Shoshone: Lemhi

Briana Corey Randy Chase Lateefah

Did you know

  1. Sacajawea is one of the most famous Lemhi Shoshone members
  2. Lewis and Clark and their expedition party, the Corps, were the first white men that the Shoshone had ever come into contact with.
  3. The Shoshone were ordered out of their homeland during the Trail of Tears. The Fort Hall Indian Reservation, in Idaho, would become their new home.
  4. They relied on hunting and gathering for their food sources.
  5. They believed in one being, Duma Appah,also called Our Father or the Creator.
  6. Lemhi is the Shoshone way of saying "Salmon Eaters"


A person who was thought to have spiritual power directed the communal hunts.

The Lemhi were particularly known for eating salmon because they lived alongside the Salmon River in Idaho.

They ate all kinds of vegetables, mainly roots. One root they used was the camas plant. It tastes like potatoes and can be boiled, roasted, dried, baked or eaten raw.

They could get pine nuts from the piñon pine trees during most of the year. The women would pick the nuts out of the pinecones, roast them, winnow, (or shell), them, and grind them into meal for mush (cereal), gravy, soups or roasted and eaten as a dessert or snack.

They drove grasshoppers and crickets into a ditch, where they would collect them, roast them, and grind them up into flour. To catch jackrabbits they would weave giant fences out of yucca plants and herd the rabbits into a ditch on the other side of the fence. Additionally, the Lemhi wove nets to catch salmon and trout, and used net traps, snares, bows, arrows and spears to get other animals and birds. To kill a bigger animal, they would put poison on their arrowheads. In order to get close enough to shoot or spear the larger animals like the antelope, elk, deer, or bighorn sheep, they would have to disguise themselves in animal skins and sneak up on them.

Drinks were prepared from plants abundant in the area. Common drinks were peppermint tea, rose tea, and mormon tea, which was known for its healing properties.



Shoshone beadwork is well known but their talents extend to: basketry, games, toys, tools, weapons, hide paintings, and parfleche envelopes.

Depending to the specific tribe, these mineral-based hide paintings told the stories of individuals or bands, and could be found on teepees, buffalo or elk robes, and on garments.

The Shoshone and Bannock baskets featured below are generally made from willow. They are coiled baskets, usually based on a one- or three-rod willow foundation and woven with gap-stitch (sometimes called open stitch) wefts. Most baskets have a variation of a self-coiled rim finish. Decorative coloring comes from natural or aniline dyes.

Parfleche (rawhide) containers served as ways to package and transport goods, clothing, and food. Within the tribe, it was women's work to make and decorate parfleche,often with designs passed down for generations through families.

The women of the tribe were faced with the challenges of caring for her family while having to gather crops and do chores on the land. This led to the invention of the papoose, a baby carrier, so the mother could have her child near by while working. These carriers where beautifully designed with extravagant bead work and embroidery.


  • The Sun Dance was the most spectacular and important religious ceremony ordinarily held by each tribe once a year at the time of the Summer Solstice.

It showed a continuity between life and death, that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic and true deaths and rebirths. All of nature is intertwined and dependent on one another. This gives an equal ground to everything on the Earth.

  • War Dance dasa'yeegwipe.

Members of the tribe tell about their experiences on the battlefield by dancing it out. The story would tell how a battle was won, mimicking how a certain deed was accomplished. So, each dancer dances their own dance style.

  • Women's Traditional Dance wa'ai pe'an nekape

This is done by the women of the tribe, young and old, to show pride and how a woman should walk in beauty. The Southern traditional story is similar, and is related to a woman who lost her child and is looking for that child, with a shawl on her arm to warm the lost child when he or she is found.

  • Women's Butterfly Dance

This dance is the story of a woman who mourned the loss of her husband and closed herself off to all her loved ones, wrapping herself into a cocoon. When she finally came out she was renewed and ready to live and rejoice.

  • Owl Dance nagwabahnekape

Social dance for couples where the women choose her partner. If the man refused to dance, he must give her a token of money in replacement. The couples dance holding each other and turning small circles at different intervals as they dance in a larger circle.


Some of the most well known instruments included: drums, rattles, and flutes. These were used in almost all of their tribal rites and crafted out of materials such as wood, bones, and animal hides for the drum skins. The tribes embellish the instruments with many different decorations, believing that each instrument would satisfy different spirits and gods.

Some decorations were carvings on the sides of the drums, or feathers hanging from the flutes. Certain melodies that the Shoshone would play were considered sacred and would only be played at certain times of the year.


