Utah, rabbitskin blanket, basketry

Perhaps the most universal article of clothing in Utah was the rabbitskin blanket, made of long strips of skin with the hair on. The strips were twisted into fur ropes, which were woven into a heavy blanket or cape. Robes of deer and elk skin were also used. Among all Shoshoni, a semi-tailored garment of Plains style was worn whenever materials for their manufacture were available. The men wore shirts and leggings, and ankle length dresses were worn by the women. In warm weather a breechclout or shredded bark kilt was the only garment of both sexes. Footgear was a hard-soled three-piece moccasin or a two-piece moccasin of knee or ankle length. A basketry hat was worn by Ute and Paiute women. Moccasins, when obtainable, and sandals of woven joss weed, were the common types of footwear. The most important garment of the Gosiutes was a rabbit-skin cape which was drawn about the neck with a cord. Moccasins and leggings were uncommon among them.

Dwellings were of poor quality. The Paiutes lived in lodges constructed on a framework of three cedar poles set up in tripod fashion. Two sides of this structure were covered with secondary poles and thatch, while the third, which always faced away from the prevailing winds, was left open. Villages were small and usually consisted of scattered dwellings. The Gosiutes were without lodges, in the strict sense of the word, but lived in circular windbreaks of brush without a roof. Perhaps the best habitations in Utah were the conical skin tepees of the Ute and mounted Shoshoni. Even these, however, were not as well made as the lodges of the Plains tribes to the east. They were constructed of ten to fifteen poles forming a cone about fifteen feet in height and thirteen or fourteen feet in diameter at the base. A skin cover was placed around this framework and staked to the ground, and a skin lining completed the structure. Among the Ute, a thatched dwelling of more or less rectangular outline was also used.

Basketry was an important minor industry. A great variety of forms were made by the coiled and the twined techniques. A pitchcovered bottle with a globular body and constricted neck was used for carrying liquids on long treks into the desert for wild seeds. Other forms were winnowing trays, conical burden baskets, and cradles.

It is not surprising that little information regarding the social organization and religion of the Utah Indians has survived. Scientific reconstruction began too late to provide a complete picture. However, certain determinations have been made which give an insight into their life. The foot Indians of western Utah seem to have lacked centralized authority: the concept of "chief" apparently developed after contact with the whites. The mounted Shoshoni, Ute, and probably some Paiute had strong native chiefs, and pre-white bands. The foot Shoshoni, Gosiute, and possibly a few groups of Ute and Paiute had no chiefs or bands whatsoever. The Paiute bands are known to have had leaders who directed the rabbit hunts, and the Gosiute and other Shoshoni had hunt and dance leaders and antelope charmers; in other activities these officers had no authority. In historic times, however, a number of Ute bands were united under the able chief, Ouray. Although the poorer, horseless groups of Shoshoni seem to have been without leaders, one of the transient mounted bands of Wyoming, which spent a part of its time in northern Utah, was governed by the noted Washakie. There was no type of clan organization. The only divisions among some were the family and village, and among others the band. Polygyny (the state of having several wives) was practiced by those economically capable of it and polyandry (the condition of having plural husbands) existed among some groups. In historic times the Ute carried on an extensive slave traffic. Children were obtained by barter or by force from poorer bands of Paiutes and exchanged with the Navahos and Mexicans to the south for blankets and other articles. Certain Paiute bands were almost depopulated by this traffic.

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