The Paiute are divided into two groups: the Northern Paiute and the Southern Paiute. The northern tribes lived in Oregon, Nevada and California, whereas the southern group inhabited Utah and Arizona. The Southern Paiute, who spoke the same language at the Ute tribe. The Northern Paiute were also known as Diggers.
The Paiute subsisted primarily on seeds and nuts and on small game such as rabbits. Isabella Bird, who visited California in 1873 claimed that she was told they mainly lived on grasshoppers. Their houses were primitive and they wore little or no clothing although they did have blankets made of rabbit skins.
Although the Europeans settled on their territory and at first rarely resorted to violence. Some were actually employed by the settlers as farm labourers.
In 1874 all the Paiute lands were taken by the United States government and they were forced to live on reservations in Utah and Nevada. It is estimated that there are about 4,000 Paiute living in America today.
(1) Isabella Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (1879)
Digger Indians are perfect savages, without any aptitude for even aboriginal civilisation, and are altogether the most degraded of the ill-fated tribes which are dying out before the white races. They were all very diminutive, five feet one inch being, I should think, about the average height, with flat noses, wide mouths, and black hair, cut straight above the eyes and hanging lank and long at the back and sides. The squaws wore their hair thickly plastered with pitch, and a broad band of the same across their noses and cheeks. They carried their infants on their backs, strapped to boards. The clothing of both sexes was a ragged, dirty combination of coarse woollen cloth and hide, the moccasins being unornamented. They were all hideous and filthy, and swarming with vermin. The men carried short bows and arrows, one of them, who appeared to be the chief, having a lynx's skin for a quiver. A few had fishing-tackle, but the bystanders said that they lived almost entirely upon grasshoppers. They were a most impressive incongruity in the midst of the tokens of an omnipotent civilisation.
(2) George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847)
Whilst following a small creek at the southwest extremity of the lake, they came upon a band of miserable Indians, who, from the fact of their subsisting chiefly on roots, are called the Diggers. At first sight of the whites, they immediately fled from their wretched huts, and made towards the mountain; but one of the trappers, galloping up on his horse, cut off their retreat, and drove them like sheep before him back to their village. A few of these wretched creatures came into camp at sundown, and were regaled with such meat as the larder afforded. They appeared to have no other food in their village but bags of dried ants and their larvae, and a few roots of the yampah. Their huts were constructed of a few bushes of greasewood, piled up as a sort of breakwind, in which they huddled in their filthy skins.