics and ethnography. The work of Fowler has helped to establish a Paiute alphabet and written language so as to help ensure the language’s longevity and accessibility. Further, the Paiute are employing more modern methods of spreading information about their language in order to promote its preservation. Websites such as native-languages.org serve as an online documentation of Paiute terms, pronunciations, and dialects. This digitizing of Paiute language theoretically saves the language in a database so that it cannot be lost to time. However, despite these continued and varied attempts, the Paiute languages are still at risk. The number of native speakers has dwindled to only around 1000 people in the entire nation and this number continues to drop with each successive generation.
While the Paiute certainly face certain cultural hardships, various contemporary Paiute bands have achieved a decent level of economic stability. To wit, the Southern Paiute used some of their $7.25 million settlement from the US government to establish small businesses, develop the possibility for tourism and recreation on their land, and promote industrial development. Many of the lands the Paiute received to establish their reservations are mineral rich. These fortunate bands have been able to develop these mineral deposits into a valuable economic resource. Despite these successes, the Paiute are still threatened by poverty and poor healthcare. Low incomes are perennially a difficulty for many Paiute. Issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular troubles, and poor health education also plague many Paiute and need further attention for the future prospering for the Paiute American Indians.
Bulletts Jr., Danny. "Wildlife Department." Wildlife Department. Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <http://www.kaibabpaiute-nsn.gov/Wildlife.html>.
"History: The Paiutes." The Paiutes: History. Utah American Indian Digital Archive, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.utahindians.org/archives/paiutes/history.html>.
"People of the Colorado Plateau-The Southern Paiute." People of the Colorado Plateau-The Southern Paiute. CP-LUHNA. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://cpluhna.nau.edu/People/southern_paiute.htm>.
"Northern Paiute Indian Language." Native-Languages.org. Native Languages of America Website, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://www.native-languages.org/paiute.htm#language>.
"Northern Paiute Language Project." Northern Paiute Language Project. The Regents of the University of California, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~paiute/the-language.php>.