The Timbisha (Tümpisa) Shoshone Tribe, are people indigenous to the area around the California and Nevada border. Timbisha means “rock paint” which refers to the face paint from the red ochre in the valley that was applied for ceremonies.
The Death Valley Indian Community is home to the federally recognized Timbasha Shoshone. The Timbisha Shoshone had ancestral lands through the California and Nevada counties of Inyo, Kern, San Bernardino, Mono, Nye, Mineral, and Esmeralda. The creation of Death Valley National Monument and then Death Valley National Park occurred on these lands which displaced and caused the death of many Timbisha.
- 1863 – The United States government and the Western Shoshone signed the Treaty of Ruby Valley. In this treaty, the Western Shoshone agreed to end the war and allow the US access to the land. The Western Shoshone people did not cede any land to the US with the treaty.
- 1933 – The lands of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe are taken to create Death Valley National Monument.
- 1938 – An agreement was formed to reassign the original 10,000 acres of land to 40 acres at Furnace Creek. However, many members migrate north to live with the Northern Paiute.
- 1982 – 1983- The Death Valley Indian Community is formally established and recognized.
- 1994 – The California Desert Protection Act establishes Death Valley National Park and starts to identify possible reservation sites for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe.
- 2000 – President Clinton signed the Timbisha Homeland Act providing for a reservation of about 12 square miles (nearly 10,000 acres) near the Nevada-California border to include land in and outside of Death Valley National Park.
Timbisha Shoshone Life
Many of the customs practiced by the Timbisha Shoshone people recognized environmental limitations to ensure maintenance of the ecosystem’s integrity. This was most clearly seen when the tribe would travel up and down the valley in attempt to escape extreme heat and harsh living conditions.
The Timbisha Shoshone also relied heavily on the environment for sustenance, as native piñon pine nuts and mesquite pods were staples of their diet. The tribe used the land in a seasonal manner, often escaping hot summers in the mountains and building villages when the colder months came. Pine nuts and mesquite beans were a large part of their diet which also included hunted animals and other gathered plants.
Timbisha Shoshone today
Today less than 100 Timbisha Shoshone tribe members live and maintain the territory that their ancestors once occupied. Members are studying the Shoshone language and the tribe is getting more involved with issues relating to their homeland and conservation including the recycling program and water issues facing this part of the country. The Timbisha is pursuing cultural preservation with assistance from the Tribal Historic Preservation Committee and the NPS to teach and implement the language of the People.