The Paiute (PY-yoot) tribe is actually many different bands distributed across a large part of the western United States.The vast desert area used by the Paiutes extends from central Oregon southward through Las Vegas Valley to land along the Colorado River in Arizona and Southern California and eastward to southwestern Idaho. The Yerington Paiute Tribe of the Yerington Colony and Campbell Ranch is a federally recognized tribe of Northern Paiute Indians in western Nevada.
Official Tribal Name: Yerington Paiute Tribe of the Yerington Colony & Campbell Ranch
Address: 171 Campbell Lane, Yerington, Nevada 89447 Phone: (702) 463-3301 or (702) 883-3895 Fax: (702) 463-2416 Email:
Official Website: http://yeringtonpaiute.us
The Yerington Paiute Tribe of the Yerington Colony and Campbell Ranch gained federal recognition under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.
State(s) Today: Nevada
The numerous Paiutes bands are often recognized in three main groups: (1) the Northern Paiutes of northwestern Nevada, northeastern California, southeastern Oregon, and southwestern Idaho, (2) the Owens Valley Paiutes, who traditionally inhabited the Owens River watershed of southeastern California, and, (3) the Southern Paiutes of southeastern California, southern Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and western Utah.
Reservations: Campbell Ranch, Yerington Colony
The Yerington Reservation and Trust Lands, in Lyon County, Nevada, were established in 1916 and 1936 and includes 1,653 acres (6.69 km2).
Colony 18 May 1916 – Act of (39 Stat.123) $ (39 Stat. 143) a purchase of 9.456 acres. 16 January 1978 – Purchase of 12.91 acres
Adjacent to Yerington, Nevada
Ranch 10 December 1936 – By Authority or the Indian Reorganization Act, purchase of 1,018.88 acres 01 August 1941 – addition of 120 acres 11 April 1979 – purchase of 480 acres
Two miles West of U.S. Alternate 95, approximately ten miles North of Yerington, Lyon County, Nevada.
Tribal Headquarters: Yerington, Nevada Time Zone: Pacific
Western Nevada Agency Carson City, Nevada 89701 Phone:(702) 887-3500
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning
The Paiutes call themselves Numu, meaning “People.” Individual bands within the tribe were usually named after the principle food they ate. The Yerington Paiute band name was Poo-zi Ticutta, meaning ‘bulb eaters.’
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:
Paiute means “true Ute” or “water Ute,” reflecting the group’s relationship to the Ute Indians of Utah.
Yerington Colony, Campbell Ranch, Northern Paiute. Paiute peoples were also historically called Snakes and Bannocks by whites and were even confused with Northern Shoshone who shared many cultural and linguistic traits, as well as overlapping traditional territories.
Alternate spellings / Misspellings:
Name in other languages:
Population at Contact:
Registered Population Today:
The Yerrington Paiute tribe had 659 enrolled members in 1992.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
The membership of the Yerington Paiute Tribe consists of the following:
(a) Any person of Paiute Indian blood who was a resident of the Yerington Colony Site at the time of the adoption of their Constitution and By-laws.
(b) Any Paiute Indian residing in Smith and Mason Valleys at the time of the adoption of their Constitution and By-laws, whose name appears on the official Indian census roll of Smith and Mason Valleys as of January 1, 1935, shall be a member of the Tribe upon written application to the Yerington Paiute Tribal Council. (c) Any child, born to a member of the Yerington Paiute Tribe, provided such member was a resident of lands within the jurisdiction of the Tribe at the time of birth of said child, shall be a member of the Tribe.
The Tribal Council except as provided in section 1 (b) of this Article, shall have the power, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds to admit to tribal membership:
(a) Persons of Paiute Indian blood married to a member of the Yerington Paiute Tribe. (b) Any person of one-half or more Indian blood married to a member of the Tribe.
The Tribal Council shall cancel the membership of any adult person who makes application to sever his or her tribal relations, and thereafter such person shall cease to hold membership in the Tribe.
Organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 18 June 1934 (48 Stat. 984) as amended. On January 4, 1937, the Yerington Paiute Tribe ratified its Constitution and ByLaws
Name of Governing Body: Yerington Paiute Tribal Council
Number of Council members: 8
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: 4
Elections are held every two years.
Uto-Aztecan -> Northern Uto-Aztecan -> Numic -> Western Numic -> Mono -> Northern Paiute (also known as Paviotso)
Northern Paiute is a dialect chain with main regional varieties being Southern Nevada, Northern Nevada, Oregon, and Bannock. Some linguists have taken this pattern as an indication that Numic speaking peoples expanded quite recently from a small core, perhaps near the Owens Valley, into their current range. This view is supported by lexicostatistical studies. Fowler’s reconstruction of Proto-Numic ethnobiology also points to the region of the southern Sierra Nevada as the homeland of Proto-Numic language approximately 2,000 years ago. Recent mitochondrial DNA studies have supported this linguistic hypothesis.
