The Wildcat of the Paiutes

The eastern California desert was home to several related tribes of the Shoshonean-language groups, notably the Southern Paiutes, the Chemehuevi and the Cahuilla. Chief Tecopa (c.1815 – 1904 or 1906) was a Native American leader. His name means wildcat, in the Ni-Wi dialect, and at one time he really was one. Tecopa was a leader of the Southern Nevada tribe of the Paiute in the Ash Meadows and Pahrump areas.


In the 1840s, Tecopa and his warriors engaged the expedition of Kit Carson and John C. Fremont in a three day battle at Resting Springs, but later in life observed that direct confrontation with white settlers would not be a productive way to resolve the inevitable conflict. According to Touring Nevada, Tecopa usually wore a bright red band suit with gold braid and a silk top hat. Whenever these clothes wore out they were replaced by the local white miners out of gratitude for Tecopa's help in maintaining peaceful relations with the Paiute. Although this strains credulity, there is at least one photo that shows him wearing this rather outlandish outfit.


The village of Tecopa, California was named after Chief Tecopa by J. B. Osbourne, who owned the local Gunsight and Noonday Mines.


Tecopa is buried with his son and grandson at the Chief Tecopa Cemetery in Pahrump Valley, Nevada. In November 1971 Nevada Governor Mike O'Callaghan called Chief Tecopa “a leader of vision and courage,” and dedicated a state memorial to him at the Chief's gravesite. 15 acres of land were deeded to Nye County and became Tecopa Park.

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~ by ravenjake on April 21, 2009.

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