Around the middle of the 1700’s, several tribes of Indians of the Uto-Aztecan tribes came into Utah, including the Utes, Shoshone, Paiute, and the Goshute. It was these tribes that, along with the Navajo, were living in Utah when the white settlers came.
The Goshute, whose name means “People of the Desert”, lived in the western region of Utah as well as eastern Nevada. Unlike the Anasazi, the Fremont, and even the Navajo, the Goshute Indians were known for living extremely minimally with very little village infrastructure at all. Each Goshute family was extremely self-sufficient, and they would meet with other Goshute families only a few times each year. These times of gathering together would be spent in harvesting pine nuts, hunting for just a few weeks, or spending the winter together. It was the winter gathering that lasted the longest, and they would appoint a “dagwani”, which was their village leader. Most Goshute families lived in a wiki-up, which was a small shelter built of poles and earth.
The Paiute (more specifically the “Southern Paiute”) territory is in southern Utah, southern Nevada, and northern Arizona. Right here in Cedar City, the Paiute remain, and less than a mile from Rising K Ranch itself is a Paiute hunting ground. The Paiute were known to be a peaceful tribe, and unfortunately were commonly raided (as were the Goshutes and many other tribes) by the Navajo. During these raids, the Navajo would take women and children for slave labor. It was not the Navajo, Hopi, or Ute raids, however, that almost destroyed the Paiute tribe, but it was the white settler’s rush for silver in Pioche, Nevada, as well as the general settling of Utah by the Mormon Pioneers. In spite of great decimation, the Paiute have made a remarkable resurgence in Southern Utah.
The Shoshone dwelt all over Utah, as well as in Wyoming, Southern Idaho and Nevada. The Shoshone were known for their many acts of war involving the United States Army. In 1863, after the Shoshone had been killing off white settlers, the United States Army killed about 410 Shoshone people in the Bear River Massacre in 1863. From 1864-1868, the Shoshone fought the US in the Snake War. By 1876, however, the Shoshone were fighting alongside the US against their old enemies, the Lakota and the Cheyenne. Then only two years later in 1878, the Shoshone formed an alliance with their related tribe, the Bannock, and engaged in war against the United States in the Bannock War. Probably the most notable of all Shoshone was a woman named Sacagawea, who assisted Lewis and Clark on their expedition, long before any of these wars had begun.
The Ute lived in Utah and Colorado and were quick to acquire horses in the early days from the Spaniards. Once they had horses, their entire lifestyle was built around horsemanship and war. Their status was based entirely upon how many horses they owned and the level of their horsemanship, which to a Ute was best determined in a race. It is the Utes after whom (most likely) the state of Utah is named, and the Old Spanish Trail that connects Santa Fe, New Mexico with Los Angeles, California, was originally the Ute Trail. Near Arches National Park, right alongside of ancient petroglyphs almost a thousand years old, the Utes left their own petroglyphs which portray the Ute people riding horses while hunting deer.