Tales and Legends of the Shoshones: Discover the cultural richness of this fascinating tribe.

Welcome to my blog! In this post, I want to share with you the link to my latest video podcast titled "Tales and Legends of the Shoshones". Video podcast that, as a professional photographer and emerging artist, I have made to document my photographic project Utah's Lakes and Reservoirs In this episode, we explore the rich oral tradition of the Shoshone tribe who lived for a long time in the vicinity of some Utah lakes. We dive into their captivating stories passed down from generation to generation. Join me on this journey to discover the fascinating culture of the Shoshones.


De W. H. Jackson -, Dominio público,


We will begin by immersing ourselves in the history of the Shoshone tribe, highlighting their geographical location, their lifestyle, and their relationship with nature. This will help us understand the context in which their tales and legends unfolded.


Hundreds of years ago, the Shoshone were divided into groups and inhabited the northwestern United States, in the territories of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and California. Currently, they live on reservations throughout the states mentioned.

In the early nineteenth century, the estimated population of the Shoshone was 19,500 individuals. However, over time, due to colonization and cruel battles to evict them from their lands, their numbers were reduced to approximately 10,000 individuals. According to the 2000 census, about 12,026 individuals were recorded.

Each group had customs that were characterized by their tales and legends. The Shoshones believed in the existence of the "land of the coyote," where deceased men went after death. According to his story, the coyote had created the world with his friend the wolf.

The Western Shoshones, who lived in Oregon and California, subsisted as nomads, gathering wild seeds, insects, and small animals. Some of them obtained horses after the arrival of white settlers in Nevada and Utah.

Northern Shoshone groups, living in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, obtained horses before settlers arrived on their lands and traded with the Spanish from New Mexico for clothing and various utensils. These groups evolved into bands of horse-mounted bison hunters and warriors. They dressed in bison skins and adopted the teepee of other indigenous tribes.

Throughout our informative search we found the following data of interest:

  1. In the 1700s, they were attacked by other tribes in nearby areas with the aim of stealing their horses.
  2. In 1781, they suffered the first smallpox epidemic.
  3. There are records that in 1804 one of its leaders complained to American explorers that the Spanish did not sell them rifles.
  4. Between 1787 and 1812, the Shoshone were driven from their lands by other tribes such as the Arapahos, Cheyenne, and Pawnee.
  5. In 1847, Mormons settled near the Salt Lake in Shoshone territory.
  6. The gold rush in 1863 triggered the first conflict between the Shoshone and white settlers, where 224 Indians and 22 soldiers died.
  7. With the arrival of the railroad in 1869, the Shoshone supported Bannock and Paiute Indian leaders in a war they lost.
  8. For aiding the U.S. government against another Indian tribe, they obtained the Wind River reservation. In this reserve, they were unified through their beliefs and dedicated themselves to mining.
  9. In 1937, they received compensation of $4 million for the land taken away.
  10. In 1971, it was determined that mining operations at Wind River were causing environmental pollution, which led to the formation of the Great Basin MX Alliance to prevent the launch of MX missiles in the deserts of Nevada and Utah.


De U.S. Army Signal Corps - National Archives American West Photographs, image 73, 111-SC-87800 (original location here), Dominio público,

Emblematic tales

In this section, I will highlight some of the most representative tales and legends of the Shoshones. We will explore stories such as "The Spirit of the Lake", "The Dance of the Bison" and "The Guardian of the Mountains". I will briefly describe each story, highlighting the values and teachings they convey.


"The spirit of the lake"

Long ago, in a land inhabited by the Shoshones, there was a beautiful lake surrounded by majestic mountains. In the depths of these waters lived a powerful and wise being known as the Spirit of the Lake.

The Spirit of the Lake was regarded as the guardian and protector of the Shoshone community. It was said that he possessed the ability to communicate with the natural elements and that he looked after the welfare of his people. The Shoshone honored and respected him deeply.

Legend has it that, in times of drought, when water was scarce and crops withered, the Spirit of the Lake manifested itself in the dreams of the leaders of the tribe. Through visions, he showed them the way to find new sources of water and keep hope alive in difficult times.

In addition to its role as a water provider, the Spirit of the Lake was also known for its ability to heal. It was said that those who immersed themselves in its sacred waters found relief for their physical and spiritual ailments.

The Shoshones, aware of the importance of this divine being, pledged to protect and preserve the lake. In return for their respect and care, the Spirit of the Lake continued to bless the community with his wisdom and gift of healing.

To this day, the Spirit of the Lake remains a revered figure in Shoshone culture. Its history has been passed down from generation to generation, recalling the importance of connection with nature and the responsibility to take care of the resources it gives us.

Thus ends the story of the "Spirit of the Lake", a story that teaches us the importance of respecting and protecting the natural treasures that surround us, recognizing the wisdom and power of the beings that inhabit them.


"The Dance of the Bison"

On the vast plains where the Shoshone lived in harmony with nature, there was a group of majestic bison that roamed freely. These imposing animals were essential to the survival of the tribe, as they provided them with food, shelter, and materials for various needs.

