Distinct Native American groups have lived in the Great Basin for some 13,000 years. Archeological findings indicate that the first peoples to call what ancestors of the Hopi and the pre-Puebloan people were the first to live in what is now Utah. Each band and/or group had its own culture, language, religious beliefs, traditions, and leadership organization. Each group also had extensive scientific knowledge about the ecosystem, land, climate, and weather patterns of the areas they called home.
The Fremont peoples moved into what is now the northern and eastern boundaries of Utah about 400 A.D. They hunted animals and gathered seeds and other plants that grew in the Great Basin. They also grew corn, beans, and squash between 800 and 900 A.D. They made pottery, baskets, and clay figures. The Numic peoples moved into or absorbed the Fremont after 1000 C.E.
The Puebloan peoples moved into what is now southeastern Utah around 400 C.E. They lived in dwellings built into the sides of cliffs and grew squash, beans, and corn. The Anasazi had a complex culture that included distinct religious beliefs. They built dwellings to store grain and made baskets, clay figurines, and pottery. They left the Southwest between 1200-1400 C.E. because changes in the climate made it difficult for them to grow crops and because of the arrival of the Numic peoples.
Between 900 and 1525 C.E, the Navajo (Diné) developed a rich culture in what is now northeastern New Mexico. They began to move into southern Utah during the 1600s. They farmed, had sheep and goats, and were also hunters and gatherers. They lived in extended family units and dwelled in homes called Hogans.
There were four additional distinct groups of Native Americans in Utah. Each group is from the Numic- (or Shoshonean) speaking people of the Uto-Aztecan family. These are the Northern Shoshone, Goshute or Western Shoshone, Southern Paiute, and Ute peoples. Each group had/has a distinct language and culture and lives in different parts of Utah and its surrounding states.
Today, Utah has eight distinct tribal nations. Each group’s heritage, history, and people are essential to understanding Utah’s past and present stories. Learn more about each of Utah’s eight tribal nations by clicking on the links below.