A group of nomadic hunting and gathering tribes, the Shoshone relied on self-made tools, independence and skill for their survival. They did not trade with others until they acquired horses in the 1700s, and even then were continually on the move to avoid their enemies. Shoshone tools were portable and specifically designed for the tasks of survival -- providing food, shelter and protection from others.
As skilled huntsmen, bows and arrows were vital to Shoshone survival. The Shoshone hunted deer, rabbits and other small animals, but the buffalo provided a true prize for the tribe. The Shoshone brought down larger animals with poisoned arrow tips. Once horses were introduced, a few tribes became skilled horseback buffalo hunters. Following rivers and streams also provided fishing opportunities where the Shoshone used spears, nets and basket traps to catch fish.
Unlike more stationary tribes, the Shoshone did not farm or store large quantities of food. Women created woven willow baskets that were utilitarian rather than decorative. Cooking involved roasting of game on an open fire, drying of meat for winter and boiling of vegetables in water-tight baskets. Simple tools such as stone knives, scrapers, grinding stones and baskets could be easily carried or left behind when necessary.
The Shoshone tribes defended themselves with the same tools used for hunting. The bow and arrow, spear and war club were their only tools of war. With the Spanish as their only real trading partner, the Shoshone could not obtain guns like other tribes. The Spanish refused to trade for guns, and this left the Shoshone vulnerable to hostile tribes that kept them mobile and drove them even further southwest.
Shoshone clothing depended on the materials available. In warm weather, the Shoshone wore simple animal-skin breech cloths or aprons. In colder weather, they wrapped up in rabbit furs or other animal skins and used larger hides for cloaks or capes. Clothes-making tools included simple stone or bone knives, scrapers and awls used for processing the animal hides and introducing decorative features such as feathers, beads and quills.
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