Children were taught to honor and respect their parents, grandparents, and were advised that wisdom and knowledge come with age. Teaching and storytelling fell mainly to the elderly grandparents. The oral history, legends, and customs of the tribe were passed on this way. Wintertime was storytelling time, stories were told to children with a purpose more important than just recreation. Children were taught to be good listeners and never interrupt the storyteller. Most stories included animals the Shoshone people lived around and interacted with. All things in nature had a voice and story, rocks, mountains, trees etc. Children were expected to stay awake during the storytelling, if one child fell asleep, the storyteller stopped speaking and ended the session.


The Shoshone were spread over a large area and different parts of the tribe lived in different ways, depending on the climate and available resources found locally.In the summer the Shoshone wore little clothing. Men wore only a loincloth in the summer, while the women wore thin apron's. In winter the Shoshone made warm robes out of rabbit and other furs.They mostly tried to make their clothes as comfortable as possible so it would still be easy to do work around the house and anywhere else where they needed to do their daily chores.

The style of a woman’s dress at the time was the two-hide tail dress. . The dresses were generally made from bighorn sheep because they were plentiful and had longer and wider hides than deer. The head and legs are at the bottom of the dress. The smooth hem is created by the gaps between the head, neck and legs. The gaps were filled in with extra hide and double-fringed. The lower portion of the dress is the flesh side of the hide but the top section is the epidermal side folded over, cut on the fold and raised to meet the lower hide, then stitched with buckskin. The bighorn sheep tail is part of the decoration and the bull elk teeth are laced in a row following the contour of the stitching. The fringe of the dress was wetted and twisted to give a graceful look. Such a dress would have been worn by Sacajawea.

Artistic touches

Ornamentation was part of the preparation of clothing and was done with the natural materials available. Elk's teeth are used as a decoration around the top portion of the dress. They are attached with hide. Long hide fringe dangles are placed over the front and back along with bighorn sheep tails.


Shoshone warriors and hunters were primarily bowmen. They used long bows made from hardwood and arrowheads made from bone, flint or obsidian.They used war clubs and axes similar to those of other Native Americans of the region. When using axes or clubs, they were frequently joined by small shields with wooden frames covered in leather.

The Shoshone, like most tribes, traded with Europeans for rifles at the earliest opportunity. Although the Spanish met with and refused to give rifles to the Shoshone, the Indians did eventually acquire them. The first Shoshone rifles came from the Lewis & Clark expedition in exchange for horses. Once some tribes began to acquire firearms, other tribes felt that they needed them as well, which may have been the first American arms race. The Shoshone also had spears, nets and stone knives, but these were primarily used for fishing and it is unlikely they would have been used for combat except as self-defense. It also is likely that as trade increased with Europe that they acquired metal axes and knives.


The Lemhi lived in Teepees because they were durable, made easily with available materials, provided warmth and comfort during winter and could be reconstructed quickly.They decorated their teepees with beads and dreamcatchers, hanging one above their bed for pure dreams. Furthermore, they would paint the inside with Shoshone rituals.

The fifteen poles of a teepee represent:

Summer houses were often made from green leafy branches placed over a pole framework. Willows, quaking aspen branches, reeds and tall grass were used. Caves were used as shelters and temporary dwellings to the Lemhi as well.

Rabbit skins braided like rugs were made into quilts. Buffalo robes and other animal hides served as blankets and floor coverings. Dried moss was also woven into blankets. Woven sagebrush and juniper bark as well as boughs and cattail fluff served as mats and mattresses.


When Shoshone girls became teenagers they were isolated in a hut for a few days while their mothers told them about proper behavior. They were then considered ready for marrige. No customs existed for a boys coming of age.

family life

Women who married went to live with the man's family. Sometimes men or women were allowed to have more than one marriage partner at a time. Both women and men had important roles helping the family survive. The men did the hunting; also serving as chiefs, or leaders of the bands. The women did most of the child raising and plant gathering. Like most other Native Americans, the Shoshone did not spank or punish their children. They thought that punishment would break the young people's spirits.


Were arranged for nearly all Shoshones; a spiritual leader would conduct marriage ceremonies. The spiritual leader gave the couple rules to live by, among which they were counseled to be chaste and avoid breaking up their marriage. Sometimes the spiritual leader would pull hair from both the bride and groom and tie it together. The bound hair was then taken by a relative to hide. If later the couple could not get along and wanted a divorce they would first have to find the bound hair and untie it.

Lemhi Words

Food: dikup

Eat: tuku

Water: paw

Rain: pawabee

Money: napius

Thank you: oose-uh

Home: gahne

Man: dannuup

Old woman: hebetso

Young woman: waipe-uh

Day: dabaiy-uh

Night: du-ugahne

White person: dybo

Mother: biaa

Father: aape-uh

Cat: geedi

Dog: saabe-uh

Bad: gezhande

Good: tsaande


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