Jackie McNeel

10 Things You Should Know About the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation

Jack McNeel

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are located at Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho, just north of Pocatello. Fort Hall originated in 1834 as a trading post for trappers and later as a way station for travelers headed to Oregon and California. The old fort has now disappeared but the site remains on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the site and reservation can be arranged at the tribal museum.

 The reservation was established in 1867 and confirmed in the Fort Bridger Treaty a year later. The Bannock Wars began in 1878 when settlers and their livestock began impeding upon the natural resources the tribes relied on for subsistence. Their hunting and gathering activities were also greatly impacted by the Oregon, California, and Lander Trails. The government opposed allowing tribal members to leave the reservation for hunting and gathering activities, despite the agreements specified in the Fort Bridger Treaty.  A year later the tribes were forced to cede 1,800 acres as Pocatello expanded and later had to give up another 4,200 acres as Pocatello continued to grow. Reservation acreage now totals 544,000 acres and the population is approaching 6,000.

An ancient ancestor of the tribes was Buhla whose grave was disturbed near Thousand Springs along the Snake River. She was repatriated under the Native American Graves Repatriation Act in 1997 and was determined to be 12,750 years old, positive proof that Native American people have occupied this area since time immemorial.

The Great Bannock Trail began at Camas Prairie and ran through the present reservation, eastward into Montana and Yellowstone country. A number of tribes used the trail on their eastward travels to the buffalo herds of Montana and Yellowstone. A sometimes uneasy truce existed between the various tribes. This trail only lasted for about 40 years, ending about 1878 as buffalo became scarce and the Bannock Wars began, but despite that remnants of the trail are still visible. Portions of the Nez Perce Trail also followed this pathway established by the Shoshone and Bannock people.

In January 1863 the deadliest massacre of Native Americans in the history of the U.S. occurred. The Bear River Massacre, just north of what is now the Utah border, left a massive number of Shoshone people dead. Estimates range upwards over 300 and include a large number of women and children. This exceeded the number killed at Wounded Knee and other notable massacres but was less known because the country was embroiled in the Civil War at the time and Bear River was largely overlooked. This was also one of the trigger points to the Bannock War. The site is visited annually by the Shoshone and Bannock tribes.

Visitors are welcome to join such annual activities as the Shoshone-Bannock Festival, the Agai-Dika, Boise, and Bannock Gathering, and Shoshonean Reunion. The rich history can also be viewed at the tribal museum near the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Events Center.

A number of people were involved in determining the list of 10 things others should know about the tribe. Among them were members of the Business Council, tribal staff from the Public Relations Department and also from the Language and Cultural Preservation Department, particularly Leah Hardy and Leo Ariwite.

These two provided explanation for each of the 10 items which were selected.

Sovereign Nation – “The Shoshone-Bannock Tribe is a sovereign nation, practicing its inherent and self-governing rights under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, a distinctive Treaty which allows its members to exercise their inherent rights on and off the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.”

Three Distinct Tribes – The Language and Culture staff explained that the reservation is comprised of three different Tribes: the Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheepeater Band. “Their ancestral territories extended north into Canada and south into Mexico and extending as far east as Missouri.”

Size and Location –“The Fort Hall Reservation is located in southeastern Idaho and comprises 544,000 acres. The Fort Hall Reservation still serves as a major intersection for the Pacific Northwest.” Highway 15 passes through Fort Hall northward toward Glacier N.P. and on into Alberta while Highway 86 heads south and west and joins with Highway 84 through Boise to Portland, Oregon. “Despite the growth of neighboring communities, Fort Hall remains an environmentally protected homeland for its residents and wildlife.”

Birthplace of Sacajawea “We are the descendents of Sacajawea and High Eagle (Old Toby), Agai-Dika Shoshones. They were crucial figures in the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804,” Agai-Dika is the preferred name but they are also sometimes referred to as Lemhi Shoshone, a name given them by Mormon missionaries who arrived in 1855. Tribute to Sacajawea and her people can be found at the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho.

Wagon Trails –  “The landmark impressions of the Oregon, Lander, and California Trails are still visible today on the Fort Hall Reservation. Fort Hall was the way station for the wagon trains heading into the west for settlements, mining and trapping.” This western expansion greatly affected the lifestyles of the Shoshone and Bannock people.

First “Purple Heart Reservation” – The Fort Hall Reservation received the recognition of being the first “Purple Heart Reservation” in the United States. This is part of a system of monuments which pay tribute to those who were awarded purple hearts. The Fort Hall honor was announced December 30, 2015 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Tribal Council – Seven elected council members oversee the day-to-day governing operations and represent the five districts. Each member regularly meets with one of the five districts to provide information while also receiving feedback for the council itself. Blaine Edmo, now in his seventh term on council, presently serves as Tribal Chairman.

Agriculture and Business Enterprises – The tribes have a thriving agricultural community in addition to several economic enterprises.  These include three gas stations, three casinos, one luxury hotel and event center, a grocery store, a post office, four schools, and administrative departments to provide for the membership.

Beadwork and Buckskin – “We are well recognized for our museum quality beadwork and craftwork.” This is well exhibited during the largest outdoor annual gathering in Southeastern Idaho, called the Shoshone-Bannock Festival, which is held the second week of August at the pow wow arbor. Additional information can be obtained at the festival website. The gift shop in the Shoshone Bannock Hotel also offers a wide selection of beadwork plus brain tanned buckskin for sale.

Major economic contributor – A research economist at the University of Idaho prepared a report on the financial impacts the tribes have on Idaho’s economy during the 2013-14 years. “According to this economic impact study, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe generated more than 4,400 jobs and added $400 million annually to eastern Idaho’s economy.” The study also pointed out that the 110,000 acres of agricultural lands owned by the tribes and individual Indians on the reservation produces an estimated $125 million annually in direct crop revenues.

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