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Nuwu ~ The People


Materials on this website

The majority of the material on this website was accumulated starting in the 1950s by the late, LaVan Martineau. He was married into the Koosharem and Shivwits Band of Paiutes. LaVan initially wrote down whatever he heard from the Paiutes, so he wouldn't forget what was told, with no thought in mind of ever writing a book or never dreaming that the language or the culture would ever die out. Always asking the older people for the information since they were better informed than those of his age. This was a time when the younger Paiute generation still spoke Paiute but were beginning to lose interest in their culture.

Today no one under fifty speaks the language fluently and there are few left who know most of their culture and legends. The culture of the Paiute people will soon pass into oblivion along with that, of numerous other tribes if we don't share what we learned outside of our immediate family. 

LaVan having to see it slowly disappear, wanted to see it preserved, as he looked at his compiled faded un-proofed hand-written notes he realize that it would have been difficult for someone to fully understand them. Therefore, he took it upon himself to digitize it all onto his computer in the mid 1980's when the home computers became popular. With the help of his family, they typed all his notes for easy reading, once that was completed,  and being the writer that he was, he put it into chapters and arranged the writings into book form for easy reading for his family. With the urging of his family and publisher, he eventually agreed to have it published in 1992.

Edward Sapir acquired a good understanding of the Paiute Language from Tony Tillahash, and Isabel Kelly recorded a lot of cultural material from the Kaibab Band. Yet, when LaVan read these works he seen many things that have been omitted and some mistakes. Therefore, he thought he would make his notes available and fill in these gaps the best he could.

The notes he gathered and put into book form for his family was purposely designed to be a book of the Old People. They do most of the talking and in trying to keep everything in their wording as much as possible.

The information gathered here is basically on the people that are today called Southern Paiutes. It includes some bands that were considered Utes in the past and even today. It is difficult to draw a line between some Paiute and Ute bands. The main purpose is to preserve all that was learned from the old People in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, including some Utah Ute bands. The bulk of the information on Utes that originated in Colorado is not included in this work.

The Paiute culture, as any culture of the world, has both its good and bad aspects. In this work it includes almost everything that notes were made of over the years whether believing in it or not. A few notes were omitted that would be abused if the information fell into the wrong hands. Many people have worked hard to destroy Indian cultures thinking that the Indian would be better off. In cases of superstition this may be true. However, few people realize what the loss of Indian culture has done to the spirituality and character of the American Indian.

Mark Twain characterized this civilizing as "Lifting Indians down to our level."


Carl Lumholtz, who studied Indians in Northern Mexico near the turn of the century, made a pertinent observation of the American Indian. He stated, "Their Ignorance is nearer the truth than our prejudice."

Stan Steiner, a more recent student of the American Indian stated that they are "Christians whether or not they had heard of Christ."


And this from the log of Christopher Columbus after his encounter with the Arawaks:

"They are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary they offer to share with anyone."


LaVan had the pleasure to witness these traits lingering among some of the old Paiutes; precious traits that are dying with the culture; traits that may be extolled but seldom believed; traits that the pen may praise but not preserve.

A very special thank you to all the Paiutes who have helped compile this work particularly the older people who offered so freely without thought of payment. To these people raised in the old way their culture was like the land, no one owned it and therefore no one had the right to sell it; it belonged to everyone.

Elders took pride in sharing their knowledge with the younger generation. They felt it was their duty to preserve their culture and religion they believed was given to them by the Creator. As these elders saw their culture waning they wanted more than ever to see their knowledge preserved and written down as they could see their children losing interest. Some of them had mentioned to laVan "I wish my own kids would take as much interest as you."

When the old time Indians who still lived and retained their culture are mentioned in the Paiute language, the term Wee Noonts (Old People) is used. This term does not refer to age but to people who lived the old ways, and to people who lived long ago. It is a name of distinction and honor that no one of the present acculturated generation can fully qualify for. LaVan was privilege to meet individuals who he felt qualified largely for this distinction; people who still believed in and clung to many of the old ways as much as they could as it slowly eroded from beneath their feet. It is from such people that most of the information was obtained.

Most of the information here was give by many people over the years, but appreciation is given to those who first offered it, the Wee noonts (Old People) listed below for their information they shared: 

  • Carl Jake 

  • Minnie Jake 

  • Jimmy Timmican  

  • Florence Kanosh 

  • Seth Bushhead 

  • Edrick Bushhead  

  • Woots Parashont  

  • Bessie Tillahash 

  • Archie Rogers 

  • Jim Chili 

  • Minnie Kanosh 

  • James Yellowjacket.


Acknowledgement and gratitude is also given to the following individuals, from the Southern Paiute tribe who still spoke the language and have retained much of their culture.  All but three have moved on to the spirit world, and we are blessed to still have their continued knowledge; Phil & Jeannie Pikyavit, and Eleanor Tom. 

They had also freely given cultural information over the years prior to 1992 and some had even helped in going over the old notes to weed out errors. Our thanks to the following: 

  • George McFee 

  • Lorraine McFee

  • Marie McFee 

  • Lyman Smokey 

  • Smith Bushhead 

  • Wilbur Bushhead 

  • Warren Bushhead

  • Woodrow Pete  

  • Mable Yellowjacket 

  • Ruth Benson 

  • Stewart Snow 

  • Albert Rice 

  • Marilyn (Rice) Jake 

  • Melvin John 

  • Reuben John 

  • Hamblin John 

  • Wendall John

  • Virginia George 

  • Charley Greyman

  • Georgey George 

  • Serena Mose 

  • Tony Tillahash 

  • Eunice Tillahash 

  • Roy Tom

  • Eleanor Tom

  • Harry Wall

  • Arthur Richards

  • Phil & Jeannie Pikyavit

  • Earl & Verna Pikyavit 

  • Ralph Pikyavit 

  • Kenneth Charles 

  • Vera Charles 

  • Deere Kanosh 

  • Edurine Jake 

  • Johnny Jake  

  • Morris Jake 

  • Douglas Timmican


We would also like to thank those who gave information but didn't want their names used and to anyone we might have missed.

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