Native Americans In Nevada | Print |

The Nevada climate is very arid, receiving little rain or precipitation except in the mountain areas. Despite this harsh environment, Native Americans were present in pre-historic times for at least 10,000 years, living in small, mobile family groups and surviving because of highly refined hunting and gathering skills. Only a few bands or tribes in southern Nevada practiced limited agriculture to supplement their mobile food gathering practices.

This continual and rigorous search for food included selectively exploiting a wide range of plants and animals from an even greater range of available species. Many groups manipulated their environment to ensure food production by burning, watering, and pruning the natural vegetation.

Despite their mobile existence, Nevada Indians developed a sophisticated material and spiritual culture. Extensive trade in perishable and non-perishable goods occurred with neighbors and more distant tribes, including such items as shells, obsidian, pottery, turquoise, animal skins and hides, basket making materials, and food items.

It was only after the beginning of the historic period and contact with Euro-Americans that the native way of life was all but destroyed and food sources became insufficient to sustain the population. Settlers developed Indian areas for their own uses, changing the water and land patterns necessary for Indian survival. Grass and woodland areas were trampled and cut down, rivers diverted and fisheries lost.

After Euro-American contact, treaties were negotiated with the tribes of the Great Basin and the Indians were forced onto reservations, Indian colonies, or reserves. Today there are forty-five officially constituted reservations and colonies throughout the Great Basin region.

(Smithsonian Institution. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 11, Great Basin Washington D.C., 1986)

Map of Native American Colonies and Reservations in Nevada