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THE WIND RIVER RESERVATION


The Wind River Reservation serves as the contemporary home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. The reservation covers more than 2.2 million acres in central Wyoming's beautiful Wind River Basin. The Wind River Basin, the traditional home of the Shoshones for centuries, is called "The Warm Valley of the Wind River" by its native inhabitants. The reservation is the third largest in the United States.

Under their leader, Chief Washakie, the Eastern Shoshone people were established on the reservation under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868. The Northern Arapaho, under their leaders Black Coal, Sharp Nose, Little Wolf, and White Horse, settled on the reservation beginning in 1877. Their Southern Arapaho relatives were moved with the Southern Cheyenne to a reservation in western Oklahoma, where their descendants remain today.

While the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho tribes shared the buffalo-hunting tradition of the Great Plains, they did not share the same culture. The history of the Wind River Reservation, then, has been a story of struggle and cooperation. The Eastern Shoshone Indians have settlements at Fort Washakie, Wind River, and Crowheart in the northern and western parts of the reservation. The Northern Arapaho Indians have settlements at Ethete, Arapahoe, and St. Stephens in the southeastern part.

The Wind River Reservation is significant among Indian reservations in the United States because it is the only reservation in the U.S. that occupies lands chosen by the tribe compelled to live there. Chief Washakie, famed chief of the Shoshone, signed the treaty which established the reservation in 1868. Though a courageous leader in battle, renowned for his legendary victory over a rival Crow chief atop Crow Heart Butte (pictured), Washakie was also a wise peacemaker who negotiated successfully for a reservation on the tribe's historic lands. He understood that to save his people and preserve the legacy of the Shoshone it was wiser to negotiate from a position of relative strength than to fight against the encroaching settlers and risk ceding the tribe's birthplace to the white man.

For the Northern Arapaho, the Wind River Country was also favorable, much more so than the harsh Oklahoma landscape that their southern brothers would be required to settle. Black Coal, one of the Arapaho chiefs when the Northern Arapaho began moving to Wind River in 1877, told the government in that year:

Our tribe held three councils before I came away and we all agreed that if you would give us good land - we are a small tribe - we will be happy. We would like to join the Snakes (Shoshone).

The Wind River Reservation is the resting place for two famous members of the Shoshone tribe: Chief Washakie and Sacajewea, the young woman who helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition through Shoshone lands in 1804. (Sacajewea's grave is pictured right.) While Sacajewea has been honored recently on the new dollar coin being minted in Denver and Philadelphia, Chief Washakie will be honored this year with a statue in the U.S. Capitol. It will represent the state of Wyoming in National Statuary Hall.

The Wind River Indian Reservation is one of Wyoming's great historical, cultural, and natural treasures. Visitors to the reservation can tour the graves of Washakie and Sacajawea and see other historical sites like Crow Heart Butte in the northern part of the reservation. They can visit cultural centers, fish 1,100 miles of world-renowned streams and 265 lakes, or tour the reservation and visit with the locals. Several Native American powwows held on the reservation during the spring and summer months draw visitors and members of tribes from across the country.

http://thomas.senate.gov/html/body_windriver.html


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Last modified: May 21, 2003