Historic Context Statements
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Chapter 2:
Native Inhabitants of the Craters of the Moon Region

Overview of the Snake River Plain: Pre-contact Period

The human history of the Snake River Plain borders on the recent past, it seems, for it was only at the turn of the century that large-scale irrigation projects transformed this arid land into a habitable place. That perception, however, is an illusion. Long before these technological advances made the desert bloom, people inhabited the Snake River region. They lived in closer contact with and adapted their needs to the harsh desert environment, more so than those who inhabit the region today. From a historical perspective, the distant human past provides an important introduction to the changing patterns of human activity in this region.

Humans first appeared in southern Idaho 12,000-14,000 years ago. They lived in the Upper Snake and Salmon River country where they hunted large mammals and gathered edible plants. Archaeologists note that the period was culturally diverse, lasting up until about 6,000 B.C., and composed of three distinct groups: Clovis (10,000-9,000 B.C.), Folsom (9,000-8,000 B.C.), and Plano (8,600-5,800 B.C.). These first peoples made their homes in the region during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. It was a cold and wet period during which they fashioned weapons tipped with large lancelot, or spear like, points and hunted herds of elephants, bison, horses, camels, elk, deer, and mountain sheep that grazed the fertile grasslands and wetlands of the time. Like the animals they hunted, these early hunters also migrated across the plain. It was a natural travel corridor that allowed them to reach more favorable climates as the Great Basin gradually grew hotter and drier after 8,000 B.C. For this reason, it is believed that large fauna populations and big-game hunters persisted in this region longer than anywhere else in the Great Basin. [1]

By about 5,800 B.C., the Upper Snake and Salmon River country entered the Archaic period, characterized by extreme heat and aridity. Big game populations thinned and began, along with the region's plant life, the long retreat north or to higher elevations. The lower plains turned to desert where flora and fauna were scarce and poor. Early inhabitants still hunted and gathered. Rather than large spear points, they made side notched points, following the Plains and Basin patterns, and used a new weapon system, the atlatl and dart. With these they pursued evolving modern forms of game, bison and sheep. [2]

Hardly stable, the climate over the last several thousand years became less extreme. In this rather moderate environment, more recent culture groups of the plain, the Northern Fremont and the Shoshonean, emerged in what archaeologists classify as the Late Period, around the sixth century. Archaeologists debate the identity of these culture groups based on artifacts--points, tools, and pottery--excavated from caves, rock shelters, and other occupation sites on the edges of the Snake River Plain. With some certainty, they suggest that by the fifteenth century small groups of Shoshone, a Numic speaking people, migrated to the Snake River Plain from northern Utah as an extension of their hunting and gathering activities. [3]

Today's Northern Shoshone and Bannock tribes, descendants of the Shoshonean culture group, were the Indians who occupied southern Idaho when the Lewis and Clark expedition ventured into the region in 1805. These Indians, whether considered in groups or "tribes," were hardly discrete political or social unions, and amounted to a loose aggregation of villages or bands bound by language and kinship. The Northern Shoshone dwelled in the drainage of the Upper Columbia River apart from the Western Shoshone, who lived to the south and east in Utah and Nevada, and the Eastern Shoshone who made their homes in Western Wyoming. Each group possessed specific economic and social characteristics based largely on what they used for nourishment and their geographical locale. The Western Shoshone owned few horses and thus had only limited access to buffalo hunting grounds on the plains. Conversely, the Eastern and Northern Shoshone were well mounted and hunted on the plains extensively, and in turn displayed the cultural and social influences of the Plains Indians, which was all but absent among the Western Shoshone. What distinguished the Northern and Eastern groups from each other were their separate locales and salmon fishing, an important part of the Northern Shoshone diet. Sometimes referred to as the Snake River Shoshone, the Northern Shoshone were further subdivided into numerous bands, one notable group being the Lemhi Shoshone. Despite such classifications, the various Shoshone did not recognize these distinctions; they lived in a wide variety of social and political units where cultural boundaries blurred. [4]

