The Shoshones were divided into two basic groupings. The Eastern Shoshones lived in the Wyoming's Wind River Mountains, whereas the Northern Shoshones were based in Idaho.
By the middle of the 17th century the Sioux, Cheyenne and Blackfeet had driven the Shoshones from the Northern Plains into the Rocky Mountains region. However they returned to the plains in small groups in order to carry out buffalo hunts. They also lived on rabbits, roots, nuts and seeds.
The traditional enemy of the Shoshoni were the Blackfeet. Between 1785 and 1805 large numbers of both tribes were killed in battles over hunting territory.
The Northern Shoshones were encountered by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis in 1805. Sacajawea, a member of the tribe, helped guide the party through the Rocky Mountains.
Chief Washakie developed a reputation as a fierce warrior against rival tribes such as the Sioux and Blackfeet. However he developed a policy of friendship with white settlers and the American government. He was hired by both the Hudson's Bay Company and American Fur Company and worked as a guide for white trappers. Washakie's record of friendship towards the authorities allowed him to negotiate good treaties for his people. In 1868 he obtained the White River Valley Reservation in Wyoming, and area still rich in buffalo.
The Shoshones were willing to form an alliance with the United States against their traditional enemies. On 17th June 1876, General George Crook and about 1,000 troops, supported by the Shoshones, fought against 1,500 members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes. The battle at Rosebud Creek lasted for over six hours. This was the first time that Native Americans had united together to fight in such large numbers.
President Ulysses Grant was so pleased with Washakie's contribution to the Indian Wars that he presented him with an expensive saddle at a special ceremony.
One young Shoshone Indian, left in the rear to herd the liorses of his tribe, was killed by a small party of daring Cheyennes, wlio, during the heat of Royall's fight, rode in between that officer's left and the right of Van Vliet. Tlie latter supposed that the adventurous savages were some of our redskins, so natural and unconcerned were all their actions. The Cheyennes slew the poor boy with their tomahawks, took his scalp, "leaving not a wrack behind," and drove away a part of his herd.
History: The Northwestern Band of Shoshonee
The Northwestern Band of Shoshone is a branch of the larger group of Shoshone people that cover Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada. When whites began encroaching on the area that is now Utah in the 1840s, three different groups of Northwestern Shoshones lived there. The misnamed Weber Utes lived in Weber Valley near present-day Ogden, Utah. The Pocatello Shoshones dwelt between the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake and the Bear River. A third group lived in the Cache Valley along the Bear River. They called themselves kammitakka, which means “jackrabbit-eaters.”
The Shoshone people were very mobile and skilled at hunting and gathering, and with each change of the season they migrated to obtain the food and other resources they depended on to survive. In the early autumn, the Northwestern Shoshones moved into the region near what is now Salmon, Idaho, to fish. After fishing was over, they moved into western Wyoming to hunt buffalo, elk, deer, moose, and antelope. They sun-dried the meat for winter and used the hides as clothing and shelter. In the spring and summer, the Northwestern Shoshones traveled around southern Idaho and throughout Utah. During these months, they spent their time gathering seeds, roots, and berries and socializing. In late summer they dug roots and hunted small game. Around late October, the band moved into western Utah and parts of Nevada for the annual gathering of pinyon nuts (or pine nuts), a nutrient-rich food that formed an important part of the Shoshone diet. The wintering home of the Northwestern Shoshones was in an area around what is now Preston, Idaho. Based on these migration patterns, experts have claimed that the Northwestern Shoshones were among the most ecologically efficient and well-adapted Indians of the American West.
By the 1840s, the Northwestern Shoshones had adopted some aspects of Plains Indian culture, using the horse for mobility and to hunt large game, such as buffalo. The Shoshone way of life came under attack when Anglo emigrants began to transverse Shoshone lands on the trails to California and Oregon in the early 1840s. The arrival of the members of the LDS Church in 1847 brought added pressure. The Mormons initially settled in the Salt Lake Valley but quickly spread into the Weber and Cache Valleys, entering Shoshone lands and competing for vital resources. Conflict between the Shoshones and white settlers and emigrants became a serious problem in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Responding to the destruction of game and grass cover and the unprovoked murder of Indians, Shoshone leaders like Chief Pocatello retaliated with raids on emigrant trains. After the discovery of gold in Montana in 1862, more and more whites traveled over Shoshone land. In response to incidents of violence committed by the travelers, some Shoshones, including a group led by Chief Bear Hunter of the Cache Valley, began to raid wagon trains and cattle herds.
Violence erupted on January 29, 1863 when Colonel Patrick Edward Connor and about two-hundred army volunteers from Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City attacked Bear Hunter’s people. A group of 450 Shoshone men, women, and children were camped on the Bear River twelve miles from Franklin, Washington Territory (now Idaho). In the early hours of the morning, Connor and his men surrounded the Shoshones and began a four-hour assault on the virtually defenseless group. Some 350 Shoshones were slaughtered by the troops, including many women and children. This was one of the most violent events in Utah’s history and the largest Indian massacre in U.S. history.