Number of fluent Speakers:
Because the Northern Paiute dialect spoken by the Yerington Paiute is a regional dialect, it is likely that no more than 600 or so individuals spoke this language in the pre-reservation era. Today, about 300 people are still fluent in this language and speak it as a first language.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
Duck Valley | Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe | Ely Shoshone Tribe | Duckwater Reservation | Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe | Ft. McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe | Confederated Tribes (Goshute Reservation) | Las Vegas Paiute Tribe | Lovelock Paiute Tribe | Moapa River Reservation | Reno/Sparks Indian Colony | Summit Lake Paiute Tribe | Winnemucca Colony | Walker River Paiute Tribe | Yomba Shoshone Tribe | Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians (comprised of the Battle Mountain Band, Elko Band, South Fork Band, and Wells Band) | Washoe Tribe of Nevada/California (comprised of the Carson Community Council, Dresslerville Community Council, Stewart Community Council, and Woodfords Community Council) | Yerington Paiute Tribe of the Yerington Colony & Campbell Ranch
Ceremonies / Dances:
Paiute songs are performed by individuals or by groups in unison. A striking characteristic of Paiutes is the very limited traditional use of musical instruments. Drums, commonly used elsewhere by Native groups, were not used until after white contact. The primary traditional instruments were Shaman’s rattles and sticks beaten during hand games. At Round Dances, the oldest music style in Paiute tradition, only the singer’s voice is used for music. For some curing practices, healers use a small flute made of elderberry stems.
Popular Paiute songs are associated with hand games, Round Dances, and doctor’s curing. Variations on the Round, or Circle, Dance were traditionally the most common dance form and the oldest. The Northern Paiute Hump Dance represented one variation. In a Round Dance, the participants form a circle and dance around often in a clockwise direction to music made by a singer situated in the center. A Round Dance is commonly held three times a year, during the Spring fishing season, just before fall pine-nut harvest, and during the November rabbit drives. Such dances serve to periodically affirm social unity and focus participants on the particular subsistence tasks at hand.
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
Basketry and basket hats.
Paiute men and women traditionally wore a skin breechcloth or double-apron of skin or vegetable fiber such as sagebrush bark or rushes. The cloth was suspended from a belt made from cliffrose bark or antelope skin. They also typically wore animal-skin moccasins sometimes ankle high or woven yucca or sagebrush bark sandals on their feet.
In the winter, they used robes of rabbit fur strips or skin capes. Southern Paiute men and women reportedly wore twined-bark leggings and Northern Paiute men wore simple buckskin shirts. Members of some Paiute bands wore hats decorated with bird, often quail, feathers. Except in Oregon, women wore basketry hats. Throughout Paiute country men wore tanned hide hats.
By the mid-nineteenth century men’s shirts and leggings and women’s full-length dresses were made from fringed hide, which was most likely adopted from the Ute.
Due to their nomadic existence, most traditional Paiute homes were small, temporary huts and were made of willow poles and covered with brush and reeds or woven mats. The dome-shaped, mat-covered house (kani, nobi) was the most common winter structure for most of the Nevada Northern Paiute groups. A smoke hole was left in the top and a doorway in one side, usually facing east or away from prevailing winds. A fire for cooking and warming was in the center inside. The size of the house varied depending on the size of the family, but 8 feet to 15 feet (2.4384 to 4.572 meters) in diameter seems to have been the standard. Unlike Western Shoshone houses, some Northern Paiute winter houses were semi-subterranean. Sometimes families used caves or rock shelters as homes. During the summer, windbreaks or sun shades were sometimes utilized. Other structures constructed included sweathouses.
The Yerington Paiute were hunter-gatherers. The Northern Paiutes were a nomadic people, moving about a widely varying region that covered an area approximately 600 miles long by 300 miles wide to gather various food sources. The means of subsistence depended to a large extent on their particular locations at a particular time. In general, the Paiutes ate vegetables such as camas, cattail and sunflower roots, rice grass seeds, as well as berries. Piñon pine nuts were a staple food heavily relied on. They used stones to grind seeds and nuts into flour for making bread, to thicken soups, and for a breakfast mush.