The Bannock distinctiveness, on the other hand, was based on language and migration. They were Northern Paiute speakers who had migrated from Oregon to the Snake River region where they lived peacefully among Shoshone speakers. Although not substantially different from their fellow Northern Paiutes, the Bannock took on their own cultural identity after they acquired the horse and began hunting buffalo. [5]

Both the Shoshone and Bannock intermingled, sharing similar social characteristics, and speaking similar yet different branches of the Numic languages that spread throughout the Great Basin. Living in the vast expanse of southern Idaho, the Shoshone and Bannock were highly mobile, seminomadic groups, and for this reason they varied little culturally or linguistically from each other. [6]

Southern Idaho tribes lived in a region where the margin of survival was narrow. The area received at the most fifteen inches of annual precipitation, mostly snow, and some years received no measurable amounts. The Shoshone and Bannock adapted to the semi-arid environment, especially in the prehorse period, by subsisting on birds, small game, nuts, seeds, and various insects. By 1700, the Shoshone and Bannock acquired the horse and depended less on small game and plants, and hunted larger game such as bison, deer, mountain sheep, antelope, and bear. [7]

Whether on foot or on horseback, the Indian groups (or bands) moved constantly in order to exploit the region's edible resources. Their seasonal pattern would find some groups in the spring moving to the mountains on the fringes of the Snake River Plain to hunt large game and to gather camas and other roots in well-watered areas such as Camas Prairie and Smith Prairie in southeastern Idaho. Other groups would travel to the Snake River to fish for salmon, a popular destination being Shoshone Falls. By mid summer those Indians who had horses would head east to the plains of Wyoming and Montana to hunt bison. The entire year, but in the summer especially, Indian bands would hunt birds. Throughout the spring, summer, and early fall, they would collect berries, and in the late fall they would prepare for winter by caching foods in dry places. During the winter months, they would gather in multiple family groups in villages located in well-watered and well-sheltered areas, live off of their stores, and continue to hunt and gather on a limited basis. [8]

Compared to most Great Basin Indian groups, the Shoshone and Bannock were rich in food sources, such as salmon and other fish, game animals and birds, and edible plants, many of which were found in the drainages of the Snake and Boise rivers. The horse also played a valuable role, for it allowed the tribes to leave the semi-arid plain for river valleys and mountain ranges where the environment was more favorable. In addition, migratory and subsistence patterns showed how the Shoshone-Bannock culture was influenced by and attuned to the environment. To survive in the semi-arid Snake River Plain country meant living in scattered groups near water resources or at higher elevations; population densities were no more than two people per one hundred square miles. Indian groups had relatively little contact with their neighbors. Nonetheless, they shared a primarily peaceful demeanor and a shaman-centered religion. [9]

By the end of the eighteenth century, the Shoshone and Bannock occupied two main geographic areas. One was the upper Snake River Valley, near what would become Fort Hall. Here horse-owning Indians lived in the rich grassland country where the Blackfoot, Ross Fork, and Portneuf rivers and Bannock Creek entered the Snake. The other was farther west, in the general vicinity of what would become Fort Boise. The Shoshone and Bannock operated an important trading center here during the salmon fishing season on the Snake River. A large intertribal population was also drawn to the country between Camas Prairie and the confluence of the Boise, Payette, Weiser, and Owyhee rivers on the Snake. Other areas of special importance were the magnificent Sawtooth Range, the Lemhi River and Bruneau River valleys. Population estimates for Indians in the region vary greatly and are unreliable for the tribes. Estimates range, for example, from 3,000 to 36,000; the lower figure most likely represents the population for the mid to late nineteenth century. Although population statistics are somewhat dubious, the importance of the Snake River to the survival of the Shoshone and Bannock is not. The river's waters provided fish; its plains produced roots; its upper reaches supported rich grasslands for buffalo and horses, and its bottoms afforded shelter during winter. [10]

By the time the first white explorers, fur traders, and settlers encountered the Indian groups in the early nineteenth century, historian Brigham D. Madsen suggests, the Shoshone and Bannock appeared to be at a cultural apex. Survivors of the smallpox epidemic had gained some of the advantages of white contact--primarily the horse--without the destructive aspects of white settlement. They had also adopted more of the Plains tribes's cultural traits in the form of clothing, shelter, food preparation, containers, and political organization. In the case of the latter, the Indian groups formed loosely into bands with trusted leaders. These cultural developments, perhaps, better prepared the Shoshone and Bannock for more extensive cultural changes brought by direct and more destructive contact with whites in the nineteenth century. [11]

Contact Period

Europeans and Anglo Americans influenced the lives of the Northern Shoshone and Bannock in a number of ways, most of them with long-lasting effects. The horse, for example, had worked its way north from the Spanish settlements of the Southwest by 1700, which enabled the Shoshone to expand their range beyond the Basin and the Rockies into Montana and Canada in search of buffalo. Expanding their range brought them into contact and conflict with the fierce Blackfeet who owned firearms that they had acquired through trade, weapons they used to drive the Shoshone back to southern Idaho by the mid-1700s. Virulent diseases, spread through trade and casual contact, severely diminished the population of the Shoshone and Bannock in untold numbers well before whites traveled West. [12]

In other cases, contact was more direct and its effects equally as dramatic, especially in the nineteenth century when explorers, fur traders, and settlers fanned out across the West encountering tribes on a regular basis. Lewis and Clark made the first contact with the Northern Shoshone in the Lemhi Valley in 1805 during their expedition to the Pacific. Shortly afterward, fur traders began to travel through the Shoshone Bannock domain. Andrew Henry built the first outpost on the Upper Snake River in 1810, and for the next thirty to forty years fur hunters represented by American and British interests exploited the region's fur-bearing animals. During this era, the Shoshone and Bannock maintained amiable relations with the various fur trade interests, but unlike other Indian groups the Shoshone did not become as involved in the fur trade. They allied themselves with fur trappers primarily as a way to protect themselves from marauding Blackfeet. Trade played an important role in this relationship, for along with articles such as beads and blankets, the Shoshone and Bannock obtained guns and ammunition to fend of Blackfeet incursions. Although transitory in nature, the fur trade also established the important trade centers of Forts Hall and Boise in Shoshone Bannock country during the 1830s. Operated by the powerful Hudson's Bay Company, these forts perhaps had the greatest cultural influence on the tribes. [13] Direct influence, however, was short-lived. The fur trade declined by the 1840s. Beaver populations had been decimated and the beaver hat was going out of fashion. As a result, most mountain men pulled out of the Snake River country. They left behind the Hudson's Bay Company to manage its posts at Fort Hall and Fort Boise until it, too, withdrew from the region in the 1850s.

The exposure to white culture during the height of the fur trade certainly changed the Shoshone-Bannock way of life in a way that seemed only temporary since the Indian groups retained much of their autonomy. The fur trade, however, was only a prelude to more permanent change through westward settlement. Overland migration to Oregon and California began in the 1840s traversing routes established by fur traders, the main route being the Oregon Trail which followed the Snake River. Beginning in the 1860s, other emigrants traveled north from the Great Salt Lake to the gold districts of western Montana and central Idaho. All of their routes penetrated the homeland of most Northern Shoshone and Bannock, the Portneuf-Snake River area. Estimates of emigrant traffic through the area, according to Madsen, indicate that some 240,000 emigrants and 1.5 million head of livestock (oxen, horses, and cattle, for example) passed through this country leaving it over hunted and overgrazed. [14]

Another form of contact with white settlement came from Mormon missionaries sent by Brigham Young to instruct the Indians of southern Idaho in the "principles of civilization." The missionaries established Fort Lemhi on a tributary of the Salmon River in the mid-1850s, but after a violent clash between the Indians and fort residents over stolen cattle in 1858, the mission was closed. [15]

The Mormon experience introduced a new chapter in Indian-white relations in the Snake River country during the mid-nineteenth century, one marked by violence. It was a time when numerous minor clashes occurred between whites and Indians, the result of increased emigrant travel and settlement. As their grassland and game disappeared, members of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes grew resentful. In an effort to protect their ancestral rights, they retaliated by attacking and raiding wagon parties. Mormon settlers from northern Utah were especially concerned as they migrated north and settled the Malad, Bear Lake, and Cache valleys. When raids on homesteads, mining camps, and wagon trains became more common, army volunteers were sent to protect the newly settled community of Franklin in the Bear River Valley in 1863. In their zeal, the volunteers slaughtered nearly an entire band of Shoshone in one encounter, the majority of whom were women and children. [16] The severity of the "conflict," it is believed, made the Shoshone and Bannock more willing to negotiate a treaty with the federal government. In 1867, the Fort Hall Reservation was established, and in 1868 the Fort Bridger Treaty brought both Fort Hall Shoshone and Bannock together on the same reserve. Not all of southern Idaho's Shoshone and Bannock lived on the Fort Hall Reservation after 1869, however, and those who did often continued their traditional ways of life by leaving the reservation to pursue their seasonal rounds of hunting and gathering.

Moreover, reservation life did not end the armed conflicts between Indians and whites. During the late 1870s, the so-called Bannock and Sheepeater wars took place. They were not so much wars as attempts by Indians to escape an assortment of indignities, according to historian David L Crowder. The Bannock War broke out in 1878 in part because of the excitement generated by the flight of the Nez Perce the previous year, and in part because of tensions mounting on the reservation since it was first established. Inadequate supplies, religious disagreements, and restrictions on movement ranked high among the problems with reservation life. Although white settlers objected to Indians leaving the reservation during their annual journey to gather camas bulbs on Camas Prairie, there was no way to stop them since there was nothing to eat on the reservation. In the summer of 1878, the Indians encountered mostly cattlemen grazing their stock on the prairie, which had been open to settlement since 1872. Up to this point there had been no conflict, but the situation had changed. Livestock were destroying an important source of food for frustrated and hungry Indians. Fighting flared up that summer but was quickly extinguished, and the Indians who were involved retreated to the reservation. In 1879, the infamous Sheepeater War followed a similar course. Miners instigated the conflict with a group of Shoshone in the Salmon River country, who at first fought, then fled, and finally surrendered that winter, when sixty of them were placed on the Fort Hall Reservation. [17]

By the 1880s, reservation life had begun for the majority of the Shoshone and Bannock in southern Idaho. As with most tribes in the American West, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Shoshone and Bannock experienced the unrealistic and difficult process of acculturation, and saw the federal government reduce the size of their original reservation, leaving them with a fraction of their allotment while opening the remainder of the reservation to white settlers. [18]

Native Inhabitants at Craters of the Moon

A popular assumption about the Craters of the Moon country is that the lava fields and formations of the Great Rift repelled all travelers, early peoples and the historic tribes alike. Archaeological discoveries in the mid-1960s and early 1990s, however, debunked this assumption and suggest that early inhabitants of southern Idaho roamed the vicinity of Craters of the Moon 10,000-12,000 years ago. Natives lived seasonally in the mountain valleys north of the lava flows up until historic times, and in all likelihood these first bands of hunters and gatherers passed back and forth along the perimeter of the Craters country on their seasonal migrations. Whether these first peoples ventured into the lava terrain along the Great Rift remains open to speculation, with evidence of their presence perhaps buried beneath older lava flows. [19]

The first known native groups who occupied and used the biotic communities of the monument belonged to the Shoshonean culture, and may have entered the region as early as 3,500 years ago, but most likely they entered within the last two thousand years, during the Late Archaic Period. These early humans totaled only a few small bands of hunters and gatherers who exploited the area's limited natural resources on a seasonal basis. The greatest activity was centered where the greatest selection of natural resources existed. In the northwestern corner of the monument, the Little Cottonwood drainage furnished an ample supply of water, grassland, trees, and wildlife and thus attracted the most indigenous people, as indicated by the density of campsites and type of artifacts found there by archaeologists in the mid-1960s. South along the Rift, occupation sites thinned out and were used with less frequency, an exception being larger tracts of vegetation such as the Carey Kipuka. Most Indian sites in the center of the lava fields were associated with waterholes, caves, or big-sagebrush plant communities, suggesting the importance of microenvironments for survival. [20]

Native groups reached the interior of this volcanic wilderness most likely moving north or south along the Great Rift. The lava country prevented them from moving freely east to west across its rugged terrain. Shoshone and Bannock parties, for example, traveled through the northern section of the monument between the edge of the lava flows and the base of the mountains on their seasonal journeys to dig camas from Camas Prairie. Native travelers probably began their trips along the Rift then from the north. From here they could have walked south along the Rift zone with relative ease. The pattern of sites suggests this movement as well. Clustered camps in the north give way to sparser and more scattered sites to the south. In the more remote and exposed stretches of the volcanic landscape, native groups erected rock hunting blinds or wind shelters and stone circles, and left behind quarries, lithic scatters, and trails marked by worn paths and rock cairns leading through the maze of broken lava and rolling terrain. [21]

What these structures and sites were used for remains open to question. Did some have religious meaning? Or were they simply the remains of forays into the lava recesses in pursuit of game? And for that matter, were they all created by early natives? This much seems certain: The Craters landscape did not repel Indian people. They favored the microenvironments of the more resource abundant creek valley in the north with its unrestricted terrain. Yet they also wandered the length of the Great Rift, a relatively natural travel route, finding and marking, it appears, trails and water sources, even making structures for shelter or hunting. At the same time their presence was transitory and in geologic time relatively recent; the last eruption subsided about two thousand years ago. In a landscape that appears uniformly barren, arid, and destitute of life, their presence suggests that like much of the Snake River Plain, Craters contained small oases capable of sustaining life in a limited way.

Much of what we know of Indian peoples in the monument comes to us from sources other than archaeological studies--the observations of untrained explorers and extraordinary figures who visited the area. Their observations about natives tended to be tinged with romance and myth. Explorers from the first two decades of this century marveled at the recency of the volcanic formations, their mysterious origins, and, by association, the mysteriousness of native peoples and their activities in the region. These investigators reported finding an array of Indian materials in the Craters country. During the early 1920s, Robert W. Limbert noted that he followed what he believed to be Indian trails through the rugged terrain, many of which led to water sources and caves. Trails were common, he reported. Near what he called the Ruined Pueblo flow, Limbert described three merging from the north; one that was more visible than the others began about six miles west of Martin, along Little Cottonwood Creek, and ran for eleven miles marked by piles of rocks and sage before it faded, yet traces of it could be found across the lava--occasional flint or obsidian arrowhead-points evidence of its course. Stone piles erected by Indians not only marked the route of trails, but also waterholes and cave entrances; some of these were near Sugar Loaf, Red Top Butte, and Vermillion Canyon. At Trench Mortar Flat, Limbert believed that Indians were the reason many of the tree molds were filled with rocks since one of their well-worn trails ran nearby. He also reported finding at least fourteen "Indian mounds" that were built of rock and sagebrush near the Ruined Pueblo flow. The mounds were four feet wide and four to ten feet high, yet while curious about Indian artifacts, Limbert was unable to excavate them without the proper tools. [22]

Limbert encountered a country with a human past and attributed much of the success of his expeditions to the marked trails and waterholes created by Indian groups. Other explorers reported finding similar evidence of Indian activities. Neighboring ranchers routinely hunted curios in the lava flows before the monument was established. In one instance, a rancher found a nearly intact pottery bowl near Echo Crater, as well as pottery sherds, points, and other artifacts near water sources and natural campsites. [23]

The noted geologist Harold T. Stearns knew of and discovered similar archaeological remains during his investigations of the monument in the 1920s. Hunting blinds near the Little Prairie flow, south of the Watchman, along with other artifacts such as scrapers and obsidian arrowheads, led Stearns to conclude that Shoshone Indians visited the area on a regular basis. Yet even as the geologist was examining the area, evidence of Indian life was fading. "Pothunters" frequently dismantled rock monuments and rock circles thought to be used for tipis, such as those near the entrance of Indian Tunnel. Unlike Limbert, Stearns did not accept all sites at face value. He accepted the fact that trails across the loose cinders and hard lava were created by Indians and animals, but he believed that some of the markers identifying landmarks or waterholes were erected by whites instead of Indians. He presumably based his conclusion on the fact that nearby ranchers and settlers told him of their trips and those of others to the interior of the lava country. [24]

Beyond stories deduced from physical evidence lies an oral tradition about the early history of Craters, and like the observations of the above explorers, it was related by whites who were interpreting stories related by Indians. A common theme in this thin body of material was that the creation of the lava landscape, a subject which held a special interest for both whites and Indians. A Shoshone-Bannock myth, recorded by Ella E. Clark, for example, describes the creation of the lava fields of today's monument:

The Craters of the Moon

Long, long ago, a huge serpent, miles and miles in length, lay where the channel of the Snake River is now. Though the serpent was never known to harm anyone, people were terrified by it.

