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Death Valley Indian Community, looking west toward the village from a hill one mile away across highway 190

The Timbisha ("Red Rock Face Paint")[1] are a Native American tribe federally recognized as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California.[2] They are known as the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe[1] and are located in south central California, near the Nevada border.[3]


Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California

The Timbisha have lived in the Death Valley region of North America for over a thousand years. In 1933 President Herbert Hoover created Death Valley National Monument, an action that subsumed the tribe's homeland within park boundaries. Despite their long-time presence in the region, the proclamation failed to provide a homeland for the Timbisha people. After unsuccessful efforts to remove the band to nearby reservations, National Park Service officials entered into an agreement with tribal leaders to allow the Civilian Conservation Corps to construct an Indian village for tribal members near park headquarters at Furnace Creek in 1938. Thereafter tribal members survived within monument boundaries, although their status was repeatedly challenged by monument officials. They also lived in the Great Basin Saline Valley and northern Mojave Desert Panamint Valley areas of present day southeastern California.


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. (See Population of Native California.) Alfred L. Kroeber put the combined 1770 population of the Timbisha (Koso) and Chemehuevi at 1,500.[4] He estimated the population of the Timbisha and Chemehuevi in 1910 as 500.[4] Julian Steward's figures for Eastern California are about 65 persons in Saline Valley, 150-160 persons in Little Lake (springs) and the Coso Range, about 100 in northern Panamint Valley, 42 in northern Death Valley, 29 at Beatty, and 42 in the Belted Range.[5]

Tribal Recognition[edit]

With the help of the California Indian Legal Services, Timbisha Shoshone members led by Pauline Esteves began agitating for a formal reservation in the 1960s. The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe was recognized by the US government in 1982.[6] In this effort, they were one of the first tribes to secure tribal status through the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Federal Acknowledgment Process.

Reservation Land and Residence[edit]

The tribe's reservation, the Death Valley Indian Community, was established in 1982. Located within Death Valley National Park at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, Inyo County, California.[3] In 1990 it was 40 acres (0.16 km2) in size and had a population of 199 tribal member residents.[7]

Despite their federal tribal recognition and diminutive 1982 reservation, the Timbisha still faced difficulty and conflict with the Death Valley National Park's National Park Service in regaining more of their ancestral lands within the Park. After much tribal effort, federal politics, and mutual compromise, the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act of 2000 finally returned 7,500 acres (30 km2) of ancestral homelands to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe.[3]

Currently the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe consists of around 300 members, usually 50 of whom live at the Death Valley Indian Community at Furnace Creek within Death Valley National Park. Many members spend the summers at Lone Pine in the Owens Valley to the west.


The Timbisha have been known as the California Shoshoni,[8] Northern Death Valley Shoshone,[9] Panamint Shoshone[10] or simply Panamint. Julian Steward distinguished Northern Death Valley Shoshone from the Southern Death Valley Shoshone or Kawaiisu. Harold Driver recorded two Panamint subgroups in Death Valley, the o'hya and the tu'mbica in 1937.[9]

In the Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs periodically listed in the Federal Register, their name is presented as "Timbi-Sha", but this is a typographical error and ungrammatical in Timbisha. The tribe[11] never hyphenates its name. Both the California Desert Protection Act [12] and the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act[13] spell their name correctly.


  1. ^ a b "Timbisha Shoshone Tribe of Death Valley." National Park Service. (retrieved 10 December 2009)
  2. ^ The name has been widely misspelled as "Timbi-Sha". This, however is an impossible spelling since "timbisha" is from tɨm 'rock' + pisa 'paint' and cannot be divided into Timbi-sha.
  3. ^ a b c California Indians and Their Reservations. SDSU Library and Information Access. (retrieved 10 December 2009)
  4. ^ a b Kroeber (1925), p. 883
  5. ^ Julian Steward, Basin-Plateau Aboriginal Sociopolitical Groups (1938, Smithsonian)
  6. ^ Pritzker, 242
  7. ^ Pritzker, 241
  8. ^ Hinton, 30
  9. ^ a b Thomas, et al, 280,
  10. ^ Miller, 99
  11. ^ "?". Schat.net. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "The California Desert Protection Act". Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act" (PDF). Retrieved 3 September 2010. [dead link]

See also[edit]


Additional reading[edit]

  • Crum, Steven J. (1998), "A Tripartite State of Affairs: The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1934–1994," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 22(1): 117-136).
  • Haberfeld, Steven (2000), "Government-to-Government Negotiations: How the Timbisha Shoshone Got Its Land Back,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 24(4): 127–65. (Author, as of 2009, is exec. dir., Indian Dispute Resolution Service, Sacramento,CA.)
  • Miller, Mark E. (2004), Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004). The Timbisha are one of four cases reviewed.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbisha — Please support Wikipedia.
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318 news items

U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report
Fri, 20 Nov 2015 15:15:00 -0800

George Gholson, chairman of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, submitted additional comments Friday accusing commission officials of failing to evaluate effects that building the project would have on tribal members. "Radioactive contamination of groundwater ...


Sat, 21 Nov 2015 18:03:45 -0800

“Radioactive contamination of groundwater and springs …affronts the Timbisha's way of life, is disrespectful to cultural beliefs, and constitutes an environmental justice infringement on the rights of a sovereign nation,” the letter said. The ...

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times
Thu, 19 Nov 2015 15:52:30 -0800

When California Gold Rush seekers rolled their wagons through a dry valley in 1849, not everyone in the group lived to tell the tale. In their escape, one of the survivors said "Goodbye, Death Valley." The name stuck. Every time Donald Danlag looks at ...

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Wed, 20 Nov 2013 06:02:17 -0800

The Bureau of Indian Affairs in California has cancelled a vote on a proposed new Constitution for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe that tribal leaders say would violate the existing Constitution and pave the way for individuals who are not eligible for ...


Wed, 30 Oct 2013 14:35:38 -0700

For the Shoshone people, especially those known as the Timbisha, who for millennia have roamed the place we now call Death Valley, its basins, foothills, and mountains have never been wasteland or wilderness. They were (and are) simply home, a source ...

Indian Country Today Media Network

Indian Country Today Media Network
Fri, 09 Oct 2015 06:01:31 -0700

And both the Western Shoshone and Timbisha Shoshone tribes have termed the plan “environmental racism.” According to an environmental impact report, the plan involves carving 40 miles of tunnels under the sacred mountain and burying 77,000 tons of ...

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas Review-Journal
Sat, 26 Sep 2015 10:59:36 -0700

Joe Kennedy, left, of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe, and Western Shoshone Ian Zabarte listen to a speaker on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, during a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel meeting in Las Vegas about the Yucca Mountain Project. Keith Rogers/Las ...

The Seattle Times

The Seattle Times
Sun, 09 Aug 2015 05:56:15 -0700

... of California, which reclaimed the Humbug Valley from the utility Pacific Gas & Electric; the Yakama Nation, which in concert with conservation groups succeeded in removing a dam from Washington's White Salmon River; and the Timbisha Shoshone tribe ...

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