The “White Knife” (Tosawihi) Shoshone present a classic case of the “rhetoric of classification.” They epitomize the long-standing and never-resolved debate over whether or not band organization existed in the aboriginal Great Basin. Referencing eyewitness accounts, letters of Indian agents, and diaries of emigrants, explorers, trappers, and other travelers and setting them against the received ethnographic images of the Shoshone, particularly the image of family-scale organization presented by Julian Steward, tests the validity of those images. I propose rethinking the neo-evolutionary category “band” in terms of ethnie. Rethinking “bandness” in terms of ethnie promises more fruitful results from analyzing domestic-scale societies such as hunter-gatherer-fishers.

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