In the aftermath of the Bear River Massacre, white settlers moved unopposed into traditional Northwestern Shoshone lands. As American settlements grew around them, the few remaining Northwestern Shoshones lost their land base and could no longer sustain their traditional nomadic lifestyle. In 1875, after years of struggle and starvation, many Northwestern Shoshones converted to Mormonism and settled on a church-sponsored farm near Corrine, Utah, an area where the Shoshone had traditionally wintered. The farm was short-lived, as federal officials, responding to unfounded rumors that the Shoshones were planning an attack on Corrine, expelled them from the farm and attempted to force them onto the newly founded Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho.
Some Northwestern Shoshones did move to Fort Hall, but those who wanted to remain in their traditional homeland were left without a reservation and had to search for alternative means to secure a land base. Beginning in 1876, using rights guaranteed under the Homestead Act, the Northwestern Shoshones acquired and settled land between the Malad and Bear rivers. The Malad Indian Farm was eventually discarded due to its insufficient size and the difficulty of irrigating in the area. The Northwestern Shoshones considered moving back to the Cache Valley but instead moved to a new farm in the Malad Valley just south of Portage, Utah. They named the farm after their admired leader Washakie, and the settlement, which was managed by members of the LDS Church, was home the Northwestern Band of Shoshone for the next eighty years. Tragically, in the summer of 1960, representatives of the LDS Church, who mistakenly believed that Washakie had been abandoned, burnt the Shoshones’ houses to the ground in preparation for the sale of the church farm. The church later gave the band 184 acres of land near Washakie to atone for this mistake.
Until 1987, the Northwestern Band of Shoshone was administered by the federal government as part of a larger Shoshone tribe. That year the government recognized the tribe as independent, and the Northwestern Shoshones adopted a constitution and tribal council. In addition to the Washakie land, the tribe holds some private lands held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and is attempting to purchase more land to solidify its home in Utah. The Northwestern Band of Shoshone is quickly developing and, in so doing, is reasserting its rightful place in the history of Utah.
The Mountain Shoshone
Recent discoveries show ancient peoples lived in the mountains of what’s now northwest Wyoming, probably in significant numbers. Some or many of these people were most likely ancestors of today’s Shoshone.
While sources generally agree that the subculture of mountain-dwelling Shoshone came to be called Sheepeaters, scholars prefer Mountain Shoshone as the more accurate term. By the mid-1800s, they were regarded as largely separate from the horse-owning, buffalo-hunting bands that roamed much of what are now southwestern and central Wyoming and came to be known as the Eastern Shoshone.
The Mountain Shoshone hunted bighorn sheep in the mountains, along with deer, elk and many smaller mammals. They also ate fish and insects. In his book on the Mountain Shoshone, amateur archaeologist and historian Tory Taylor of Dubois, Wyo., cites ethnologist J. H. Steward, who wrote in 1943 that Shoshones gathered, dried and stored crickets, cicadas and grasshoppers.
The Mountain Shoshone also gathered a large variety of plants for food or medicine. Taylor, taking as his guide the current presence of alpine plants in the northern Wind River Range, suggests they probably ate mountain sorrel, spring beauty, marsh marigolds, wild strawberry greens, wild chives and 14 varieties of berries, along with cattails, burdock, dandelion roots and greens plus more than 50 other native plants.
They crafted ladles from sheep horns and built conical log dwellings, usually called wickiups—some of which still stand—and were pedestrians who probably used dogs for hunting and packing.
In prehistoric times, there may have been many Mountain Shoshone, as evidenced by dense assemblages of projectile points and other tools found high in the Absaroka Range of northwest Wyoming. Above 10,000 feet elevation in the Wind River Mountains, the discovery of whole villages—including the remains of wickiups—shows that living in the mountains, probably in summer, was common among prehistoric people.
Shoshone-associated artifacts found at these villages include teshoas—knives used by Shoshonean women—soapstone vessels and chert, quartzite and obsidian projectile points of the desert tri-notch, cottonwood triangular and rose-spring style. About ten or twelve years ago, in a mountain meadow near timberline in the Wind River Mountains, one member of a team that included Tory Taylor found a rare soapstone carving among many other Shoshone artifacts near a major source of soapstone. Archaeologists have also found items often associated with other tribes as well as the Shoshone, including metates and manos—mortar-and-pestle stone tools—used for grinding food.
Some sources suggest that because the Mountain Shoshone had few or no horses, they were impoverished compared to their equestrian relatives. It’s not clear whether the supposedly “low-caste” Sheepeaters, as they came to be known, were actually poor and ragged, and thus disdained by whites and Indians alike. This may only have been a cultural distortion.
