Owens Valley Paiute
The Paiute people who live on the Bishop Paiute Reservation are descendants of the “Nu-Mu”, the original people of the Owens Valley. The tribe is located at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in Bishop, CA, and is the fifth largest tribe in California with around 2,000 enrolled members.
The Owens Valley Paiute are indigenous to the Kings Canyon National Park region and more broadly, the Eastern Sierra Nevada’s extending into Western Nevada and Eastern Oregon. There are many bands of the Owens Valley Paiute spreading across this region.
- 1860s – The Gold Rush brought many new people who disrupted the land and settled around the Sierra’s.
- 1863 – The military forcibly removed the Paiute Peoples after a conflict arose between them and the settlers, relocating them to Fort Tejon by Bakersfield.
- 1866 – Many of the Owens Valley Paiute moved back to Owens Valley and worked the land there, becoming an integral part of the agricultural economy.
- 1900 – The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) established schools at the reservations that contained most of the Owens Valley Paiute.
- 1932 – The government revoked the reserved 67,000 acres of land for the Owens Valley Paiute
- ~1936 – Back and forth with the City of Los Angeles, who held the water rights for the region, the Owens Valley Paiute gained land with housing and water from the federal government.
Owens Valley Paiute Life
The Paiute utilized the snow rich Sierra Nevada mountains, creating irrigation systems down the mountains to enhance plant growth. These systems were later utilized by American settlers in the valley. The Paiute were split into different groups that interacted with each other, especially during the summer and spring months when they roamed across the Sierras for food. They cultivated rice grass and ate pine nuts from the surrounding land.
Owens Valley Paiute today
The Owens Valley Paiute were displaced many times by the settlers and the government occupying their land or forcibly removing them. They spread to different reservations such as the Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Big Pine Paiute Tribe and the Bishop Paiute Tribe.
The Bishop Paiute tribe holds summer youth groups, elders abuse awareness events and a trauma healing group. The Bishop Paiute tribe, along with the Big Pine and Lone Pine Paiute tribes are working towards values of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-governance.
References and Resources
“Tending the Wild” – environmental knowledge of indigenous people across CA