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Life on the Snake River Plain

The Sosoni' People called themselves Ne'we in prehistoric times. An enterprising People, they had already learned how to live in desert regions, and understood very well how to efficiently exploit the meager resources of the far flung Great Basin region.

The Ne'we, in fact, found southern Idaho to be an under used cornucopia of food resources. However, the needed resources were spread out upon the land at great distances, and were harvestable at different elevations during different seasons of the year.

In general, the Sosoni' lived in the valleys during the winter and traveled into the mountains throughout the spring and summer, returning to the valleys as winter set in.

This meant that the families and bands usually camped and
lived removed from each other by great distances. During
certain times of the year however, the bands and families would gather in order to harvest pinon nuts, hunt rabbit and pronghorn, spear salmon and live in winter camps. It was at these larger gatherings that the Sosoni' strengthened their bonds
between the bands and families.

Making a Living

Hunting was an important aspect of life for the Sosoni'.
The men hunted large and small game with dead falls,
traps and spears (after 1500 years ago with bows and arrows). Among the large game animals hunted were deer, pronghorn,
bison and big horn sheep. Small game animals were often
available and plentiful.

Small game which were hunted include groundhog, jack rabbits, prairie dogs, rodents, and porcupine. Insects were not heavily utilized, but some such as grasshoppers would occasionally
be used for food. Fish, such as salmon, were also hunted
by the men with spears.

Birds, such as ducks, geese, and several varieties of
grouse, were hunted by the men and boys. Eggs, when found,
were also included in their diet.

Image: Idaho Museum of Natural History
Gathering was the food providing
activity of the women. Many different
kinds of plants would be dug and picked included wild onion, bitterroot, arrow-leaf balsam-root, and the tobacco root plants.
All were harvested and gathered in
by the women and children.

The camas bulb, Camassia quamash,
was harvested and stored as a staple
source of food. However, Zigadenus
venenosus
, the Death Camas, would
poison and kill any animal which ate it.

It was very important for everyone gathering food to know
which plants were edible and which were poisonous.

Many plants supplied seeds that were gathered by the women in the late summer and fall. The seeds of junegrass, blue bunch wheat grass, thick spike wheat grass, and Nevada bluegrass would be ground and stored for winter food.

No diet would be complete without fruits. In Southeastern Idaho the Sosoni' women would gather seviceberry, chokecherries, and currants. The berries would be dried and stored for winter use. Berries could also be found and used in puddings, soups, stews, and pemmican.

During the fall pine nuts would be gathered in by the bands. These nuts would store over many months and could be used in many dishes.

Women would also gather trout in weirs, a fishing trap set into the stream. Freshwater mussels would be gathered and eaten whenever The People camped near streams. Evidence for this is found at Wahmuza, an archaeological site on the Fort Hall bottoms.