Poverty may not have been why most Mountain Shoshone lacked horses. In rough country, horses are less versatile pack animals than dogs, and also weren’t necessarily an advantage in an environment where game animals were grazing just over the next ridge, rather than miles away across the plains.
Mountain Shoshone crafts
The Mountain Shoshone tailored clothing from sheepskin and other animal skins. Historian David Dominick reports that they were said to be expert tanners and furriers, trading their sought-after sheepskin robes for buffalo robes and other Plains Indian products.
Working soapstone was another important Shoshone craft. Archaeologists have found bowl fragments and occasional intact bowls in shapes resembling flowerpots, round casserole dishes and smaller vessels the approximate size of a teacup. Pipes, sometimes decorated with engravings, are either tube-shaped, onion shaped—in profile resembling a small vase—or elbow-shaped. Only a few beads have been discovered, ranging from pea-size to quarter-size.
Mountain Shoshone also manufactured bows from the horns of mountain sheep, sometimes from a single large horn, more often from two. White explorers, including Capt. Meriwether Lewis, described these bows in detail in their journals, with close attention to their construction and ornamentation.
The bows apparently were powerful and deadly. Tory Taylor recently made a sheep horn bow with help from Tom Lucas, a white Wind River Reservation native and craftsman of museum-quality replicas. When Taylor tested his new bow, he reported, “[i]t performed sweetly.”
Sheep horn bow manufacture is uncommon because few Shoshone or whites know how to make them, and also because suitable horns are rare. However, residents of the Wind River Reservation practice a variety of other traditional crafts, including beadwork, hand-tanning leather from game animals, making drums and wooden bows. At present, few non-natives are learning these skills, possibly because there is no procedure in place to facilitate this.
An evolving name
Anthropologists now suggest that band names of a variety of Shoshone groups—“Sheepeater” is only one example—began as transitory labels denoting economic activity and locale, and only later became attached, sometimes inaccurately or even pejoratively, to specific groups.
During the first half of the 20th century, ethnologists and linguists noted that Shoshone used a variety of food-names to refer to each other. Sheepeater, Tukudeka in the Shoshone language, was one of a half-dozen or more such terms. These names referred to the wide array of animals and plants that different people might hunt or gather at one time or another. Food-names may also have applied to the residents of regions where certain plants or animals predominated.
Historian David Dominick reported that in the late 1950s Sven Liljeblad, a linguist at Idaho State College, interviewed Northern Shoshone at the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho about these food names. An interviewee identified as W. G., age 65, told Liljeblad, “Just whatever they [other Shoshone] ate at that time is what I called them. We could even call them ‘coffee-drinkers.’” Dominick mentions five food-names in addition to Tukudeka.
Thus, by what may have been common practice, an extended family harvesting seeds became known as “seed eaters” to other Shoshone who saw what they were doing. A group who hunted rabbits was called “rabbit eaters.” When a group moved to a different area, the name changed. For example, if they moved to an area where pine nuts were abundant, they became known as “pine-nut eaters.” This is probably the genesis of the name “Sheepeater,” which described what almost any Shoshone might have been doing, or possibly, where they lived.
Vagueness and confusion about who the Sheepeaters were and are seems to stem from relatively few, but powerful misinterpretations combined with differing observations that took hold early in the history of white encroachment and continued through time. For example, Dominick cites the conflicting reports of fur trader Capt. Benjamin Bonneville and mountain man Osborne Russell, both from 1835. Bonneville found Shoshone in the Wind River Mountains and described them as “a kind of hermit race, scanty in number [and] … miserably poor.” By contrast, Russell saw “a few [Shoshone] Indians” in Yellowstone Park, “all neatly clothed in dressed deer and sheepskins of the best quality and seemed to be perfectly contented and happy.”
The food label slowly became a group label that eventually stuck. Early white trappers and explorers, and later military men and Indian agents, gained the impression that the Sheepeaters were a distinct sub-tribe of mountain-dwelling Shoshone whose predominant food source was mountain sheep. White men who saw groups of Shoshone in the mountains referred to them as Sheepeaters, no matter what game animal was most plentiful in the area.
Starting in the mid-1800s, Sheepeater guides were engaged by parties of white explorers in the areas in and around what became Yellowstone National Park. Capt. William A. Jones refers to Sheepeaters several times in his report of a reconnaissance expedition to northwest Wyoming in 1873. This suggests that the idea of a subgroup, called Sheepeaters, had already begun to coalesce around earlier misinterpretations of the name.
Anthropologist Susan Hughes proposes that the label continued to evolve along with changes in tribal structure brought on by the presence of whites. Before the reservation era began in the 1860s, the most organized political unit among the nomadic hunting and gathering Shoshone was the winter village. Such villages generally contained no more than 15 families.
Alliances formed among these villages, and during warmer seasons larger groups gathered for hunting or social functions, Hughes notes. Leadership and group structure were informal and transitory until Indians of all nations, the Shoshone included, gathered and traveled together to provide better protection from groups of whites. Indians who negotiated with U.S. government officials about treaties and other matters were usually tribal leaders. Hughes suggests that organized bands with formal, permanent leadership appear to have been a late development and in part, a white man’s construct.
Adding to the confusion, some Sheepeaters—the Northern Shoshone—hunted on the west side of the Tetons in present Idaho, while others—some of whom became known as Eastern Shoshone—lived farther east—sometimes in the Green River Valley and sometimes in the Wind River Valley in present Wyoming. Northern Shoshone groups ended up on the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho the Eastern Shoshone, on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. To some extent, these may have been separate groups from earlier times, although all Shoshone people were and are related, regardless of the diversity of their ancestors’ hunting and gathering locales.
When Shoshone bands first came to the Eastern Shoshone Reservation, they generally lived in separate areas, elder John Washakie says now, and that pattern continued for some time. Distinctions “became more blurred” as people moved into modern housing, he said. Currently, the Shoshone who now identify themselves as Sheepeaters trace their lineage to one ancestor or another who was a Sheepeater, such as Togwotee, the well-known guide, for whom Togwotee Pass is named.
There’s no doubt that ancient peoples lived in the mountains of northwest Wyoming and on the western side of the Tetons, probably in significant numbers. Drive lines, hunters’ blinds—either pits dug in the ground or stone structures—and remnants of corrals at the foot of short cliffs all point to the herding and slaughter of mountain sheep. It’s also certain that Shoshone food-names began as transitory labels denoting economic activity and locale and evolved into something more like the identity of a definite group.
Learn More About The Shoshones
Shoshone Indian Tribe An overview of the Shoshone people, their language and history.
Shoshone Language Resources Shoshone language samples, articles, and indexed links.
Shoshone Culture and History Directory Related links about the Shoshone tribe past and present.
Shoshoni Words Shoshone Indian vocabulary lists.
Return to our Native Americans homepage for kids
Return to our menu of American Indian tribes
Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 Contact us Follow our blog
Legends of America
The Shoshone tribe often referred to as the Shoshoni or Snake Indians, consists of several distinct groups, of which there are different bands. Originally living in a wide area of the Great Basin and Great Plains and sharing similar Shoshone languages, they are closely related to the Comanche, Paiute, and Ute Indians.
By the mid 18th century, the Blackfoot, Blood, Piegan, and Crow to the north and the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho to the east were well better armed and had an abundant supply of horses. These competing tribes soon pushed the Shoshone south from the northern plains and west of the Continental Divide.
The first white men to explore the west were the trappers and explorers. Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman, led Lewis and Clark through the west to the Pacific Ocean.
Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark on their expedition of 1804-06
By the time the Europeans began to move into the Great Basin and Snake River areas in the 1840s, there were seven distinct groups of Shoshone, with very few seen east of the Continental Divide. By that time the tribe limited their excursions east only to hunt buffalo, limiting their stays to short periods. When the white settlers pushed westward the Shoshone tribe also succumbed to epidemics of small-pox and other diseases previously unknown to them, which decimated the tribe and diminished its power.
By this time, the Northern Shoshone and Bannock hunted in the Snake River Valley, the Camus Prairie, and the Portneuf and Sawtooth Mountains, while a Shoshone group called the Sheepeaters lived primarily in the Yellowstone country. The Eastern Shoshone, led by Chief Washakie spent most of their time in the Wind River and Bighorn Mountains.
Two other divisions having similar cultures were the Goshute Shoshone, who lived in the valleys and mountains west and southwest of Great Salt Lake and the largest group, the Western Shoshone, occupied what is today, northwest Nevada. Four other groups, generally called the Northern Shoshone, were scattered about Montana, Idaho, and Utah.
The basis of the Shoshone religion was a belief in dreams, visions, and a Creator and fostered individual self-reliance, courage, and the wisdom to meet life’s problems in a difficult environment. Most of the Shoshone ceremonies are dances similar to the Great Basin Round Dances. The Bannock shared the warfare practices of the Plains Indians, which included counting coups and taking scalps of enemies. They adopted the Scalp Dance from the plains tribes and during the reservation period began dancing the Sun Dance. Today, the Sun Dance, a very important event, is held each summer.
When the first Mormon pioneers began to settle in northern Utah they encountered three major bands of Shoshone who had adopted most of the plains culture, utilizing the horse for mobility and hunting game. However, as the Mormon farmers began to take over their traditional homelands, and more settlers moved westward along the Oregon and California Trails, the pioneers took over much of their land and wasted their food supplies. As a result, Chief Bear Hunter began to strike back in 1862 by raiding Mormon cattle herds and attacking mining parties traveling to and from Montana.
Bear River Massacre in Idaho
The Shoshone aggression ended in what has become known as the Bear River Massacre on January 29, 1863. On that morning, Colonel Patrick Edward Connor led about 200 California volunteers from Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City to assault the winter camp of Chief Bear Hunter. Encamped at the confluence of Bear River and Bear Creek in the Cache Valley were about 450 men, women, and children.
The troops approached in the early morning darkness around 6:00 a.m. After two hours of firing, the Indians were out of ammunition and the next two hours of the battle became a massacre as the volunteers shot indiscriminately into the camp. When it was over, 250 of the Shoshone lay dead, compared to about 23 soldiers who lost their lives.
Chief Bear Hunter was killed in the battle and the remainder of the tribe, under Chief Sagwitch and the chiefs of nine other Northwestern bands of Shoshone signed the Treaty of Box Elder at Brigham City, Utah, on July 30, 1863. After the treaty was signed, the government immediately began to force the Shoshone to move on to the newly founded Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho. After several years, most of the Shoshone finally gave up roaming their homelands in Utah and settled on the reservation, where their descendants continue to live today.
During the period between 1863 and 1939, the Eastern Shoshone and Shoshone-Bannock tribes saw their reserved lands, which once covered five states, reduced to parcels making up an area one-twentieth the size of the original reserves.
Today, the Shoshone’s approximately 10,000 members primarily live on several reservations in Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada, the largest of which is the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. The Wind River Reservation now consisting of approximately 3,500 square miles is located in Fremont and Hot Springs Counties in west-central Wyoming. The Fort Hall Reservation of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes is located in southeastern Idaho. Originally encompassing some 1.8 million acres of land, it was later reduced to 544,000 acres.
Well over a century later, the Eastern Shoshone and the Shoshone-Bannock have preserved much of their traditional lands and retain their traditional ceremonies, holding the annual Sun Dance on the Fort Hall and Wind River Reservations. Tribal members also host annual powwows and continue to engage in sweat ceremonies to pray for individuals, families, or the tribe.
What are the Key Events in Shoshone History? (with picture)
The Shoshone Nation was a relatively small Native American tribe that once lived in a territory that is now Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and California. At the peak of Shoshone history, the tribe’s population numbered around 8,000. The tribe mostly was settled in what is now Idaho’s Snake River region. Throughout Shoshone history, the tribe tried to keep peace when the settlers came. Even though the tribe kept its end of peace treaties, Shoshone history is filled with slaughter and strife.
One of the worst events in Shoshone history was the Bear River Massacre, which occurred on 29 January 1863. Three years earlier, Mormon farmers took land from some Shoshone tribespeople along what is now the border between Utah and Idaho. After some young Native American men retaliated, Col. Patrick Henry Connor gathered up 200 army volunteers from a Salt Lake City camp.
Connor and his forces surrounded the camp of the Shoshone, who soon ran out of ammunition. The Shoshone were no match for the armed forces that killed more than 250 of the Shoshone, which included women and children. Forces burned down the Shosone dwellings and also took their crops and horses. The Bear River event produced the largest number of Native American victims in one battle.
Chief Washakie, the final and most notable leader of the Shoshone, preserved his culture's way of life by negotiating the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868. The treaty established the Wind River Reservation, which makes up more than 2.2 million acres (about 8,903 square miles) in the Wind River Basin of Wyoming.
The Wind River Reservation is culturally significant, as it the lone reservation in America where displaced Native Americans were actually allowed to choose the site of their permanent home. Under Chief Washakie, the Shoshone decided to live in the Wind River Valley, which is noted for its mild winters and plentiful wildlife. The reservation is one of the largest in the United States.
One of Chief Washakie's last major acts was to cede a portion of land in the northeast region to the United States government. The land, known as Hot Springs, has natural hot springs on the territory. In selling the land, Chief Washakie negotiated that all people would be able to visit the spring.
The Shoshone lost their leader in 1900 when Chief Washakie died of illness. His funeral featured a funeral train that stretched for miles, and the leader was laid to rest with full military honors. After the death of Chief Washakie, the Shoshone decided to do away with appointing a chief and opted to be governed by an elected Joint Business Council.
“The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History”– a Conversation with Darren Parry
11.16.2020 (Season 2: Episode 6) Speak Your Piece podcast. Above illustration: Looking eastward from [the presumed] Indian Camp, circa 1930s photographer Charles Kelly. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.
Part One and Part Two Combined:
Podcast Info: On 29 January 1863 Col. Patrick Connor and his California Volunteers (US Army, Camp Douglas, Great Salt Lake City, Territory of Utah) rode down a snow covered bluff (see the above photograph) and attacked a Northwestern Shoshoni winter village–on the Bear River, in the far northern section of Cache Valley, 1.6 km from the present Utah and Idaho boundary line—killing over 400 Shoshone men, women and children.
In the middle of the Civil War (1861-1865) this horrendous event became “lost” or perhaps better said suppressed ot justified by some white settlers as God’s will. This band of the Shoshone Nation, whose base camp was Cache Valley, save less than a hundred survivors, was annihilated.
Enter Mae Timbimboo Parry (1919-2007), grandmother of Darren Parry, who was the Northwest Band of the Shoshone’s matriarch, record keeper and historian. A granddaughter of massacre survivor Pisappih or Red Oquirrh (aka Yeager Timbimboo, born circa 1848, died 1937), Mae heard and felt the painful stories from her grandfather. She not only heard Red Oquirrh’s stories, she also listen to and recorded the stories of other survivors she spoke, presented and lobbied in Boise, Salt Lake City and in Washington, D.C. and she advised other historians, including Brigham Madsen and Scott R. Christensen (both listed in the recommended readings section). And like her grandfather, Mae told her stories to her children and grandchildren.
Mae, as Darren Parry describes her, “ran out of time,” and was unable to take her notebooks and do her final work, that is publish her accounts, her people’s stories, their perspectives, their knowing, regarding the massacre. Darren Parry speaks to senior public historian Brad Westwood, about his book, his loving story of his grandmother, the Timbimboos and the Parrys, and most importantly, about his people who died, and those who survived, the massacre on January 29, 1863 on Boa Ogoi.
Bio: Darren Parry is the former chairman of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation. He is the driving force behind the proposed Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center. Parry served on the boards of the American West Heritage Center (Logan, UT) and the Utah State Museum Board. He has also served on the Advisory Board of the Huntsman Cancer Center (SLC, UT). An educator by training, in secondary education with an emphasis in history, Darren graduated from Weber State University (Ogden, UT). During the last year (2019-2020) he ran for election, unsuccessfully, to the U.S. House to represent Utah’s 1st Congressional District. In 2017 he was a receipent of the Esto Pepetua Award from the Idaho State Historical Society, for one who has preserved and promoted the history of Idaho.
(1) The Timbimboo and Parry families, especially Darren’s grandmother Mae Timbimboo Parry,
(2) NW Band of Shoshone’s conversion to Mormonism in 1873,
(3) Why Parry wrote this book,
(4) Description of the Shoshone Band prior to the 1863 massacre,
(5) Mormon colonial setters in Cache Valley, UT prior to the massacre,
(6) US Army Colonel Patrick E. Connor and the story of Camp Douglas (east of SLC, UT),
(7) The 1990s corrective: making the “battle” into what it really was, a “massacre,”
(8) Parry’s personal insights and efforts in the telling the story, Alligning with his third great grandfather Sagwitch’s ways and beliefs.
(9) The story of the January 29, 1863 massacre,
(10) This massacre (1863) in relationship to the Sand Creek Massacre (1864) and the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890),
(11) Discrepancies in accurately counting the Native American dead,
(12) The story and the plans related to the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation’s Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center,
(13) How and why the landscape of the massacre site has changed since 1863 (railroad construction, floods prior to mid-20th c, river course shifting, and canal building)
(14) Financial pledges towards the center by the LDS Church, Utah State Legislature and the Idaho State Legislature,
(15) Changes to the 2021 January 29th commemoration program due to COVID-19 (it will be streamed on-line) and
(16) The back story of the “Battle of Bear River” plaques installed in the 1930s and 1950 (the latter by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers -DUP) and the DUP 2020 decision to remove and replace the plaque in 2021.
Schematic design, floor plan, Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center, AldrichPears Associates (Vancover, B.C.) exhibition designers
Recommended Readings and Audio Sources:
Pick up a copy from your local library, or purchase a copy on Amazon The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone Historyby Darren Parry, (SLC: By Common Consent Press, 2019)
Brigham D. Madsen, The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1985).
Scott R. Christensen, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887, Utah State University Press, 1999. See USU Digital Commons.
Natalie Larsen, “Washakie Township: The Mormon Alternative to Fort Hall (November 23, 2020) ” Intermountain Histories, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU.
Gregory E. Smoak, “The Newe (the People) and the Utah Superintendency [ethnohistorical essay],” in Dale L. Morgan, Shoshonean People and the Overland Trails: Frontiers of the Utah Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1849-1869 edited with an introduction by Richard L Saunders Utah State University Press (Logan, Utah) 1907 p. 33-57.
Read and listen to the podcast What’s Her Name: The Storyteller: Mae Timbimboo Parry (MAY 11, 2020) What’sHerName women’s history podcast is hosted and produced by Dr. Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle.
Read and listen KUER Daysha Eaton’s reporting of Speak Your Piece guest Darren Parry, and U of U professor Paul Reeve and Cultural/Natural Resource Manager for Northwestern Band of Shoshone, Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, regarding the massacre and the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Interpretive Center (Boa Ogoi Center) to be located near the massacre site outside of Preston, Idaho: “Forgotten Shoshone Massacre Story Will Soon Be Told On Grand Scale” (January 31, 2019)
Architects rendering of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center GSBS Architects, Salt Lake City, Utah
Native Languages of the Americas: Shoshone Indian Legends, Myths, and Stories
This is our collection of links to Shoshone folktales and traditional stories that can be read online. We have indexed our Native American mythology section by tribe to make them easier to locate however, variants on the same legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to each other. In particular, though these legends come from the Shoshones, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Comanche and Ute tribes are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Shoshone legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.
Issa/Wolf : Creator and culture hero of Shoshone mythology. Like other figures from the Shoshone mythic age, Wolf is usually represented as a man, but sometimes takes on the literal form of a wolf.
Coyote : Wolf's younger brother, Coyote is a trickster figure. Though he often assists his brother and sometimes even does good deeds for the people, Coyotes behavior is so irresponsible and frivolous that he is constantly getting himself and those around him into trouble.
Nimerigar : A violent race of magical little people who were said to kill and eat people.
Water Baby : Mysterious and dangerous water spirits from the mythology of the Shoshone and other Western Indian tribes, water babies inhabit springs and ponds, and are usually described as water fairies who lead humans to a watery grave by mimicking the sounds of crying babies at night. Sometimes they are said to kill babies and take their place as changelings in order to attack their unsuspecting mothers. Water babies and their eerie cries are considered an omen of death in many Shsohone communities.
Shoshoni Indians. The most northerly division of the Shoshonean family. They formerly occupied west Wyoming, meeting the Ute on the south, the entire central and southern parts of Idaho, except the territory taken by the Bannock, north east Nevada, and a small strip of Utah west of Great Salt lake. The Snake River country in Idaho is, perhaps, to be considered their stronghold. The northern bands were found by Lewis and Clark in 1805, on the headwaters of the Missouri in west Montana, but they had ranged previously farther east on the plains, whence they had been driven into the Rocky Mountains by the hostile Atsina and Siksika, who already possessed firearms. Nowhere had the Shoshoni established themselves on the Columbia, although they reached that river on their raiding excursions.
The origin of the term Shoshoni appears to be unknown. It apparently is not a Shoshoni word, and although the name is recognized by the Shoshoni as applying to themselves, it probably originated among some other tribe. The Cheyenne name for the Comanche, who speak the Shoshoni language, is Shǐshǐnoats-hitäneo, ‘snake people’ but they have a different name for the Shoshoni. The term Snake seems to have no etymological connection with the designation Shoshoni. It has been variously and frequently applied to the northern bands of the Shoshoni, especially those of Oregon. By recent official usage the term Snake has been restricted to the Yahuskin and Walpapi of Oregon. Hoffman was of the opinion that the name Snake comes from a misconception of the sign for Snake Indian, made by a serpentine motion of the hand with the index finger extended. This he thought really has reference to the weaving of the grass lodges of the Shoshoni, a reasonable assumption, since they are known as “grass-house people,” or by some similar name, among numerous tribes.
The more northerly and easterly Shoshoni were horse and buffalo Indians, and in character and in warlike prowess compared favorably with most western tribes. To the west in western Idaho along Snake River and to the south in Nevada the tribes represented a lower type. Much of this country was barren in the extreme and comparatively devoid of large game, and as the nature of the country differed, so did the inhabitants. They depended for food to a large extent on fish, which was supplemented by rabbits, roots, nuts, and seeds. These were the Indians most frequently called “Diggers.” They were also called Shoshokos, or “Walkers,” which simply means that the Indians so called were too poor to possess horses, though the term was by no means restricted to this section, being applied to horseless Shoshoni everywhere.
None of these Shoshoni were agriculturists. In general the style of habitations corresponded to the two types of Shoshoni. In the north and east they lived in tipis, but in the sagebrush country to the west they used brush shelters entirely, and Bonneville found the tribes of Snake River wintering in such shelters without roofs, being merely half circles of brush, behind which they obtained an imperfect protection from wind and snow. There were many dialects among the Shoshoni, corresponding to the greater or less degree of isolation of the several tribes. They presented, however, no essential differences and were all mutually intelligible.
In 1909 there were in Idaho 1,766 Shoshoni and Bannock under the Ft Hall school (of whom 474 had recently been transferred from the old Lemhi res.), and about 200 not under official supervision in Nevada there were 243 under the Western Shoshoni school, and about 750 not under agency or school control In Wyoming, under the Shoshoni school, there were 816, formerly known as Washaki’s band, from its chief. Deducting about 500 Bannock from these figures, the total Shoshoni population approximates 3,250.
Shoshone of Northern Utah
Fifteen years after the Mormon settlers arrived in Utah, their livestock had so overgrazed the native grasses and seeds that the Indians were starving, noted Jacob Hamblin, one of those settlers. The Great Basin was hardly lush to begin with, but indigenous peoples had survived there for centuries. How did they live on the land? And why was the Euro-American way of living so devastating to the native tribes?