Legend has it that every year during harvest season, the Shoshone performed a sacred dance in honor of the bison. This dance, known as "The Dance of the Bison", was intended to celebrate and thank these magnificent beings for their generosity.

The tribe gathered in a special place, where a large circle adorned with feathers and sacred symbols was prepared. Shoshone men and women dressed in traditional costumes and carried musical instruments made from natural materials.

To the rhythm of drums and sacred songs, the Shoshones danced imitating the graceful movements of bison. With fluid and energetic movements, they expressed their deep respect and connection with these animals.

It was believed that, through dance, the Shoshone established a spiritual communion with the bison. They prayed for the abundance of herds, for the protection of animals and for the continuity of the balance between human beings and nature.

This sacred dance also conveyed an important teaching: the interdependence between all creatures. The Shoshone understood that their survival was linked to that of the bison and the preservation of the ecosystems in which they coexisted.

Over the centuries, "The Bison Dance" became a tradition rooted in Shoshone culture. To this day, the descendants of this tribe continue to perform this ancestral dance, honoring bison and remembering the importance of living in harmony with nature.

Thus concludes the story of "The Dance of the Bison", a story that reminds us of the need to respect and value all creatures that share our world, recognizing the importance of maintaining the balance and interconnection that exists in nature.


"The guardian of the mountains"

In the towering mountains that loomed in the Shoshone territory, lived an extraordinary being known as "The Guardian of the Mountains." This mysterious being was the protector of the sacred lands and was responsible for ensuring harmony and balance in the region.

The guardian was said to possess supernatural strength and a deep connection with nature spirits. His appearance was that of a half-man, half-animal being, with the wisdom of the elders and the agility of the mountain animals.

The Shoshone revered the guardian and paid tribute to him in gratitude for his protection. Each year, tribal leaders held a special ceremony in his honor, bringing offerings of food, furs, and valuables.

Legend has it that the guardian of the mountains had the ability to communicate with the natural elements and foresee events that would affect the community. When storms or dangers were coming, he sent signals through dreams and visions to the Shoshone leaders, warning them and giving them wisdom to face the challenges ahead.

In addition to his role as protector, the guardian was also known to be a spirit guide. Those looking for answers or direction turned to him for guidance. The guardian was said to provide them with visions and advice to find their purpose in life and overcome the obstacles that came their way.

The story of the guardian of the mountains taught the Shoshone the importance of protecting and respecting sacred lands. It also reminded them of the need to live in harmony with nature and to honor the spirits that dwelt in it.

To this day, the guardian of the mountains remains a revered figure in Shoshone culture. Its history has been passed down from generation to generation, reminding people of the importance of connection to the spiritual and the responsibility to protect and preserve the lands we hold sacred.

Thus concludes the story of the "Guardian of the Mountains", a story that invites us to reflect on our relationship with nature, recognizing the wisdom and power that reside in places.


Messages and symbolism

We will analyze the messages and symbolisms present in the Shoshone tales. We will see how these stories reflect the deep connection between the Shoshone and nature, as well as the lessons of respect, gratitude, and balance they convey.

After reading the stories, I conclude that for years humanity has been concerned with respecting and protecting natural treasures, as well as valuing all the creatures that share our world. It is a constant search to maintain a communion and spiritual harmony, trying to establish connection with the creator of the universe. Aspects that are well revealed in the tales of the Shoshone and without a doubt the desire to respect and protect natural treasures has led them to reflect on our relationship with nature and the unknown.

Oral traditions have always demonstrated the beliefs of different social groups and when the Shoshones tell their stories there is always a high content of imagination that mixes with what they think is worthy of respect. For that matter they try to convey their beliefs of the supernatural and the strength they carry, mixing them with their personal experiences. Where they leave well-marked the need to ask for protection through their sacrifices to supernatural forces or gods that they venerated.

In these stories we see the water that represents life, the bison that represents strength and the guardian of the mountains that is man; If we stop to think about these symbols that are marked in their legends, we will say that, for centuries, humanity seeks to understand in everything, the unknown mysteries and that the creator of the universe, God, gave us and without fear of saying, lord it over them.


My personal experience

I will share my experience researching and learning about Shoshone tales and legends. I will describe how I immersed myself in culture, what attracted me to these stories, and how they influenced my own appreciation of nature and cultural heritage.

In a few lines, I must tell you that with my Utah's Lakes and Reservoirs project I have had to study and read a lot about each lake and reservoir that I must document. An artistic task that I do with love, thinking about future generations. This is how I took on the task of investigating the tribe and culture of the Shoshones who lived for decades in the vicinity of the most emblematic lakes of Utah and leaving us a rich oral tradition of their culture. I am happy to be able to summarize what I have considered to be the highlights of them, and I am happy that it is still a culture that has life these days.



The tales and legends of the Shoshone invite us to explore a culture rich in wisdom and connection with nature. Through my video podcast, I have tried to capture the essence of other stories such as: the legend of the great spirit, the legend of the four winds, the story of the coyote, and the legend of the man of the moon, and share them with you. I hope you enjoy this episode and that it inspires you to discover more about the Shoshone tribe and other indigenous cultures.


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Featured Image By Unknown author or not provided - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain,



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