As efficient and effective hunters and gatherers, they understood the fragile nature of the desert and maintained a balance that provided for their needs without destroying the limited resources of their arid homeland.
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The valleys between these ranges are from 4,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation and are floored with gravel, silt, sand, and salt.
One portion, the Bonneville Salt Flats, is almost pure salt and is almost barren of plant life.5 The Great Salt Lake Desert is the least favorable portion of the Great Basin for human habitation.
Skull and Tooele Valleys are typical of the Great Basin; Tooele Valley is bounded on the east by the Oquirrh Mountains, with Mount Lowe being the highest peak, at 10,572 feet.9 The Stansbury Mountains separate Skull Valley from Tooele Valley, and the highest peak in this range is Deseret Peak, at 10,976 feet.10 The Goshute Indians are part of the larger Shoshonean (Numic) speaking groups that live in the Intermountain West; whether speaking individually or collectively they all refer to each other as (the People), considering themselves still connected by an ancient common ancestry.
No one knows how long the Goshute people occupied the area where they lived before they were first contacted by white people.
Exact boundaries are difficult to determine because of the nature of the land and the proximity of other peoples, but early chroniclers and surveyors provided some written descriptions of the general Goshute homelands. Simpson located the Goshute from the Great Salt Lake to the Un-go-we-ah Range, or Steptoe Mountains, in Nevada.
Howard Egan believed they inhabited the area extending from Salt Lake Valley to Granite Rock in the West Desert, and from Simpson's Springs to the Great Salt Lake Desert.1 A treaty with the Indians in 1863 defined the boundaries of the Goshute Indians: Article 5.
Steward was of the opinion that this latter boundary was "certainly too far south."3 Whatever the exact boundaries may have been at the time white people begin entering the Goshute domain, the region lies entirely within the Great Basin.
The Great Basin is not one large cup-shaped depression; instead, it is a series of more than ninety basins which are separated from each other by some 160 mountain ranges.
The Great Basin is relatively uniform in its principal characteristics and can be defined precisely on the basis of its interior drainage, having no outlet to the sea.4 A quality common to virtually all of the Great Basin is aridity, resulting from a number of factors that include the rain shadow caused by the Sierra Nevada, the distance of the Basin from the ocean, and latitudes unfavorable to recurrent storm patterns.
Because of this lack of precipitation, the flora and fauna of the Great Basin, if compared with most other areas of North America, are not especially abundant.
These mountains have a north-south orientation and vary in length from about thirty to one- hundred miles.