Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Gregory Campbell

Commitee Members

Douglas MacDonald, Kelly Dixon, John Douglas, Nathaniel Levtow, Julie Francis


Material Culture, Petroglyphs, Power, Rock Art, Socioreligious, Spirit


University of Montana


This dissertation explores the assertions that changes in form, function, practice, and perceptions of puha primarily arose from the dispossession of landscapes and oppression of specific religious practices due to Euro-American contact, resource depletion, and reservation confinement. The reservation era placed the indigenous populace into a state of purgatory where treaties and peace relations were consistently repositioned and reneged. The perceptions of the indigenous inhabitants pre and post Euro-American contact detail critical moments that assisted in shaping the dynamic relationship between socioreligious perceptions and the Eastern Shoshone’s identity. What is displayed is a unique set of circumstances that assisted in the development of the Eastern Shoshone socioreligious identity rooted in an ancient shamanistic concept of religious ecology that correlates with spiritual power. This dissertation cross-culturally examines the continuity and changes of relational puha practices extending back to the early Great Basin archeological record linking the concept to the broader relational Numic shamanic practices.

This dissertation argues that puha is an ancient concept of healing and power reflected within the archeological record that displays fluidity, adaptability, and continuity. These reflections of puha — as seen in the Dinwoody Tradition — are delineated through rock art, mythology, and ecology, which builds a hierarchy of puha attainment and transference which solidified a distinct set of ceremonial and ritual practices identifiable in the material culture of the Eastern Shoshone.



© Copyright 2021 Aaron Robert Atencio