Western Shoshone Indians are the descendants of an ancient widespread people whose name is "Newe" meaning "The People." The traditional Western Shoshone territory covered southern Idaho, the central part of Nevada, portions of northwestern Utah, and the Death Valley region of southern California. This vast land of mountains, valleys, deserts, rivers, and lakes offered an abundance of wildlife and plants for the Shoshone to hunt, fish, and gather. The Newe knew their lands and cared for its natural balance; for them it was a land of plenty.
Prior to contact with white culture, the Newe divided themselves into small extended family groups who confined themselves to specific areas for hunting and gathering. White settlers renamed the Newe "Shoshone" during the 1820's. The first contact of the Newe people with whites was mainly with fur trappers during the era of 1827 to 1846, who began the destructive cycle of exploiting natural resources. Overland emigrants began rushing at this time to the gold mines of California, and many settled throughout the Newe region, claiming the most fertile lands.