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Paiute refers to two related groups of Native North Americans speaking languages belonging to the northern branch of the Uto-Aztecan family of Native American languages. The Paiutes live within the Great Basin and Mojave Desert in parts of what are now the states of California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

The Northern Paiute ranged over central and eastern California, western Nevada, and eastern Oregon. The Southern Paiute occupied northwest Arizona, southeast California, southern Nevada, and southern Utah.

Prior to contact the Paiute had a migratory lifestyle, living in small round huts (wickiups) that were covered with tule rushes, with each band moving often within its territory to make use of seasonally available food sources. Food sources included pinon nuts, grass seeds, roots, fish, migratory waterfowl, Pronghorn Antelope, rabbits and other small mammals. Except for Cui-ui lakesucker and the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, which could be caught in great abundance during their spawning runs, these food sources were available sporadically, and in only small quantities. In parts of their range, the Paiute overlapped and intermingled with the Shoshone people.

The Northern Paiute were more warlike than their southern relatives; they fought the miners and the settlers during the 1860s, and a considerable part of them joined the Bannock in the war of 1878. And it was among the Paiute that the Ghost Dance religion, which was to be of much significance on the frontier in the 1890s, first appeared (c.1870). The Native American "prophet", Wovoka, was a Nortern Paiute.

Although contact increased their mobility by introducing them to horses and due an early policy by the railroads which allowed Paiutes to travel for free within Northern Nevada, the modern history of the tribe shares much with other western tribes - disease, poverty, war with the federal government, conflict with prospectors, ranchers and farmers and loss of the traditional way of life.

Federal policy encouraged farming at the expense of the fisheries, which were nearly destroyed by diversions for irrigation. Currently, with help from tribally-run fish hatcheries, Cui-ui and Cutthroat Trout numbers are recovering in Pyramid Lake, although water is often insufficient to support spawning runs, and the fisheries are not commercially significant. Loss of these fisheries was a terrible blow to the Paiute people, both economically and culturally.

Today the Paiute live on reservations in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon. The name is also spelled Piute.

Major Reservations

Famous members of the Paiute tribe: