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Through the Eyes of Tsutukwanah — Photo Exhibit

washakieandshosh1. Washakie and Shoshones in early camp scene, William H. Jackson, 1871 (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Taken by professional photographer W. H. Jackson, who traveled through Wyoming with the Hayden Geological Survey in 1871, this photograph highlights an aspect of daily life that has since changed significantly, though perhaps not as rapidly as often thought. This camp scene, typical, even after reservation boundaries were well established, shows the relatively mobile nature of daily life that marked reservation living at this time. This mobility, shifting home base until the or camping in higher elevations in the summer to hunt, continued well into the first decades of this century. For many it changed only gradually with the start of permanent living quarters and housing developments:

Things are happening today that I was told, “it might happen.” And sometimes it amazes me, my grandmother told me, and I didn’t believe her at the time, how it’s happening—those stories that they told long ago is happening today….You see the White man told me a different story. And the Indian told me too, another story. And you kinda get caught in the middle. And they tell you that a long time ago—Indians are not supposed to live in villages. “And I asked her [my grandmother] why is it? And she said, “You will find out later, as the years go by, you will find out why.” Now, I look at it—they have more problems at their villages than they did living at their own lands and homes. They never had that kind of problems when I was growing up, ‘cause there was no such thing as villages. (Pansey St. Clair)

eye00022. Chief Washakie, W. H. Jackson, 1871 (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Early photographs of Indians, too, are caught between two stories, the stories White photographers wanted to tell, usually dictated by the markets they made their photographs for, and the subject’s own story. Sometimes the distance is too great and it is difficult to capture the true voice of the past. This second photo by Jackson is similar to the first in that it shows Chief Washakie, not as Whites would expect him to appear in his role as Chief of the Shoshones but rather as a working member of this tribe or community.

The real birth of interest in specifically Indian subjects and photography started when Jackson came to Omaha, at a time when the city was the hub of activity in the west like Denver is today. In Omaha, Jackson opened up a studio and began venturing out to surrounding reservations, a practice he continued after linking up with Hayden.

Chief Washakie3. Washakie, Chief of the Shoshones, Baker and Johnson, ca. 1880 (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

This picture, by Baker and Johnson, photographers based out of Evanston, Wyoming, is a studio portrait done at Fort Washakie. (The painted curtain stops short of the frame on the right hand side revealing the brick work of one of the Fort buildings.) Here, the photographer has posed Washakie in manner befitting White society’s concept of what a tribal leader should look like, a way that accorded with Baker and Johnson’s perception both of Washakie’s position and their personal impression of him.

Baker and Johnson did a number of portraits at Wind River that were really designed for the White market. The practice of recording trappings of wealth or prestige in a photograph, (represented, for example, by warbonnets or ceremonial objects of Native American cultures), or of presenting the subject in such a way that their social position was made apparent, was originally an Anglo custom. Early photos—showing people in every day dress or every day life are harder to come by.

eyes04a4. Shoshone woman, Baker and Johnson, ca. 1880 (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Baker and Johnson’s handsome studio portrait of a Shoshone women and her daughter in traditional dress is also typical of the kind of photography done by professionals who had a specific market to cater to and a specific story to tell. Often such stories only briefly touched on what the Shoshone people were really experiencing at that time.

eyes05a5. Shoshone woman with travois, ca. 1870s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

I heard then of the Treaty of Fort Bridger. After they allotted the land, there were still some buffalo left. The government showed us how to plow. We didn’t feel right about it at first. The government began giving us cattle. They gave one cow to each house. We were rather hungry at that time. We couldn’t hunt anymore. When we got hungry, we Indians killed and ate the cattle. Following the cattle, they gave us plow, harness, wagon. (Bobachee, recorded by Rupert Weeks)

eyes06a6. Shoshone man in military coat, Carl Chittim, ca. 1896 (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

The strange mixture of dress shown here, like the quotes from Bobechee’s interviews, give a more accurate indication of the changes the Shoshone were experiencing than can usually be seen in posed studio portraits:

We started farming with little cayuses. One fellow would hold the plow, another would whip the horses, a third would hold them. It might take four men to manage a single plow. The government commenced to issue food. Beef was killed every Friday. There were few buffalo hides so they issued goods: stoves, scissors, needle and thread. We started sewing garments out of denim and calico. Buckskin clothes went out. (Bobechee, recorded by Rupert Weeks)

eyes07a7. “Shoshone Braves,” Carl Chittim, ca. 1896. (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

While Chittim’s photographs help document a culture in transition, they are not part of a systematic attempt to record or preserve. A number of these photographs, however, provide an invaluable testimony to the strong cultural continuity maintained during the early reservation years when dances and ceremonies were still practiced without government interference. Here, participants in a Wolf or War Dance line up in front of a log structure, to have their photograph taken. Several seem amused at the whole proceedings.

8. Wolf or War Dance, Carl Chittim, ca. 1896 (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

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A number of those interviewed recalled that Wolf Dances took place in front of the old Agency buildings and that the white paint worn by one of the dancers was typical of that time. Starr Weed and others note that the dance was originally performed by men only, with the women seated in a circle. Rupert Weeks wrote:

The Wolf Dance costume is one of the prettiest worn by the Shoshones. They wear beaded vests, neck pieces and gloves. Their headdress is made of porcupine quills and feathers. Fastened to the back of their belts is a big bustle of feathers….At this dance many of the little boys had Christmas tree decorations and sleigh bells on their costumes. Long ago they wore shells to make a noise. The costume can be just what the dancers or his parents want.

eyes09ab9. Washakie and Shoshones in early camp scene, William H. Jackson, 1871 (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Taken by professional photographer W. H. Jackson, who traveled through Wyoming with the Hayden Geological Survey in 1871, this photograph highlights an aspect of daily life that has since changed significantly, though perhaps not as rapidly as often thought. This camp scene, typical, even after reservation boundaries were well established, shows the relatively mobile nature of daily life that marked reservation living at this time. This mobility, shifting home base until the or camping in higher elevations in the summer to hunt, continued well into the first decades of this century. For many it changed only gradually with the start of permanent living quarters and housing developments:

Things are happening today that I was told, “it might happen.” And sometimes it amazes me, my grandmother told me, and I didn’t believe her at the time, how it’s happening—those stories that they told long ago is happening today….You see the White man told me a different story. And the Indian told me too, another story. And you kinda get caught in the middle. And they tell you that a long time ago—Indians are not supposed to live in villages. “And I asked her [my grandmother] why is it? And she said, “You will find out later, as the years go by, you will find out why.” Now, I look at it—they have more problems at their villages than they did living at their own lands and homes. They never had that kind of problems when I was growing up, ‘cause there was no such thing as villages. (Pansey St. Clair)

eyes10ab10. Painted horse tied to a wagon, Carl Chittim, ca. 1896 (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

According to Starr Weed, this horse, painted with a sunburst symbol, was probably used in the sham battle. Mr. Weed recalls that after the battle, horses and riders paraded through the camps pitched outside the dance grounds.

Here, tied to a wagon, itself a symbol of changing reservation life, this horse can be seen as a transitional figure, evidence of the old life continuing amidst changing times.

eyes11a11. Wagon on the road outside Wind River Agency, Date unknown (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Wind River Agency, a center of reservation activity, was established in as a residential and office headquarters for government personnel. The Indian agent, who took census every year, was in charge of distributing government annuities provided for in the Fort Bridger Treaty. The Agency’s location, on what is now the Trout Creek Road, was a natural choice. The area around Trout Creek and the Little Wind was close to the mountains and with a relatively warm climate had already served as a preferred camping area in former times.

…When they first got on the reservation, they used to issue…each person so many beef and all this salt pork and beans and stuff like that….Each one got an army blanket, and you know how scratchy they are! They gave them a blanket, and the rules allowed so many yards of goods….I think it was ten yards…It’d be all folded up and they just gave you a sack of it and that was the way it went. (Nellie Washakie)

When Fort Washakie was abandoned by the military in 1909, the Agency moved from Wind River to the Fort. Agency headquarters were then established in the stone building, known as BIA Building #1, which now houses staff for several tribal programs. Originally, it had served as the soldiers’ library and gymnasium.

eyes12a12. “Shoshone Tea Party,” Date unknown (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Change became evident in both large and small ways. An increasing variety of store-bought fabrics were used in clothing. Wall tents were pitched beside the more traditional teepees. This scene, captured by a traveling photographer, was published as a picture postcard titled “Shoshone Tea Party.”

eyes13a13. J.K. Moore’s Trading Post, ca. 1890s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

J. K. Moore’s trading post at Fort Washakie, located where the present Fort Washakie post office now stands, like the Agency, was a central meeting place. Women brought their beadwork there to sell or exchange for a few groceries, it served as a gathering point for Whites and Indians alike.

Queechen did not see anyone he knew at the office so he wandered over to the J. K. Moore trading post where he met and talked with friends he had not seen since his days at the Government school. (Rupert Weeks)

eyes14a14. Shoshones pose at J.K. Moore’s Trading Post,. Date unknown. (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

The importance of the trading post as a center of reservation life is reflected in the fact that it was used as a backdrop for many photos of reservation residents. When President Grover Cleveland visited the reservation in 1883, his photographer used it to pose Washakie (right, on horseback) and a group of Shoshones.

eyes15a15. Evangelist from Utah, Date unknown. (Photo provided by Millie Guina)

Two central goals of government assimilation policy were to convert and educate. Several Shoshone, some who had been Rev. Roberts’ students helped translate church texts, tricky undertaking when both sides were just beginning to learn the other’s language:

Two Shoshones, Enga Barrie and Charles Lajoe, assisted the Rev. John Roberts in the work of translating a part of the Book of Common Prayer and a Catechism from English into the Shoshone language. Charles had been one of Mr. Roberts’ pupils from 1883 to 1890.

The work of making these translations was a most difficult task for the reason that the language is not written and many English words have no counterpart in the Shoshone language. There was no word for heaven, the word “hallowed” and “spirit” were almost impossible to express and there was just nothing to be done about “forgive” or “sin.” (From an unpublished manuscript of Rev. Roberts’ daughter, Elinore Markley. Courtesy Beatrice Crofts, Lander)

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16. Agency slaughter corrals, Carl Chittim, ca. 1896 (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

The government bought cattle but they were killed recklessly. So they built slaughterhouses after that and corrals. Quarter beefs were issued to families…Friday was “kill day” for them; Saturday, “issue day”; Sunday, “big day”; Monday, “unlock day”; Tuesday, “two unlock day”; Wednesday, “nothing day”; Thursday, “corral the beef.” (Bopechee, recorded by Rupert Weeks. Starr Weed translates “unlock” as “open”—“open day”—that is, when everything, businesses etc. open up.)

eyes17a17. Women dividing entrails at slaughtering pens, Carl Chittim, ca. 1896. (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

Winnie St. Clair remembers that beef was killed at the slaughter house for stores at both Wind River Agency and Fort Washakie as well as for individuals and families. She recalls the pens were located beneath Signal Hill along the road from Wind River to Fort Washakie. Mildred Weeks remembers them at another time being located “down where they usually have the Sun Dance.” Mrs. Weeks described the scene as something as a free-for-all: “The ladies went for it! Whoever got there first got the larger portions of tripe.”

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18. Meat drying by teepees, Carl Chittim, ca. 1896 (Wind River Historical Center/Dubois Museum)

Issued beef was sliced and dried in the same way that buffalo had been in previous years:

At this time from twenty to thirty beefs were butchered by the Agency farmer every two weeks and each Saturday a quarter of beef was issued at each teepee. Every second week flour, coffee, beans, and sugar were also issued. (Rupert Weeks)

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19. Negotiating the “Gift of the Waters,” 1897. (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

This photo shows the scene as government officials negotiated with tribal member for ten square miles at the extreme northeast corner of the reservation—the site of the hot springs and present day Thermopolis. This land transaction followed an earlier cession which transferred a large southern portion of the reservation to the United States for $25,000, resulting from the discovery of gold at South Pass. The “Gift of the Waters” at Thermopolis resulted from White interest in the healing and resort possibilities of the area’s natural mineral springs:

Another thing which Queechen learned before long was that the reservation to which he returned in 1908 was a smaller one than he had left in 1894. Two years after he left the Indians sold the Thermopolis Hot Springs and ten square miles of ground around them to the government for sixty thousand dollars….Queechen knew about this sale when it was made, for some of the money was paid out in a per capita cash payment and his share of that was sent to him at Carlisle. Most of the money was used for rations over a five-year period. As the rations agreed upon in the Ft. Bridger treaty were to be issued for a period of thirty years and the first issue was made in 1871, the people were glad to have something more coming from the government. (Rupert Weeks)

A third agreement, further shrinking the boundaries of the reservation, was negotiated in 1904. It opened up land for homesteading, townsites and mineral development, an area known today as the Riverton Reclamation Project. While some provisions were made for compensation and benefits for those affected by transfer of these lands, the steady loss of tribal lands through these treaties and sales left a bitter taste:

In 1904 the land north of Big Wind River was thrown open to White Settlement. There were nearly a million and a half acres in this tract….Most of the tribal funds came from this source. Queechen was very glad to find that his tribe had some source of income for he had ideas about how tribal money could be used to improve conditions of the reservation. He felt sure he had learned ways of living and of making money that would help his people. He found it very hard to suggest them, however, without making both his own family and his neighbors feel that he was an outsider. (Rupert Weeks)

A third agreement, further shrinking the boundaries of the reservation, was negotiated in 1904. It opened up land for homesteading, townsites and mineral development, an area known today as the Riverton Reclamation Project. While some provisions were made for compensation and benefits for those affected by transfer of these lands, the steady loss of tribal lands through these treaties and sales left a bitter taste:

In 1904 the land north of Big Wind River was thrown open to White Settlement. There were nearly a million and a half acres in this tract….Most of the tribal funds came from this source. Queechen was very glad to find that his tribe had some source of income for he had ideas about how tribal money could be used to improve conditions of the reservation. He felt sure he had learned ways of living and of making money that would help his people. He found it very hard to suggest them, however, without making both his own family and his neighbors feel that he was an outsider. (Rupert Weeks)

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20. George Washakie, Indian Policeman, and his wife, Josie, Date unknown (Photo provided by Zedora Enos)

Changing social and political arrangements called for different structures within the Shoshone community:

They made a policeman out of my husband…to stop people from making trouble. At first he refused but the chiefs talked to him and induced him to accept. He got along very well with them. He was kept busy talking to people especially about rations. There was a shooting once. One man killed another, they sent for my husband; he finally got him. The man was brought to the agency. They just talked to him for a long while. They said the White man would put him in jail if he committed murder again. And they let him go. (Bobechee, as recorded by Rupert Weeks)

eyes21a21. Shoshone Business Council, ca. 1920s (Photo provided by Winnie St. Clair)

According to most sources, the first tribal council was convened in 1901, a year after Washakie’s death.

 

 

22. Two men in a buggy, Date unknown (Intermountain Collection, BIA, Wind River Agency)

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An unusually candid shot showing two men casually seated in the main mode of transportation on the early reservation:

We hardly went to town, because we had no cars when I was growing up. We had to use buggies and teams. Every now and then I would ride in that little buggy with my parents to town. At that time my Daddy had cattle. Every now and then he would ship his cattle to Omaha. He would take them down to Hudson’s stock yard. I don’t now how much money they got. All I know was I got a pair of shoes every now and then. (Alberta Roberts)

eyes23a23. Threshing crew, Date unknown. (Wind River Archives, CWC)

The transition from hunting and the time-honored ways of living off the land began to change. But the change did not come easily.

These Indians are passing through, just now, the most trying time they have ever experienced for the reason that the wild game which hitherto has been their support, is now very scarce. They have not yet learned to farm and raise crops. However, they are, this spring, fencing in the small farms and the Shoshones have raised a small amount of wheat for the last four years. (Rev. John Roberts, 1899, quoted in an unpublished manuscript written Elinore Markley, daughter of Rev. Roberts)

Later, community effort and helpful neighbors combined with farming skills to help people through the difficult years of the Depression.

My grandfather used to plant wheat and stuff like that. That was in 1930. They had this threshing machine, they used to go to homes where people had all this wheat and they would thrash it. They came to my grandfather’s and I saw that big thrasher come in. That wheat and stuff they used to grow, they cut it by hand. They would make it stand over there like little teepees….i would see him load all of that on and he would go to Lander. Next thing I knew, they would be coming back with about 25 sacks of flour, that’s what we survived on. (Alberta Roberts)

eyes24a24. Man operating road grader, 1936 (BIA, Wind River Agency)

We sold the ranch, it was getting old, you know, we couldn’t farm it. He had a job, he was a ditch rider for the irrigation, my husband was, he worked for about 28 years on that, and so, see, we had more or less everything we wanted. (Eva Enos)

eyes25a25. Woman in garden, 1936. (BIA, Wind River Agency)

Now we have to go as far as South Pass to get fruits and berries. For the old berrying places were fenced up. They told us to farm since a few had gardens—watermelon and the like. The number increased afterward and is still increasing (Bopechee, as recorded by Rupert Weeks)

Gardens were essential for survival both before and during the Depression. Almost every Indian family had one. Rupert Weeks records that many people originally sold “much grain, hay and garden stuff” to the Fort and that when the soldiers left, this proved a serious hardship. During the Depression, excess produce might be sold at places like Hunter’s store where people came to gamble or just get together. Some recalled selling eggs, chickens or pies at Hunter’s to earn extra money. Several of those interviewed commented that the growing season seemed longer then; they remember huge pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelons, even an experiment with growing peanuts:

There was a lot of activity. I remember my husband’s grandmother used to bake pies and sell them to the gamblers. Oh, that was fun! I really enjoyed watching Grandma Em start making her pies; then other people were doing other things. (Lillian Hereford)

Every Indian place had a garden and they had corn and squash. The whole family worked in it, the kids had to get out and pull weeds. That’s the way the people got by in that time. (Nellie Washakie)

26. Dehorning a cow, Date unknown (BIA, Wind River Agency)

The original Fort Bridger Treaty provided for a herd of cattle which the Shoshone held in common. In 1887, when the Allotment Act was put into action at Wind River, cow/calf operations managed on an individual basis proved quite successful and continue to do well today:

People used to be very helpful to each other….If you’re out in the field, your neighbor would come and says, “You need help?—I could help you, you know, for a good meal or something.” You know that your neighbors are going to help you—fix the hay or fence, even your cattle, help you with the branding or whatever. Cause we never had no problem when we lived up there where Mom and Dad live. When we were going to brand, people would come from all over just to help us brand. And we would have a big meal ready for them, and they didn’t ask for pay, they just had a good meal and went their merry way! (Pansy St. Clair)

eyes27a27. Deer for emergency rations hanging in government slaughter house, ca. 1930s (BIA. Wind River Agency)

My grandfather hunted at cedar butte. I remember he used to get on a horse and go horseback riding and pretty soon I would see him coming back with something. Then he would come to where my grandmother was and she would get at it. She would pull the hide off and she would do the butchering. Then she would grind all the meat and that’s what we were living on. She had chokecherries and all that. See we had all of those to eat….We were poor at that time so we have to eat what the old people cook. When I went to the mission it was different, I had to eat whatever was there. From what I remember, we didn’t have that kind of food at home—but Indian food that our grandmothers and mothers made. (Alberta Roberts)

[When I was growing up] the Indians used to go out and get a deer when they felt like getting one and if they could find one. But nowadays, you can’t survive,…They put you in jail and let you starve worse than you’re doing. [The deer] were just taken away from us…and the [prairie] fowl, [sage] chickens, ducks, wild birds….Only thing I think is left is the prairie dogs. (Lucy Bonatsie)

eyes28ab28. Reservation home, ca. 1930. (BIA, Wind River Agency)

Although some Indian families were still living in canvas wall tents well into the 1940’s, many began to convert them to log cabins, add on rooms or build simple tar paper shacks, usually one room insulated with celotex. These were warmer than tents, and the celotex reduced the danger of fire. According to Eva Enos, the shacks were, “one hundred percent better!”

Before these houses came around, well, then, we had just tents. We’d have all that warmed up you know, cloth all around, with maybe canvas for the base around the tent to keep the wind out….It was pretty warm once you get used to it, only you had to keep turning every now and then to keep one side warm and then the other side warm! [We had] one of those old time stoves, and sometimes we didn’t have that, so the Indians used tub stoves. They’d cut a hole in it for the fire box and then cut a hole in the top for a pipe and then run it through the tent and then they’d have some tin around the neck of pipe so it won’t catch fire on the cloth. We had straw mattresses. [They would] bring in a bale of straw and spread it out and then they’d cover that with burlap or denim-old overalls that we’d cut up and then sew together, maybe make a big bag out of it, like a mattress—then its cleaner. And then we’d take it out and dust it every now and then. Then they had the floor, it was covered with burlap and they’d nail it down and it still has straw underneath it to keep the floor warm so you could sit down anywhere. Maybe we’d moisten it every day and then sweep it so the dust don’t fly. (Lucy Bonatsie)

29. Students erecting a home at Government School, 1936 (BIA, Wind River Agency)

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Vocational skills which could be put to immediate use were taught at the Fort Washakie Government School. Boys also learned farming and carpentry, they learned to put in windbreaks and ditches, activities which were often part of CCC or WPA efforts.

eyes30a30. Mother and child at Wind River Agency, ca. 1930s (BIA, Wind River Agency)

Government services became critical during the Depression. Visits the Wind River Agency for help with food, health care, or shelter were frequent.

 

31. WPA sewing project at the Government School, 1936. (BIA, Wind River Agency)

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I remember I worked down here for the Ft. Washakie School. They had a big building there where they had sewing machines and all that kind of stuff there. They’d make nightgowns and pajamas—things like that. (Eva Enos)

Adeline Ross…was a missionary lady and she used to teach the Indian ladies to knit and crochet. And boy, I’m telling you that a lot of these ladies did it until they were quite elderly and passed away. And we were so hard up that the church had to give us clothes. The WPA and the CCCs came in. These ladies hired them to make dresses at Easter….Those ladies would sit out along that one long [dorm] building [at the Government School] and sew for the students—for students and others. And that gave them something to do and a little bit of income (Lillian Hereford)

They brought the WPA work in here and then the women started working. They started sewing and everything. I can remember when I first went there…I worked in the WPA, I worked—sewed—and down to the Government School they used to make big gardens and we worked in the gardens and we did everything that we could for that dollar. (Nellie Washakie)

32. Shoshone couple in front of log cabin, 1936 (BIA, Wind River Agency)

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Despite the economic hardships of the Depression, many were able to better their living conditions working on their own and with the help of government relief programs. Suzette Wagon recalls working for the WPA “in 1938 or 1939 for a $1.00—a day. That was $18 every two weeks.” And Ina Weed remembered “working in the agency washing windows for fifty cents a day.” Later, things took a turn for the better when the Tunison money finally came, and Shoshones were finally compensated for the loss of part of their reservation to the Arapahos in 1878. Many, like Angeline Wagon recalled her parents’ buying their first house in 1942 with Tunison money.

When we got the Tunison money, I never saw so many things. You bought a new bedroom set, your dressers all were marked “G.I.” (Government Issue) on the bottom. Everything was government issue and they had pencils and they marked your pencils “G.I.” You had horses running around with your brand on them and an “ID” [Indian Department] on the bottom. I always thought that was funny. I said “Why do you need two brands?”And Dad said, “Well, that’s so you won’t take that horse and sell him, you know.”And I guess it was just to keep people—I said they treated us like we were babies. I’d sit and think about things like that and I thought that was so unnecessary for people to treat you like you couldn’t count money and you don’t know how to spend money…but I think if you come from a large family, a poor family you learn how to save and you care about how your money is spent. (Lillian Hereford)

eyes33a33. Performance at Riverton’s Acme Theater, ca. 1920s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

In 1922, 500 Shoshone, Bannock and Arapaho traveled to Milford, Utah to film the western epic, “Covered Wagon.” Actors on the Utah set could earn up to $87.50 per week if the whole family, plus horses and teepees were involved—more than most made on the reservation in a year. Later many performed living prologues for showings, locally, as well as in Hollywood and England.

In this photo, E.J. Farlow of Lander introduces Indians performing a live prologue at the Acme Theater in Riverton.

Movies which portrayed Indian life caught the popular imagination and sometimes provided opportunities where cultural and economic survival came together. The concern for authenticity reflected in MGM’s use of real Indians for “Covered Wagon” was unusual for its time. Although this movie industry which grew out of this film and centered around Wind River in The 20s and 30s helped create a demand for artifacts, costumes and skills from the pre-reservation ear, in addition to much needed jobs.

eyes34a34. Movie portrait of Mojo Tidzump, ca. 1930s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Between 1926 and 1929, MGM made 16 films using Shoshone and Arapaho from Wind River. Many were filmed on the reservation or included footage shot there. “The End of the Trail,” for which Mojo Tidzump was photographed, was influenced by both the changing atmosphere of the Collier administration and leading actor, Tim McCoy. In the film, McCoy made an impassioned plea for Indians and their rights.

eyes35a35. Young Wolf Dancers, ca. 1930s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

In the 1930’s, cultural practices, long suppressed by government and education policy, were encouraged and strengthened under the administration of the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Collier.

eyes36a36. Council House on the South Fork of Little Wind River, ca. 1940s. (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

In the early days people would come to the tribal Council House by horse and wagon to camp out for several weeks at Christmas time. The council house was a central location where all gathered to dance and celebrate the holidays and other special occasions. As more were able to afford automobiles, fewer camped out. But the Council House remained an important community and cultural center.

They had their Christmas holidays and they danced every night in their hall. They camped—a lot of them camped right there at their dance hall with their tents. Ooh…that’s cold though. (Eva Enos)

eyes37a37. Rev. John Roberts at Sun Dance Lodge, ca. 1930s. (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Unlike many missionaries, John Roberts attended the annual Sun Dance and considered it a sacred ceremony. The question of outsiders who came to watch could be a sensitive issue, as is illustrated by the following commentary from 1935 article in the Dubois Frontier:

Many White people criticize or make light of this dance but it is because they do not understand the great Ta-go-wudit or thirst endurance dance. They do not understand the mysteries of the Sun Dance, The center pole, or altar, the buffalo head, the eagle, the west forked pole on which the eagle sits….It is hoped that many White people will attend this ceremony…and witness for themselves what stamina and fortitude the Indian must have to participate in this dance.

eyes38a38. Sun Dance Lodge with spectators, ca. 1930s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

A long time ago the elders would put up the Sun Dance and they were kind of strict. When I was fourteen they used to have tourists come in. They had a gate where the tourists would come in and that’s where they would charge those White people….They would go over and look what’s going on and pretty soon, they were taking pictures. So they talked to one another and decided that they didn’t want any pictures taken. Some of them had those flash lobes. They said that that disturbed the spirits in there for the Sun Dancers. (Alberta Roberts)

eyes39a39. Shoshone women tanning hides, ca. 1930s (BIA, Wind River Agency).

Sometimes my grandfather would bring in a deer, my grandmother was the one who used to tan the hides. I would see my mother make little baby moccasins out of it. I don’t even know how much she sold those for. That’s how we survived. (Alberta Roberts)

Selling bead work to tourists and smoked buckskin gloves to the Dubois Tie-hacks that didn’t shrink when wet was an important part of many families’ incomes. During the Depression there were also government sponsored tanning projects. One, which was held at the Government school where this photo was probably taken, helped produce traditional buckskin clothing for the school’s costume class.

There was a buying day for beadwork, run by a lady from Browning, Montana (Mrs. Schultz, with the BIA Social Service) who took it to…a store a few feet from the highway. So they put up this arts and crafts building where they sold the beadwork. You took your beadwork up there and you sold it and if you needed groceries, they had the groceries there and you bought groceries. (Lillian Hereford)

Whether WPA project or private affair, tanning and creating tradition beadwork and craft objects were important cultural and economic activities. But tanning could also provide a valuable social function which, much like a quilting bee, helped bring people together:

You put your hides in and you soaked them until you could scrape the hair off, and then you’d take them out and put a brain and liver compound on them and then you left them four or five days and maybe you’d have four or five hides. And then you would tell all your friends, “I’m going to tan a hide.” So here would come everybody to help you tan your hides, see? I can remember at Grandma Jossie’s, we used to have maybe…twenty people there tanning hides on one day. (Nellie Washakie)

eyes40a40. Tourist “curio shop” and gas station at Fort Washakie. ca, 1930s. (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

When the railroad reached Lander in 1906, many travelers came by rail and then continued on to guest ranches in the Dubois area and Yellowstone National Park. Slim Laurence’s bus service to Yellowstone and drivers from dude ranches in Dubois and the Upper Wind River Valley make Fort Washakie a regular stop where visitors could get refreshments, look around and pick up beadwork:

There was a lot of them going through here ‘cause this was the only road to Yellowstone….I remember them traveling through here quite a bit. They even used to run buses through here in the early days. (Eva Enos)

They would stop at J.D. Moore’s trading post and a lot of them would buy a lot of beadwork and things like that…pop and ice cream. Private cars would be going back and forth too—old-time cars….I let them take my photograph for two bits. (Pete Davis)

eyes41a41. Women at Pioneer Days in Lander, 1939 (Out West Photos, Cheyenne, Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Parades and other public celebrations also provided a showcase for traditional skills and craftwork.

eyes42a42. Interior of the Noble Hotel in Lander. ca. 1940s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Traditional crafts and beadwork were an important area where cultural economic survival came together. Lander’s Nobel Hotel, a mecca for tourists, was a renowned showcase for reservation crafts. In Dubois, traveling traders would make routine visits to dude ranches, some as isolated as the T-Cross, clear at the head of Horse Creek in the Absoraka Range.

eyes43a43. Preparing for parade, Date unknown (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Parades and horse races, held on the reservation and in towns like Lander during the summer months, were important times for social gatherings as well as recreation. Several events, now missing on the programs, recalled former skills and earlier lifestyles:

The old Indian women had teepee racing, you know to see how fast they could set up teepees. Boy, some of them old women are really fast on making tents and setting up teepees. Boy, you’d have a heck of a time to beat ’em the way they were going. (Sidney Freese)

eyes44a44. Washakie as an old man, ca. 1890s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Attitudes about the presence of visitors or possible income-producing projects like tribal museums have undergone a number of changes. As reservation life became more settled and accessible, an ever-encroaching world found Indian culture more readily available and fascinating. Anthropologists, tourists and sometimes simply the curious became increasingly common features around Wind River.

eyes45a45. Dr. Grace Hebard and Dick Washakie, ca. 1930s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard, head of the department of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Wyoming, was a frequent visitor at Wind River in the 20s and 30s. Her book entitled, Washakie, An Account of Indian Resistance of the Covered Wagon and Union Pacific Railroad Invasions of Their Territory, published in 1930 and currently out of print, became a classic.

Dr. Hebard’s material—especially on Washakie and Sacajawea, widely circulated and quoted—served to bring a number of visitors and researchers to an area once noted primarily for being the most desolate and isolated military post in the country. Because Hebard did not always document her work or acknowledge her sources, her version of Shoshone history and the interest it aroused among outsiders have caused mixed feelings through the years.

eyes46a46. Archaeological excavation at Dinwoody cave, ca. 1930s. 1930s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming)

Excavations of a large cave at the head of Dinwoody were a case in point where activities by outside researchers and fossil hunters caused problems resulting in bad feelings which linger today. According to Lou Meeks who ranched in the Dinwoody area at that time, council members gave permission for researchers to examine the cave but not to remove any artifacts. A rock wall inside the cave was, however, torn down and many items taken. The Council then gave permission for these to be stored temporarily in a “museum in Casper” with the understanding that they later to be returned to the tribe when it had a museum facility of its own.

eyes47a eyes48a47. & 48. “The Indian Mode of Transportation,” ca. 1920s and 1930s (St. Michael’s Mission, Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College.

Around Fort Washakie, young girls in a wagon were an everyday sight well after the advent of the automobile. Yet, at a Lander Parade, an Indian wagon was already an object of curiosity. Lander’s Fourth of July celebrations and Cheyenne Frontier Days were two events that drew many reservation participants and gave outsiders a glimpse of both past and present.



49. Reservation men visit oil field camp, ca. 1920s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

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With the development of the tribe’s oil resources, came new encroachments on Indian lands. But oil also brought income, and more people were able to purchase cars—a factor which dramatically changed many aspects of reservation life.

Twenty-five dollars pay per month when they first started out from the oil wells—from there on they raised it, and boy that’s when everybody got cars! That’s after they started getting their good money from the oil wells, when they started using the cars. (Pete Davis)

eyes50a50. Boy Scout group at Fort Washakie, Date unknown (Photo provided by Winnie St. Clair)

With automobiles and increased transportation, reservation boarding schools were either transformed into day schools or closed as times changed and students had the option of attending school in town. The Government School changed to a day school in the mid-1930s and became a public school in the mid-50s. It ceased to be a self-supporting school shortly before then, selling off the last few of its dairy and beef herd under pressure from local ranchers who resented what they had come to view as government competition in the market place.

While traditional groups like the Young Wolf Dancers received support during the Collier years, new youth groups such as the Boy Scouts or the Government School’s Drum and Bugle corps also began to emerge which extended activities and opportunities outside the reservation.

eyes51a51. Wind River Extension, early 1960s (Photo provided by Winnie St. Clair)

See, they still have that, like the Black Hills Recreation. That’s where we went that time. Maybe do crafts and stuff like that. It’s kind of like that’s where they went to learn crafts and then they brought it back for the Extension Service. They were like 4-H teachers or church workers. (Winnie St. Clair)

eyes52ab52. Indian youth in Navy uniform, ca. 1940s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

The military provided many with job opportunities and a chance to travel beyond the reservation boundaries. A large number of those interviewed recalled being well-prepared for their time in the service thanks to training in drill work they received at the reservation boarding schools.

Both men and women made significant contributions to the Service or wartime work force:

A lot of women from here, well, they’d go to the shipyards [(in California] to work….They had to take over the men’s jobs. A lot of them had to work in the shipyards. My niece was one of them. (Eva Enos)

53. Car decorated for parade, Shoshone Indian Days, ca. 1960s (Wind River Archives, Central Wyoming College)

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While changes resulting from the reservation system brought many new factors into play, cultural continuity and adaptations remain in evidence in many aspects of Shoshone community life. Here, a draped and decorated car replaces the horse in a Shoshone parade.