Though there are two other federally recognized Paiute Tribes located in Oregon and California, the Northern Paiutes and the Owens Valley Paiutes, this overview will describe the Southern Paiute Tribe of the Great Basin region of the US.
Historically, the Southern Paiutes consisted of as many as 31 different bands, or subgroups, stretching across northern Arizona, southeastern Nevada, and southern Utah. However, in recent years the Southern Paiutes are divided into five separate federally recognized tribes.
Attractions & Cultural Centers
- Pipe Spring National Monument, located on the Kaibab Indian Reservation - Sites filled with Paiute and Ancestral Puebloan history, as well as early Mormon settler history.
- Parashant National Monument, Grand Canyon, AZ - Ancestral lands of different bands of Southern Paiutes.
- Cedar Breaks National Monument - Paiutes would traditionally retreat to this area in the mountains during the hot summer months, after planting crops in the Cedar Valley below.
- The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is currently in the process of attempting to build a Paiute/Native Cultural Center somewhere in the vicinity of Springdale, UT, near Zion National Park. In 2013, Springdale City voted against the tribe’s proposal to commercially zone a portion of available land, in order to build a center. They are still looking for alternatives.
Prior to the 1800s United States federal government rezoning, Paiute people had communities all across the Great Basin/ Colorado River Plateau regions - California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
In contemporary years, members of the Southern Paiute Tribes live on or around 5 different locations and reservations.
- Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (Cedar City, UT)
- The PITU Reservation is made up of ten separate land parcels located in 4 different Utah counties, Iron, Millard, Sevier, and Washington.
- San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe of Arizona (Tuba City, AZ/ Willow Springs, AZ)
- Several of their communities exist on the Navajo Reservation, and the tribe is currently trying to restore some of their own land.
- Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians (Kaibab Indian Reservation, AZ)
- Moapa Band of Paiute Indians (Moapa River Indian Reservation, NV)
- Las Vegas Tribe of Paiute Indians (Las Vegas Indian Colony, Las Vegas, NV)
History & Culture
Southern Paiutes moved into the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau regions approximately 1000 A.D. They were primarily hunter-gatherers; however, they were exceptionally skilled at irrigation and planting crops. Their individual tribes, or bands, always stuck close to the few water sources in the Southwest, namely the Colorado River and its tributaries.
In the 1800s, Spanish settlement brought violence and the slave trade to the Southern Paiutes. The Paiutes did not acquire and use the horse for riding, as did their native neighbors, and thus became vulnerable to raiding by the Spanish and other Natives, often losing their children and women.
The Paiutes may have had the most peaceful relations with Mormon settlers in the 1850s than other Natives in the region. Due to the missionary and peace efforts of Mormon settler Jacob Hamblin, the two groups maintained good ties, with the notable exception of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. After this incident, in which traveling emigrants were slaughtered by some Mormon settlers, the Paiutes were blamed for the attack. It wasn’t until years later that the common consensus became that the Paiutes did not play any role in the massacre.
Over the next century, the federal government denied Southern Paiutes tribal recognition, then eventually granted recognition, then offered initially very small land parcels, then over time granted more and more acres of land to most established reservations, which is still only a small fraction of the land they historically hunted on.
The culture today often isn’t too different from most US citizens; however, the Paiute people do like to maintain some specific aspects of their culture. They participate in PowWows, the spring Bear Dance, the Circle Dance, traditional music, dancing, and storytelling, instrument crafting (flute, drums, rattles, etc.), and other arts and crafts, such as basket making, painting, and pottery.
Their current economy mainly runs on ranching, mining, Native arts and crafts, and tourism.
The Paiute people pride themselves on their warm hospitality, hard work, and easygoing dispositions.
Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. http://www.utahpaiutes.org/about/history/.
“Southern Paiute Traditional Lands.” http://www.kaibabpaiute-nsn.gov/spc/SPCp2.html.
Moapa Paiutes. http://www.moapapaiutes.com/events.htm.
Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. http://www.lvpaiutetribe.com/history.html.
“San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.” http://www.visitarizona.com/things-to-do/san-juan-southern-paiute-tribe-tuba-city-az.
National Park Service. “Parashant.” http://www.nps.gov/para/learn/index.htm.
“San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe of Arizona.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Juan_Southern_Paiute_Tribe_of_Arizona.
National Park Service. “Cedar Breaks.” http://www.nps.gov/cebr/learn/historyculture/southern-paiute-indians.htm.
Utah American Indian. http://www.utahindians.org/archives/paiutes/history.html.