Shoshone Tales

The Western Shoshone people live throughout eastern Nevada and western Utah (Goshute). When Anne Smith visited the region in 1939 there was only one formally designated reservation. Smith and her companion Alden Hayes traveled countless mile of remote road collecting stories, documenting Western Shoshonean tradition, and seeking to determine the outlines of Great Basin culture.

The tales in this volume are set primarily in the "Time when Animals Were People," the legendary past when animals had the power of speech and established human customs though their adventures (and misadventures). Trickster tales figure prominently, with obscenity and blunt delivery common humorous devices. These tale were prized for their educational as well as entertainment value, and storytelling ability was highly respected. Thus, Smith was careful to credit individual storytellers of their versions of favorite Basin tales, avoiding the dryness of generic anthologies.

Anne M. Smith (1900–1981) was the first woman to receive a doctorate degree from Yale. Author of Ethnography of the Northern Utes (1974), her posthumously edited volume Ute Tales was published in 1992.

Table of Contents:
Map of Shoshone Lands

Gosiute Tales:
Controversy Over Death
Controversy Over Conditions of Life
How Fire Started
Coyote Marries His Daughters (1)
Coyote and Sage Hen's Children
Owl's Widow
Coyote and Bear
Cottontail Shoots the Sun
Bat (1)
Coyote and His White Relatives
Coyote Wins the White Man's Goods
Rolling Rock
Coyote and Crow
Spider Plays Hand Game
Coyote Plays Hand Game
Bat (2)
Cannibal Giant
Bear and Fawns
Coyote and Crow (2)
Eagle and Crow
Coyote and Mouse
Two Brothers
Coyote Races With Frog
Coyote and the Bear Cubs
Origin Tale
Creation of the Deep Creek Mountains
Coyote and Wildcat Disfigure Each Other
Council on Seasons
Theft of Pine Nuts
Giant Cannibal Bird
Coyote and the Trappers
Wolf and Coyote
Coyote Marries His Daughters

Western Shoshone Tales:
Coyote and Mouse
Cannibal Bird (1)
Coyote Marries His Daughters
Coyote Eats His Own Penis
Porcupine Tricks Coyote
Tso'apittse (1)
Bat (1)
Coyote Races
Cannibal Brother
Man Taken Captive by Bear
Coyote and the Wood Tick
Cannibal Giant
Orion's Belt (1)
Coyote and Fox
Coyote Wants to Be Chief
Eagle Hunting
Water Babies (1)
Comments from Anna Premo
Skeleton Ghost
Tso'apittse (2)
Another Tso'apittse Tale
Theft of Pine Nuts (1)
Bungling Host (1)
Origin Tale (1)
Coyote and Wolf
Eye Juggler
Coyote and Eagle
Rolling Rock (1)
Cottontail and His Brother Shoot the Sun
Cannibal Bird (2)
Bat (2)
Rolling Rock (2)
Orion's Belt (2)
The Flood
Water Baby
Rat and His Mother-in-Law
Council on Seasons
Bungling Host (2)
Coyote Avenges Bear's Death
Big Dipper
Man and Ugly Girl
Coyote Gets Racehorses by a Trick
Wolf Replaces Coyote's Eyes
Owl's Widow
Owl Kills Birds by Naming Them
Coyote and Turtle
Wolf and Coyote Battle With Bears
Coyote and the Devil
Race to Koso Springs
Coyote Learns to Fly (1)
Coyote Avenges Wolf's Death
Cannibal Bird (3)
Tso'apittse (3)
Bee Steals Food
Cannibal Gambler
Easy or Difficult Life
Theft of Pine Nuts (2)
Chicken Hawk
Origin Tale (2)
Coyote and His Daughter
Theft of Pine Nuts (3)
Origin Tale (3)
Another Tso'apittse Tale
Bat (3)
Origin Tale (4)
Coyote Learns to Fly (2)
The Cannibal Bluebirds
Water Babies (2)
Theft of Fire
Cottontail Shoots the Sun
Antelope Hunting


Praise and Reviews:
"Opens to our view how folklore nourished and illuminated the inner life of a people who lived close to the Earth, close to the ultimate mysteries of nature."—Salt Lake Tribune

“Not only a fine collection of traditional stories told by Native people of the Great Basin bioregion in northern Utah and Nevada, it is also a testament to perseverance. The well-chosen black-and-white photos, as well as the names, locations, and occasional comments of the storytellers, put a unique human face on the stories in Shoshone Tales. The cooperative efforts at preservation made by Anne Smith and her collaborators have made this a readable and precious collection of myths and stories from the Great Basin region.”
—Shaman’s Drum

“A rich addition to the meager materials available from the Shoshone oral tradition.”
—Books of the Southwest