Traditional Foods of the Paiute

The Paiute Indians were both hunters and gatherers. The did a lot of season food gathering within their territory, searching for specific foods by which season they were in. Some seeds and berries were found in the summer while bulbs and roots were easy to find in the spring. In the fall there was the pinion crop that was more bountiful. Plant foods were a large part of their diet because it was hard to find animals to hunt. Nuts and seeds comprised a large part of their diet. Once gathered, the women would grind them into flour which could then be used for porridge and cakes. One of the benefits of the flour was that it could be stored for several months so it could be built up for times of need.

A large part of their protein came from the gathering of things like larvae and adult insects. Ants, locusts, and grasshoppers were often on the menu because they were easy to gather as they walked. Anyone could help out by catching these small insects when the group stopped for a break – men, women and children, too.

The men were the hunters but because plants were scarce in their territory, so were animals. Men used sharpened sticks to catch smaller animals like ground squirrels, rats, and lizards. Sometimes traps would be set for rabbits. If there were a lot of rabbits in one year, the community of Paiute Indians might meet to have a group rabbit hunt and the catch would be shared amongst the tribes. The only large animal that the Paiute Indians hunted was the antelope. Occasionally, several men could bring one down on their own but the most popular way of catching them was in a community hunt. These hunts occurred every six or seven years. Under the direction of a shaman, they would guide groups of antelope into a surround where they were easier to kill.

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4 Responses to Traditional Foods of the Paiute

  1. Larry Yuva says:

    I am writing a children’s story involving Paiute children and would like to use real Paiute names for two boys and one for their father. Could you provide me with some names. The story takes place in the Owens Valley of California.
    Thank you for your help.
    Larry

  2. steve warnstaff says:

    Hello,
    I too am writing a manuscript concerning the Native Americans of the Columbia River Gorge, in both Oregon and Washington States. As the Northern Paiute are members of the Warm springs Reservation, and as they were known to gather Bitteroot in the Ochoco Mountains in Central Oregon where they lived, I could use a list of names of roots and bulbs, as well as any other food items they may have collected in the area, and if possible, what the Paiute made with the foods they gathered.
    I appreciate any help,
    Thanks,
    Steve Warnstaff

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