Native Tribes of Idaho

The Peoples of Idaho: Native Settlers

The ancestors of the modern native peoples entered the North American continent at the close of the Pleistocene Epoch perhaps as early as 25,000 years ago.  Naturally, as the hunters and their families journeyed deeper into the continent climates and resources changed from region to region.  In response to these changes the people also needed to change the ways in which they lived.

The Native Tribes of Idaho

Coeur d' Alene
Nez Perce
Northern Paiute
Shoshone - Bannock
Culture Areas in Idaho

Culture Areas

As the people traveled over thousands of years they eventually inhabited and lived within what are now called "culture areas" by anthropologists.  America is loosely sectioned into several regional "culture areas".

The term "culture area" means that the tribes which lived within a "culture area" were more similar to one another than to tribes which inhabited other regions.  The tribes within a "culture area" might share similar clothing styles, foods, customs, stories & myths, languages and there may be marriages between the various tribes.

Idaho has very different regional areas, such as the: Snake River Plain, Salmon River country and mountains, the Panhandle and arid Western Idaho.  Each of these regions have differing climates, geography, plants, animals, fish and other resources such as rocks, minerals, and water.  Not amazingly, the tribes which came into these areas after 4,000 years ago used the variety of regional resources in differing ways.

Plateau Culture Area

Today anthropologists identify two "culture areas" in Idaho.  The Northern Panhandle area is designated as part of the Plateau culture area which was inhabited by the Nimi'ipuu (Nez Perce), Kalispel, Kootenai and Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d' Alene) tribes.  The Plateau culture area also included tribes of people living in eastern Washington.

Great Basin Culture Area

Great Basin culture area extends over much of Nevada and Utah and reaches north into Idaho to Corn Creek on the Salmon River.  The Great Basin culture area of Idaho is inhabited by the Shoshoni, Bannock and Northern Paiute tribes.

Great Plains Culture Area

The Shoshoni and Nez Perce tribes were influenced by tribes living east of Idaho in the Great Plains culture area.  Among the Great Plains tribes were the Piegan and Blood (Blackfoot), Tsistsistsas & Suhtai (Cheyenne), Arapaho, and Lakota (Sioux).  The Nimi'ipuu (Nez Perce) and Shoshoni peoples adopted clothing styles, hunting techniques, horses and shelter designs from their neighbors on the Great Plains.

Read about the Tribes in Idaho

How did they get here?

What did they do once here?

Read about the Tools and Weapons of the People