The Western Shoshone and the Northern Paiute once lived and traveled across large tracts of land in present-day Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.
Today their homelands are much smaller.
The Duck Valley Indian Reservation was established by President Rutherford B. Hayes for the Western Shoshone in 1877. The reservation was expanded for the Northern Paiute by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. It was expanded again in 1910 by President William H. Taft.
Today, tribal lands consist of 289,819 acres straddling southern Idaho and northern Nevada. Of the more than 2,000 tribal members, 1,700 live on the reservation.
Ted Howard, cultural resources director, grew up on Duck Valley and moved away. Howard returned in 1995 after being hired for his current position.
“Our people are scattered,” he said. “Not just here, but all tribes are that way.”
Howard said the Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone are similar in language and culture, as are the Shoshone and Bannock from Fort Hall. An 1884 effort to move the Western Shoshone to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, to open up Duck Valley lands for non-Indians, was successfully resisted by the tribe.
The Shoshone and Paiute formed a tribal government with a constitution and bylaws that was adopted in 1936.
“After the reservation was set aside,” Howard said, “they had an Indian agent who helped the people grow their own crops. Before they would gather that and travel to different areas to gather.”
Many people grow gardens in hoop houses because Duck Valley’s climate is not conducive to crops.
“We don’t have a long growing season here,” Howard said. “We are at 5,500 feet. It can freeze as late as June.”
On Nov. 28, snow was blowing and the ground was covered in 2 or 3 inches.
A boarding school operated on the reservation from 1884 to 1911, and the first public school was established in 1931. Older children were sent to boarding schools off the reservation to attend high school. In 1946, high school classes were added to the public school. The reservation school system was consolidated into Nevada’s Elko County School District in 1956 and today is known as Owyhee Combined School, teaching grades K-12.
A lot of the reservation’s kids go to Idaho’s three public universities, Howard said.