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History of the Moapa Paiutes

As Moapa Paiutes strive to preserve our legends, songs and dances. However, cultural disruption during the past two centuries have threatened the continuation of traditional life. 

Prior to the 1800s, the Moapa Paiutes were a culturally well adapted people who combined farming with hunting and gathering. They used the resources of the land with great ingenuity.

Most of the domestic objects of our ancestors were various forms of intricately designed basketry, including water jars, winnowing and parching trays, cradle boards, cooking baskets and seed beaters. They had great skill in the use of animal skins and plants. Their knowledge of nutritional and medicinal uses of plants was extensive. 

The history of Moapa following white contact, dating from the 1830 opening of the Old Spanish Trail, is a tragedy. A peaceful people saw their land and water seized, and their homes frequently raided by slavers. Conflicts erupted with Mormon settlers, New Mexicans and other emigrants. 

Our numbers diminished rapidly as new diseases were contracted, especially tuberculosis and measles. Insurrection and raiding for survival were brutally punished by federal troops and white settlers. 

Although armed with bow and arrows, defiance did not stop the intrusion of whites into Moapa. The People were forced to flee into the desert and farming was disrupted. 

In 1873, 39,000 square miles were set aside for tribal lands by the federal government. In 1875, though, the reservation was reduced to a meager 1,000 acres, followed by 60 years of neglect and corruption by white agents. 

In 1941 a Constitution and bylaws were created, and the Business Council was established as a governing body for the tribe. 

An attempt to revive farming in 1941 failed due to water problems, and a lack of equipment, and money. Discouraged, the tribe agreed to lease the farmland to a dairy company. Beginning with a claim filed in 1951 for compensation of tribal land confiscated in the 1860’s, the Indian Claims Commission granted a judgment which resulted in the establishment of a perpetual capital fund for improvements and economic development. Subsequently, in 1968 the tribe refused to renew leases to non-members.

Other Resources 
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