Skip Navigation

Paiutes

two girls and small boy

Paiute girls carrying water jugs. Notice how they are carrying the jugs.

Paiute way of life

The Paiute people have lived in southern Utah and parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada for a thousand years.

Before and during the historic period, the Paiutes often:

Horses and stolen children

two shelters made of brush

Paiute wickiups in the San Juan County area. Notice the basket lying by the man. Paiutes made baskets of all kinds to help them collect and process food.

Much of the time the several bands of Paiutes lived in friendship with the neighboring Utes. But when the Ute people acquired horses, some began to raid Paiute camps and steal women and children. They then traded their captives to the Spanish as slaves. Navajos and Spanish traders also stole Paiute children to sell as slaves.

How the settlers unsettled Paiute lives

When Mormons moved onto the Paiutes’ best living and foraging spots, the Paiutes’ lives changed even more. The Mormons worked to convert the Indians to their faith. They hired them to help on their farms, and they shared their agricultural knowledge.

man shooting gun

A Paiute hunter near St. George. Photo by J.K. Hillers in 1870s.

Unfortunately, they also brought diseases that killed many Paiutes. And they took over the traditional Paiute lands. Within three decades, the majority of Paiutes had died. Once an independent people, they became destitute.

Moving forward

The Mormon individuals who slaughtered more than 100 emigrants in the Mountain Meadows Massacre claimed that Paiutes helped with the killing. But the Paiutes today deny that their ancestors had a part in that massacre.

More and more white moved onto or ran their livestock on traditional Paiute lands. In 1891 the government solved the conflict by moving the Shivwits Paiutes onto a reservation. Other reservations followed. Today the tribe owns 4,470 acres scattered throughout southwestern Utah. The tribe owns land in two main areas, near Ivins and south of Cedar City.

Find out more.

Read about Paiutes in "The Paiute Tribe of Utah," by Gary Tom and Ronald Holt, and in "Paiute Indians," by Ronald L. Holt. See the Paiute section of the Utah American Indians Digital Archive. See more photos of Paiutes. Learn how the Paiutes governed themselves.

man, boy, and girl near a wickiup

A Paiute arrowmaker and his children at their wickiup. Photo by J.K. Hillers; Smithsonian.

young man

Ta-peats, a young man living in the St. George area. J.K. Hillers photo, Smithsonian.