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Origins of Idaho


Capitole of Idaho
Capitole of Idaho

Big-game hunters were the earliest inhabitants of present-day Idaho. Excavations at Wilson Butte Cave in south central Idaho uncovered a campsite dating back about 12,000 years with the remains of prehistoric animals and spears made out of flint. Early game hunters led a migratory life, pursuing mammoths, bison, and prehistoric horses.

At the time of the arrival of the first whites, early in the 19th century, seven principal Native American groups inhabited Idaho. To the north lived the Coeur d’Alene, the Pend d’Oreille, and the Kootenai. The Nez Perce inhabited the region between the Blue Mountains in Oregon and the Bitterroot Mountains in northern Idaho. In Idaho they lived principally along the valleys of the Clearwater River and its tributaries and along the lower Salmon River. Native Americans from northern Idaho were seminomadic but had permanent semisubterranean longhouses. In the summer they caught salmon, steelhead, and trout, gathered fruits, roots, and berries, and migrated to Montana to hunt bison, bear, and elk.

Southern Idaho was occupied by the Shoshone and by the less numerous Bannock and Paiute Native Americans. These people may have migrated to Idaho from Nevada or Utah during the 16th century. They generally lived in portable conical dwellings, made of grass or bark mats. They lived in the prairies and ate insects, birds, eggs, fish, rabbit, and prairie dogs. When the horse was introduced to the Native Americans of Idaho, their lives changed drastically. The horse gave Native Americans greater mobility and allowed them to hunt and trade with native groups from Washington, Montana, and Canada. The Shoshone and the Nez Perce also fought against the Native American peoples of the Great Plains, such as the Blackfoot and the Crow. "Idaho" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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