Digger Indians

“And here [along the Humbolt River], if you were going to, you encountered the Diggers, their half-gram brains vibrating with the remembered murders of hundreds of kinsmen and with desire for oxen and other plunder.

“The term “Digger” is an epithet, not a classification. It was properly applied to Indians who, being unskillful hunters or residing in country where game was scarce, lived on roots. But it came to mean certain degenerate bands of various tribes who can be exactly described as the technological unemployed. Unable to stand competition with hardier Indians, they had been pushed into the deserts and, living there on the subsistence level, had lost their culture. Many of them were physically decadent. The weapons of all were crude. Mostly they lived in caves or brush huts. Some had lost the use of fire. Some “Diggers” were Bannack or Shoshoni in origin; those in Great Salt Lake Valley were Paiute and Gosiute; fragments of other neighboring tribes also degenerated, and the Indians who harassed the Donners probably belonged to the Kuyuidika band of the Paviotso. But the whites who used the term meant no particular tribe; they meant only that they hated skulking, theft, and malicious mischief. From Ewing Young and Joseph Walker on, they had massacred Diggers idly, for fun, or in punishment for theft. The Diggers remembered . . . If they had not, they might have succored the Donners in the snow.”