North American Native American Cultural Areas: The Plateau/Great Basin Cultural Area

Freemont culture
Figure 1.-- This is a bighorn sheep hunt scene petroglyph along Nine-Mile Canyon National Backcountry Byway, near Price, Utah. It is attributed to the Freemont culture. The Femont people are believed to have migrated south or absorbed by Numic-speaking tribes entering the Plateau rea from the southwest (vout 15th century). Photographer: Scott Catron

This Plateau or Great Basin Area area comprises the highlands between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, essentially the area between the central plains and the Pacific Coast. It is now all or parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Some might add southern British Colombia. There is limited precipitation in the Plateau/Great Basin area which had a huge impact on the inhabitants and and cultures of the Native American people living there. People are believed to have begun settling in the Plateau area at an early point of Native American migration (12,000-9,000 BC). Virtually nothing is know of these people. The Fremont people are the first known people to inhabit the area. It dates to the the immediate pre-Colombian era (700-1300 AD). It was adjacent to and contemporaneous with, but different from the Anasazi culture to the south. They are among the ancestors of the modern tribes of the Southwest and Plateau area. Some may have migrated southward to join established Pueblo communities. Other may have been absorbed by Numic-speaking bands of hunter-gatherers moving into the region just before Columbus' voyages (14th century). Numic is a branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. It includes seven languages spoken by Native American peoples traditionally living in the Plateau/Great Basin, Colorado River basin, and southern Great Plains. The modern Plateau tribes are largely descended from these Numic tribes. The salmon of the Colombia River draining system was the diet staple for some of the more primitive tribes. Pottery was unknown, except to some of the southern-most tribes. This is in part because the Plateau culture was characterized by the need for mobility to utilize seasonally available resources. Pottery was heavy and thus less easily transported than baskets. Basket work in contrast was highly developed. Cooking was by baskets and hot stones. An underground house was used in the north and bush shelters in the south. Social organization and ceremonies were relatively simple. Some of the major tribes were the Bannock, Nez PercÚ, Paiute (split between the Southwestern and Plateau cultural areas), Shoshone (often called the Snake), Ute, and Washoe. All these tribes except the Washoe spoke Numic languages. There was a substantial degree of intermingling between the tribes which tended to live and trade peacefully with each other and end enjoyed a substantial degree of cultural similarity. Contact with Europeann-Americans occurred relatively late and in only small numbers. The first European to reach the area was Spanish Dominguez-Escalante Expedition (1776). And then after the Louisiana Purchase, the American Lewis and Clarke Expedition swhich passed through the northern range of the Plateau area (1804-05). At this time, the Plateau tribes were expanding to the north and east and developing a horse-riding bufalo-hunting culture. These people, including the Bannock and Eastern Shoshone developed cultural traits of the Plains tribes. The Great Basin tribes thus maintain their religion and culture beyond the time frame of other tribes. They became and were leading proponents of 19th century cultural and religious renewals. The Ghost Dance was one such manifestation. The Mormons were the first settlers (1848). Th first Indian reservation began soon after by the time of the Civil war. The Goshute Reservation was created (1863). The Federal Government began an acculturation process which included sending children to Indian schools and gradually limiting the landbases and resources assigned to the reservations.

Geography

This Plateau or Great Basin Area area comprises the highlands between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, essentially the area between the central plains and the Pacific Coast. It is now all or parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Some might add southern British Colombia. There is limited precipitation in the Plateau/Great Basin area which had a huge impact on the inhabitants and and cultures of the Native American people living there.

History

People are believed to have begun settling in the Plateau area at an early point of Native American migration (12,000-9,000 BC). Virtually nothing is know of these people. The Fremont people are the first known people to inhabit the area. It dates to the the immediate pre-Colombian era (700-1300 AD). It was adjacent to and contemporaneous with, but different from the Anasazi culture to the south. They are among the ancestors of the modern tribes of the Southwest and Plateau area. Some may have migrated southward to join established Pueblo communities. Other may have been absorbed by Numic-speaking bands of hunter-gatherers moving into the region just before Columbus' voyages (14th century). Numic is a branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. It includes seven languages spoken by Native American peoples traditionally living in the Plateau/Great Basin, Colorado River basin, and southern Great Plains. The modern Plateau tribes are largely descended from these Numic tribes. Contact with Europeann-Americans occurred relatively late and in only small numbers. The first European to reach the area was Spanish Dominguez-Escalante Expedition (1776). And then after the Louisiana Purchase, the American Lewis and Clarke Expedition swhich passed through the northern range of the Plateau area (1804-05). The Mormons were the first Amweican settlers (1848). The first Indian reservation began soon after by the time of the Civil war. The Goshute Reservation was created (1863). The Federal Government began an acculturation process which included sending children to Indian schools and gradually limiting the landbases and resources assigned to the reservations.

Economy

The salmon of the Colombia River draining system was the diet staple for some of the more primitive tribes. Pottery was unknown, except to some of the southern-most tribes. This is in part because the Plateau culture was characterized by the need for mobility to utilize seasonally available resources. Pottery was heavy and thus less easily transported than baskets. Basket work in contrast was highly developed. Cooking was by baskets and hot stones. An underground house was used in the north and bush shelters in the south. At thetime of the European contact. is time, the Plateau tribes were expanding to the north and east and developing a horse-riding bufalo-hunting culture. These people, including the Bannock and Eastern Shoshone developed cultural traits of the Plains tribes.

Social Organization and Culture

Social organization and ceremonies were relatively simple. The Great Basin tribes because of the relatively late European contact maintained their religion and culture beyond the time frame of other tribes. They became and were leading proponents of 19th century cultural and religious renewals. The Ghost Dance was one such manifestation.

Tribes

Some of the major tribes in the Plateau/Great Basin cultural area were the Bannock, Nez PercÚ, Paiute (split between the Southwestern and Plateau cultural areas), Shoshone (often called the Snake), Ute, and Washoe. These were tribes that were brought under American jurisiction by the Lousiana Purchase (1803) and subsequent Lewis and Clarke Expedition. All these tribes except the Washoe spoke Numic languages. There was a substantial degree of intermingling between the tribes which tended to live and trade peacefully with each other and end enjoyed a substantial degree of cultural similarity.








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Created: 5:14 AM 11/14/2013
Last updated: 5:14 AM 11/14/2013