Lesson 7: Newe (Western Shoshone)

Last Thursday, we discussed Newe culture, society, history, and modern conditions. The Newe avoided direct interaction with Euro-Americans until the early 1820s, but European “things”, like horses and metal tools, had found their way to them for centuries before this time. Very soon after these initial contacts, American encroachment and mistreatment led to the Newe reorganizing their sociopolitical organization to defend themselves. Thus, pre-contact culture is not well known. Julian Steward’s research in the early 1900s provides a detailed account of Newe adaptation to their environment. Their treatment during American settlement of the west allotment is stark portrayal of how American policies attempted to destroy Native American cultures through acculturation.

We also discussed Clemmer’s article on Newe identity and how those identities have persisted through significant changes in other areas of culture. Clemmer offers a interesting proposed explanation for why these identities have persisted, but ultimately we have little supporting evidence. Thus, these identities have persisted against all odds for reasons we are not completely sure. If nothing else, they are a testament to the persistence of many integral features of Native American cultures in face of acculturation.


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