One spring, after it had lain asleep all winter, it left its bed and went to a large mountain in what is now the Craters of the Moon. There it coiled its immense body around the mountain and sunned itself.

After several days, thunder and lightning passed over the mountain and aroused the wrath of the serpent. A second time flashes of lightning played on the mountain, and this time the lightning struck near by. Angered, the serpent began to tighten its coils. The pressure became so great that the stone began to melt. Fire came from the cracks. Soon liquid rock flowed down the sides of the mountains.

The huge serpent, slow in its movements, could not get away from the fire. So it was killed by the heat, and its body was roasted in the hot rock. At last the fire burned itself out; the rocks cooled off; liquid rock became solid again.

Today if one visits the spot, he will see ashes and charred bones where the mountain used to be. If he will look closely at the solidified rock, he will see the ribs and bones of the huge serpent, charred and lifeless. [25]

The recent origins of the volcanic formations provided a source of great intrigue, especially for whites who associated the mysterious past of the natural landscape with that of the mysterious past of the Indians who lived there. While trying to fix a date to the last eruption, Harold Stearns learned of an 1879 interview with Major Jim, a Bannock Indian scout, who said his great-great-great-great-grandfather "saw fire in the region." From this rather dubious information, Stearns speculated that the last eruption could have occurred as late as the seventeenth century, but was skeptical that what the Indian saw was an actual eruption; it was more likely steam escaping from a vent. Nevertheless, the geologist thought that based on the extent and evidence of Indian activity in the Craters area, it was probable that "ancestors of the modern Indian witnessed eruptions in the area." Linking Indian lives and volcanic action cast the region in a romantic light. But rather than relying solely on native testimony, too imaginative for him, Stearns sought more scientific means to date the most recent eruptions, arriving ironically at the same time period, about four hundred years. [26]

Other Indian associations with the region, while more difficult to verify, sparked interest in and cloaked the Craters country with a mysterious quality. Consolidating many of these accounts is the story of the so-called "Lost Valley of the Lavas." With the expansion of settlement at the turn of the century, communities on the fringe of the Snake River Plain paid closer attention to the once spurned lava country. There was more to the unremitting desert than met the eye. Shoshone-Bannock bands were known to disappear into the volcanic country during the mid-1800s in times of war, only to reappear in good health. The natives offered no information to their white pursuers, who concluded that they must have hidden in the lavas where there was good supply of food and water. The Indians guarded their sanctuary closely. They allowed George Goodhart to see it in the 1860s but did not let him see how he reached what he called a valley rimmed with red cliffs. [27]

Goodhart only knew that the valley took two days to reach and that it lay east of Wood River and southwest of Lost River. Stockmen and cattle companies eager to exploit the imagined resources searched for it in vain in the 1870s and 1880s. One group found a stream flowing on the lava surface in the summer but it later disappeared, along with a reward offered by a cattle company for its location. In the early 1900s another group underwent a similar experience, their visions of creating a giant ranch fading like a mirage. [28]

Exploration parties led by Robert Limbert eventually located what they considered to be the "Lost Valley" in 1926. Leading a mountaineer party from Washington State, Limbert was looking for the secret hiding place of Indians and the hoped for lush valley of stockmen. The "valley" lay south of the monument and according to Limbert was a mile and a half long and a half mile wide. Limbert described it as being just southeast of Big Cinder Butte, with colorful cliff walls, an obsidian quarry and Indian weapons, caves Indians had used for shelter, and a fine supply of fresh water. Limbert and crew also discovered an abundance of new natural wonders, including a blue lava flow and a natural bridge. Even though the valley had been "discovered," ephemeral water supplies dimmed the spirits of ranchers and homesteaders looking for new places to set up their operations and farms. Adventurers like Limbert found, however, other ways to exploit the region by recommending its addition to the existing national monument. [29]

