The Bannock

Great Basin

Recorded and Edited by Willard Rhodes

The Indian tribes that inhabited this vast geographic area have been described by Dr. Ruth Underhill in her book Red Man's America as "those who had little to lose." The Great Basin is an intermountain desert country, bound on the east by the Rockies and on the west by the Sierras and Cascades. The ecology of the desert provided a hard and meager living, and the small seminomadic family groups were kept moving in their ceaseless quest for food.

Women dug for edible roots and gathered seeds and nuts. Grasshoppers were driven into trenches, roasted alive, then ground into flour. Men hunted for rats, lizards, and small game, and with nets made of hemp, they snared rabbits and birds. The wikiup, a dome-shaped arbor of poles and reeds, was their shelter from the heat of the day and the cold of the night. It was a hard life, and one wonders how the people were able to survive in this hostile environment.

Great Basin Indian culture was determined to a large extent by the land. Living in small family groups, they had no need for a formal social organization, and the physical demands of keeping alive left little time for the development of religion and the arts. Their lack of contact with other tribes and the stimulus that results from such contacts may be regarded as impeding the technological development of these people to whom the derogatory name "Diggers" was applied by some whites who regarded them as living no better than animals.


The Bannock was a Shoshonean tribe living in Southeast Idaho and Western Wyoming, associated with the Washakie Shoshone. They were a widely roving tribe, and this habit contributed to their dispersal and separation into groups. A treaty with the Eastern Band Shoshone and Bannock, 1868, provided for the establishment of the Fort Hall Reservation. In his report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1900, Agent A. F. Caldwell wrote:
This is the first time that the Bannock and Shoshone tribes have been reported together, the population of the two tribes having always been reported separately. They are so intermarried and related to each other that it is nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other, many individuals being the offspring of intertribal marriages.

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Bannock Warrior's Dance Song 1 The Bannock Warrior's Dance songs, like all Shoshone songs except the Ghost Dance songs, are sung without words on vocables that enhance the sound of the voice. Bannock
Bannock Warrior's Dance Song 2 Bannock
Shoshone Chief's Song Charles Washakie, the leader of the "Shoshone Chief's Song," states that he made this song in honor of his father who made a gift of the Waters of Thermopolis to the United States Government. Bannock