Fourteen thousand dollars is a lot of tacos.
That's how much the Paiute (pIOOt´) tribe spent this year to send 125 of its tribal members to represent the tribe in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Paiute people raised the money by holding a benefit powwow and by selling tacos outside a Wal-Mart store. It was important to the Paiute people, who once roamed freely over the lands near Salt Lake City to show the world, and indeed themselves that they were alive and thriving, so they sold tacos to earn the money to get there. "It's exposure to the world that Native Americans are still here, and we're still surviving," said Travis Parashonts, Olympic coordinator for the Paiute tribe of southwestern Utah.
The Paiute tribe is spread out over approximately 30 reservations with 10,000 people enrolled. Once the tribe roamed throughout the entire Great Basin area and was broken into two main branches; the Northern Paiutes living in central and eastern California, western Nevada, and eastern Oregon, and the Southern Paiutes who occupied northwest Arizona, southeast California, southern Nevada, and southern Utah. In general the Paiutes survived by hunting, fishing, and digging for roots. They devised fairly elaborate irrigation systems in some areas to expand the range of some crops, but did little actual planting and growing of crops. They were often called "Digger Indians" by whites because of their almost constant root gathering. This later became a derogatory term used towards the Paiute.
The Paiute were a fairly peaceful people until the coming of the white man in the 1800s. After that time the Northern Paiute were more warlike than their southern relatives; they fought the miners and the settlers during the 1860s, and a considerable part of them joined the Bannock in the war of 1878.
The Paiute women have always been and still are masters of basketry. Baskets, used to carry water, hold food, and as clothing is woven from grasses, tules, pine needles, and bark using both coiled and twined weave methods. Paiute baskets rate among the best in the world. Basketry is considered one of the most exquisite art forms of the Paiute people.
It was among the Paiute that the Ghost Dance religion, which was to be of much significance on the frontier in the 1890s, first appeared. The Native American messiah, Wovoka, was a Paiute. Another well-known Paiute was Sarah Winnemucca, who traveled to Washington DC to plead the case of her people when they were forced off their lands and at the mercy of an unscrupulous Indian agent. Winnemucca later wrote a book about her experiences trying to bridge the gap between two cultures.
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