Early Peoples: The Goshutes

The Goshutes at Skull Valley tell of two women who lived on an island in the Great Salt Lake. One day, the women made a path of dry earth across the lake. They crossed the path and found Sinav, who followed the women home to their island. Each night, Sinav visited each woman and brought two deer for them. The women began to have children, and each child they put in a large basketry jug. Soon the jug became very large. The older women asked Sinav to take the jug with him, and another dry path appeared across the lake. Sinav took the jar, but it began to get very heavy. Sinav heard a buzzing noise like a bee inside the jug. He wanted to look. When he opened it, men jumped out and made a lot of dust. They knocked him over and ran away. Three times he removed the stopper and people came out. He watched them run in all directions. They were the Shohone, Ute, Paiute, and other tribes. The last man to come out was all covered with dust. He was the Gosiute. He is tougher than the other people; he is bulletproof.

The Goshutes are part of the Numic speaking peoples of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The Goshute dialect, Monoish Genus, or Western Numic, began to form in about 500 A.D. (ACE), when small family groups moved into eastern Nevada and western Utah. The Western Numic (Goshute) peoples either displaced or absorbed the preexisting Fremont culture and became the dominant group in the area by 1,000 A.D. Whether speaking individually or collectively, the Goshutes refer to each other as Newe (the People), and they consider themselves connected to an ancient common ancestry.

Only small family groups were able to survive in western Utah because of the harsh desert climate. The Goshute lived in informal band groups with loosely defined leadership. Often leadership formation was oriented to a particular activity such as a communal hunt. Goshute culture was simple, as they lived at subsistence level with no economic surplus to create complex social or political structures.

Through the centuries the Goshute developed a culture that adapted and thrived in the desert. They constructed wickiups or brush shelters; gathered seasonal seeds, pine nuts, grasses, and roots; collected insects, larvae, and small reptiles; and hunted antelope, deer, rabbits and other small mammals. They stored nuts and dried meats to survive the winter months.