Each group of Native Americans survived by adapting to the resources of its own area. Consider the group now called the Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation. Earlier, they called themselves kammitakka, “jackrabbit-eaters,” and lived in northern Utah and southern Idaho. They lived in small and fluid family groups, hunting and gathering scarce resources throughout the spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the small groups gathered together into larger camps in areas that provided cover, timber, and food sources to supplement the foodstuffs they had gathered and stored. Often they wintered near hot springs at Battle Creek near Franklin, Idaho or at Promontory Point or Crystal Springs in Utah, erecting brush or tipi homes.
The Northwestern Shoshones were neighbors to two different groups of Shoshone peoples. Those to the north fished the Snake River drainage and depended heavily on bulbs like bitterroot and camas. The Shoshone in western Utah and eastern Nevada lived in a dryer place, relying on foods like pine nuts, grasses, and desert animals.
The Northwestern Band moved between these two groups–after all, the Shoshones were all close relatives–and used the resources of both areas. They fished Bear Lake and the Bear, Weber, and Snake rivers, using spears, gill nets, and basket traps. They snared or shot waterfowl, grouse, coots, and owls, and they snared small animals like wood rats, muskrats, and squirrels. To cook these, they singed the fur off then roasted the animals whole or stuffed.
Large game required other hunting techniques. Working as a group, hunters might drive deer into brush corrals in narrow canyons. They also hunted mountain sheep, stalking or ambushing them or beating on logs to simulate the rams’ rutting battles.
Men often joined forces to hunt pronghorn antelope. A person who was thought to have spiritual power directed the communal hunts. This shaman would visit the herd, sing to the animals, sleep with them, and help drive them to a brush corral, where they could be shot. Large hunts such as this were only held every five or ten years, however, as it took the antelope population that long to recover.
Other animals used by the Shoshone included beaver, elk, porcupines, mountain lions (rarely), bobcats, hares and rabbits, otters, badgers, marmots, and bears. The hunters often took care to avoid killing female animals, birds and fish during times when the animals would be bearing or caring for their young.
Plants were also critical to survival. The Shoshone ate such diverse plants as thistle stems, sagebrush seeds, the leaves and roots of arrowleaf balsamroot, buffalo berries, limber pine seeds, sego lilies, wild rye seeds, Indian ricegrass, cattails, and much more.
Of all the plant foods, pinyon nuts were the most important. The band usually went to Grouse Creek, in northwestern Utah, to gather the nuts in the fall. After they harvested the green cones, they would roast the cones to release the seeds. They would then parch the shells to make them brittle, crack them with a metate, and winnow the nuts with a fan tray. The parched nuts could be eaten whole or ground to make a warm or cold mush.
The Pinyon Harvest was a time of religious ceremonies, and the people regarded the pinyon-gathering areas as sacred. But the Shoshone apparently approached all of their relationships with the land spiritually. Animals killed were often treated ritually, with their heads placed to the east or their organs set out in the brush or trees the dead animals were addressed with special respect. Plants were harvested with prayers and offering. When digging a root, for instance, a Shoshone might leave a small stone or bead in the hole.
According to anthropologists, Great Basin peoples regarded animals and plants as powerful agents that could help or hurt the people. Certain plants–sagebrush, for instance–were used ritually. It was crucially important to the Shoshone to maintain a harmonious relationship between the natural and human worlds. Prayers of petition and thanks, then, were part of everyday life.
These attitudes still persist among many. In 1980 a fieldworker interviewing Western Shoshones for an MX missile environmental impact study wrote that the people had a high attachment to and reverence for the land. The interviewees described the sacred sites on the land but would not identify them, fearing that the sites would be disturbed. They also spoke against the impacts of the MX missile system, saying that “When the is sick, the people are sick.” In the Shoshone view, wrote the fieldworker, the land, water, fish, and fisherman are all holy.
In the past, there was no ownership of land among the Shoshonean people all Shoshones had a right to its resources and all had a stake in keeping well. But the end of this way of life, with its seasonal migrations and small-group cooperation, began when Mormon settlers moved onto the traditional Northwestern Shoshone lands. Also, emigrants hunting and grazing their livestock along the Oregon Trail decimated food sources and polluted streams.
To fill the gap, some Shoshones turned to begging, stealing food, or raiding livestock, acts that they saw as “collecting rent.” Others became more violent, killing Euro-Americans in retaliation. But in the long run these strategies could not sustain the band. The Anglos reached their own goal–to permanently remove the Indians from settlement lands–far more efficiently. The Bear River Massacre was on part of the “solution” to the “Indian problem.”
Another was to move the band onto a 1,700-acre farm at Washakie, in northern Utah, in 1875. There, the people who had successfully hunted and gathered for centuries were taught to build permanent houses and to farm. They learned a different way to live on the land, and although they held on to some aspects of traditional life, in essence they had to give up their own culture and adopt much of the worldview of their conquerors.
With the band relocated onto farms at Washakie, it was not very long before the traditional Shoshone lifeways on the land had disappeared forever.