The story of the valley and the efforts to find it provide an interesting account of what drew whites to and what they wanted from the Craters region. It suggests, moreover, that we know less about the native groups who inhabited and frequented the region than we know about how whites related the presence of Indians to that region, and how, in turn, that Indian "past" created an interest in visiting the Craters country. We do know, with some degree of certainty, that the nomadic lifestyles of the early hunters and gatherers and historic tribes were better suited for what the desert country offered. How long the Shoshone-Bannock continued to enter the lava fields is as open to question as when they first began their forays across the area. Restrictions of reservation life and settlement of the plain most likely ended such activities. At least one contemporary account suggests that the volcanic landscape was still part of the Shoshone-Bannock world, for they referred to it as the 'TuTimbaba" or the Black Rock Overpass. The name reflected a perspective of the landscape gained from foot and horse travel across the plain toward the lava flows that rise like a dark half dome on the horizon. [30]

Summary of Context Theme

The human history of the Snake River Plain began, according to archaeological studies, about 12,000-14,000 years ago in the Upper Snake and Salmon River country. But it was not until some ten thousand years later that the first native groups may have entered Craters of the Moon National Monument. Cultural materials found within the monument suggest that these people were affiliated with the Late Archaic period, a period better known than earlier periods in regional prehistory and one that might "represent prehistoric Shoshonean occupation of the Upper Snake and Salmon River country." Native groups from this period were most active in the northwestern corner of the monument where the greatest selection of natural resources was available. Fewer natives ventured south along the Great Rift, it seems, judging from the scattered and less frequently used occupation sites, though large tracts of vegetation such as the Carey Kipuka attracted more use. Travel in the Craters country was seasonal. Indigenous groups favored the microenvironments of the more resource rich creek valley in the north end of the monument, but they also wandered the length of the Rift, a natural travel route. Historic Shoshoneans seemed to have followed a similar pattern, crossing the lava flows in the north on their seasonal migration to gather camas bulbs, for example. Both archaeologists and explorers have observed an array of Indian materials in the monument. For explorers in the first decades of the twentieth century, this Indian past, however speculative, added to the mysteriousness of the lava country; similarly, stories about Indians and the monument, particularly the legend of the "Lost Valley," fascinated explorers and settlers and drew them to the monument. Efforts to find the valley suggest that people found the monument's Indian past, however real or imagined, an important and attractive element of its history.

Associated Property Types

Name of Property Type: Archaeological Properties

Archaeological resources associated with the theme of Native Inhabitants of Craters of the Moon National Monument include: occupation sites, short-term encampments, hunting blinds, quarry locations, and catch sites. Artifact types, such as projectile points and pottery sherds, may also be associated with this theme. These properties and artifacts will not be evaluated in this study. The foregoing narrative has been included to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the park's human history, and it is recommended that a professional archaeologist evaluate these archaeological resources for their National Register eligibility under Criterion D. [31]

Name of Property Type: Traditional Cultural Properties

In addition to archaeological resources, traditional cultural properties may be associated with the theme of Native American use and occupation of Craters of the Moon National Monument. These properties may include a place associated with the traditional beliefs of a Native American group, such as the Shoshone or Bannock, about its origins, cultural history, or the nature of the world. Properties may also include a place where Native American religious practitioners, from the Shoshone or Bannock tribes, for example, have historically gone, and are known or thought to go today, to perform ceremonial activities in accordance with traditional cultural rules of practice. [32] These properties, like those listed above, will not be identified or evaluated in this study. They are mentioned here to enhance the potential significance of the Craters of the Moon landscape to native cultures. The National Park Service will learn of and take steps to evaluate and protect traditional cultural properties through its ongoing consultation with the Shoshone and Bannock tribes, provided, of course, they choose to identify them to the agency.

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Last Updated: 27-Aug-1999