The Paiutes hunted ducks, rabbits, antelope (they utilized the powers of a shaman during antelope drives), deer and bighorn mountain sheep using bows and arrows or long nets. The men hunted big game with bow and arrows, while smaller animals such as rabbit were rounded up in a big net in the fall, in a drive that involved the entire community. Small game such as marmots, porcupines,grouse, and ground squirrels were also eaten. Some bands in mountainous regions fished, while others in arid desert regions dug for lizards, grubs, and insects, which were valuable protein sources when food was scarce.
Fishing was also very important to the Northern Paiutes. Techniques varied depending on the type of fish and its habitat. Fishing platforms, nets, harpoons, weirs, and basket traps were used for river fishing. They used gill nets, hooks and lines, spears, and harpoons when fishing in lakes. Ice fishing was conducted during the winter months.
These various fishing techniques were used to catch cutthroat and other trout, Tahoe suckers, cui-ui, dace, chub, redsides, minnows, and other fish.
Tule, willow, and sagebrush provided materials for clothing and various other items. Tule was used to make house roofs, small rafts, bird decoys, fishing nets, bags, mats, dresses, and aprons. Twined conical baskets and hats, basket caps, baby cradles, seed beaters, and purses were made from willow materials. Men’s shirts and women’s aprons were made from twined sagebrush bark.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Northern Paiute religion was based on shamanism. Stewart (1941) listed three ways in which one became a shaman: through dreams, through inheritance from a close relative, or by visiting particular caves within Northern Paiute territory. It was believed that some shamans were evil.
Deep lakes and other bodies of water that are inhabited by Water Babies (pa§ oha§a) and other creatures, like Water Horses (paapuku) are considered sacred.
In 1889 Wovoka, a Southern Paiute, founded the Ghost Dance religion. In a vision, he saw the earth reborn in a natural state and returned to the Indians and their ancestors, free from white man’s control. Wovoka taught his followers that they could achieve this vision by dancing, chanting, and eliminating all traces of white influence from their lives. The Ghost Dance incorporated the earlier Round Dance elements, including the lack of a percussion accompaniment. The Ghost Dance religion not only spread to the Northern Paiute, but to many of the Great Plains tribes.
The burial practices of the Northern Paiutes were similar to those of the Western Shoshones. Cremation was practiced; however, it was generally reserved for witches. In most burials, the corpse was placed in a sitting position with arms crossed on the chest, although some corpses were buried laid out in a supine position, probably due to later influence of Europeans. They were usually buried with some favorite symbols of wealth, such as shell necklaces, and some food, which indicates they believed in an afterlife.
The deceased might be buried in dirt, covered with rocks, or placed in rock crevices, caves or rock shelters, or on a hillside. The method of burial varied, depending on how hard it was to dig in the particular area where the death occurred. The deceased’s houses were either torn down or burned and their belongings distributed among their relatives during the funeral ceremonies.
If someone was killed in a battle far from home, he was buried where he had fallen, but if it was close to home, the corpse was taken to the villiage to be buried at the family burial plot.
Though marriage traditionally had no important associated rituals, the Paiutes did observe two related rituals. One was for young women at the time of their first menstrual period, and the other for young couples expecting their first child.
In the menarche ritual, the young woman was isolated for four days. During this time, she observed taboos against touching her face or hair with her hands, eating animal-based foods, and drinking cold liquids. She also ran east at sunrise and west at sunset, and sat with older women of the tribe to learn about her responsibilities as a woman. After the four days of isolation, a series of rituals were performed to bring the menarche ceremony to a close. The young woman was bathed in cold water, her face was painted, the ends of her hair were singed or cut, and she had to eat animal foods and bitter herbs and to spit into a fire.
The ritual for couples expecting their first child was very similar, but traditionally lasted 30 days. The pregnant woman observed the same taboos and received advice from older women, while the expectant father ran east at sunrise and west at sunset.
Education and Media:
The Yerington Paiutes operate their own education program, environmental program (overseeing air and water quality and wetlands), police force, USDA Commodities program, and social services.
Economic development enterprises include the Arrowhead Market, a fuel and convenience store in Yerington, and Campbell Ranch, which grows alfalfa.
Paiute Chiefs & Famous People:
Epidemics of smallpox, cholera, and other diseases swept through Paiute communities in the 1830s and 1840s.
The limited contact with Euro-American explorers, fur trappers, and settlers changed abruptly when large-scale migration over the Oregon Trail began in the mid-1840s. The majority of conflicts with whites took place after 1848, when the discovery of gold in California brought a flood of settlers through the center of the tribe’s territory. In 1859 a major silver strike occurred at Virginia City in western Nevada. The rapid influx of miners and ranchers into the region led to hostilities with Northern Paiutes, which escalated to the Pyramid Lake War.
Yerington Paiute Tribe History:
In the News: