Washakie – Last Chief of the Eastern Shoshone

– [Woman] Your support helps
us bring you programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org,
click on support, and become a sustaining
member or an annual member. It’s easy and secure, thank you. (drumming) (horses neighing) (patriotic melody) – [Man] Unusual ability,
sterling character, eloquent at the Council Fire, sagacious in planning campaigns,
and fearless in warfare. – [Man] For 50 years, as
chief of the Shoshones, he has held the confidence
and love of his tribe. – [Man] The memory of his
love for his own people, remembers to assists
them in their troubles, and he will never be forgotten so long as the mountains
and streams of Wyoming, which were his
home, bear his name. – [Man] There’s always
been that reverence among people for him, no matter
which group they come from. He’s just sometimes
referred to as the old man. (man speaking in
foreign language) – [Narrator] History has
many ways of remembering, the written word, the
story by the campfire, the statue by the battlefield, the legacy of Washakie, the last chief of the
Eastern Shoshone, is a place, the Wind River
Indian Reservation, a vast track of
beautiful landscape that stretches from the rushing
water of Wind River Canyon, west around a broad
fertile valley, and up amidst blue alpine lakes to the peaks of the
continental divide. After a life that spanned
an entire century, this is where
Washakie was buried. He had been a warrior, a
leader, and a diplomat, and now he rested in the soil
he had secured for his people, but his story began
hundreds of miles away in another high valley
far to the north. Washakie, who would
become a great chief of the Eastern Shoshone,
was born among another tribe in the Bitterroot Mountains at the beginning of
the 19th century. – This is the homeland and this is the place where
we gather all of our roots, all the plants,
everything was here. – [Narrator] His father was
a member of the Salish tribe, known to some as the Flathead. His mother was a Lemhi Shoshone of a band that fished for
salmon in what is now Idaho. – [Man] The
Bitterroot Salish here used to travel over the mountain
into the Lemhi Shoshones, they were allies,
blood brothers. Nobody would make
you as an outcast because you had a Shoshone way. – [Narrator] The Salish and
the Shoshone of 200 years ago knew intimately the
valleys and lakes and peaks of the Northern Rockies. They knew where
the buffalo were, where their enemies were, the spiritual places. They did not know
where France was, but they had met
French trappers. They did not know who
the president was, though he ostensibly ruled even the unmapped country
of the American west. They could not know what
incredible changes lay ahead. The Shoshone homelands
and the entire continent would be utterly changed in
the century of Washakie’s life. President Thomas Jefferson
sent Lewis and Clark in 1804 to explore the
Louisiana Purchase from St. Louis to
the west coast. They were followed by
a flood of immigrants who marveled at the wild
promising world of the west. For the Americans already in
the west, the Native Americans, the newcomers unsettled
everything and made
the world wild. – When the white man came,
they came from another world, another hemisphere, that
they lived in a long time, so they lived their way and
we lived our way over here and they weren’t the same. Well, when they came here, they brought their
diseases with them. – [Narrator] New
diseases like smallpox from which few
Indians had immunity, the introduction of the
horse and the rifle, and the beginning of
the destructive harvest of wild game in the west. The tide of American empire,
a great movement of immigrants compressing the native tribes until they were
fighting with each other and with the US military,
all in just a century. A collision of utterly
different cultures vying for the land and
the heart of a new nation. (native music) There are no surviving stories of Washakie’s childhood
among the Salish, but we know that as an
Indian boy of that time, he would be an experienced
hunter at an early age. He might’ve gone
on a vision quest to gain strength and guidance. – When they start walking, they’re always getting
their discipline, they’re getting
their discipline. Up to 10 years old, they were
in the care of their mothers. After 10 years old, they
become into the hands of their uncles or their
fathers to take, to train ’em. – [Narrator] The Salish were
a relatively peaceful people, but they found themselves
fighting over hunting grounds and horses with the
Blackfeet from the north. A skirmish with a band
of Blackfeet set off a chain of events that would
lead Washakie to the Shoshone. – And when his family, they
was up that way towards Montana and they happened to
run into the Blackfeet and they killed his dad. – [Narrator] Young Washakie
survived the attack. – He said a man came to him and he said when he
got up he told him he was gonna be a leader. He said that the
man disappeared. He said he had a bright
light around him. He looked over this hill there and there was some
riders coming. He said, “I could
understand these people.” He said, “I could
understand these men, “They were speaking
my mother’s language.” The leader. He said, “I’m gonna take
him, he’s gonna help me. “He’s strong,” he said, “Look
at him, he’s still standing.” – [Narrator] The
boy found a new home among the Lemhi Shoshone. The Lemhi were one of
many Shoshone bands throughout the west, ranging
from the deserts of Utah to California and
north to Canada. – All of the 24 different
bands of Shoshone spoke the same language. The only difference in speaking
the language is the dialect. If communication
became a problem, then there was also the
Indian sign language. – [Narrator] Washakie
was fully accepted among the Lemhi Shoshone and trained as a
warrior and hunter. – Young children are
treated as adults. If they wanted their
child to be a war leader, they were spiritually trained to use the mind to endure pain. – [Narrator] As a young man, he also ran with a Bannock band. The Bannocks shared
the Snake River country with the Shoshone. The more aggressive
young Bannocks sometimes raided
immigrant travelers and there are stories that
Washakie participated. – That’s where he really
sharpened his skills was with the Bannocks
as far as a warrior, you’re growing to adulthood, from that I think
the Bannocks were, they like to fight. The Shoshones, they would fight, but the Bannocks seemed
to do a lot more of it as the history
records will show. (tribal drumming) – [Reader] The first
fight, I was a boy. There was eight in the
party, all were on foot. We went until we found
five lodges of Blackfeet. We crawled up and
gut their horses. We killed several Blackfeet. Washakie, 1893. – [Narrator] It was
during this period that he received the name
we know today, Washakie. – Some people will say
it’s Rawhide Rattle. To the Big Wind people or to the people in the
area that I grew up, it actually was in
reference to the scar. – The Shoshone name for
that rattle is waushakie, the migrators that
come in interpreted that waushakie into Washakie. And right there’s where
they called him Washakie. – He would have a rattle
that he made from a buffalo and what he would do is when
he would go into battle, he would shake it, so that
it would spook the horses, and they would think that
it was a rattlesnake. – [Narrator] But his
destiny was to be a leader and that would happen
among the Eastern Shoshone in the Wind River Valley. The bands of Shoshone that
would eventually unite under Washakie were
skilled at survival in very difficult environments, from the dry basins of Utah to the big rivers of
what is now Idaho. Some other tribes refer
to them with a hand sign. – The sign in the sign
language of the plains tribes for the Shoshone was the snake, that was a sign of respect
for the Shoshone people, but it also was an indication that the Shoshone
people were very capable of outmaneuvering other tribes. – [Narrator] Archeological
digs suggest Shoshonian people inhabited the fringes of the
Rocky Mountain cordillera for thousands of years. The Shoshone language
connects the tribe to the Indians of
central America such as the ancient Aztecs. Among North American tribes, the Shoshone are related closely to the Paiutes and
Utes of the Great Basin and to the Comanche, who became one of the
most powerful tribes in the American southwest. It was from the Comanche,
their relatives to the south, that the Shoshone first
obtained Spanish horses, probably early in
the 18th century. – They didn’t have
words for horses. They called them big
elk, shunka, big dog, and they changed the
life of all the tribes and it also made
the Shoshone people very strong in the field. – [Narrator] The Shoshone
became much more mobile traveling north to
Canada, south to Mexico, and across the Rockies to reach the huge bison
herds to the east. They became the most powerful
tribe on the northern plains. – When the plains
tribes acquired horses, their cultures flourished
at an unimaginable rate because their lives were so
simplified in so many way, where before they’d spend
all their time hunting for survival on foot. – [Narrator] During this
brief period of glory and prosperity on the
plains in the 18th century, the distinct character of the
Eastern Shoshone took shape. Now, other more powerful
forces would begin closing in and a new kind of
leadership would emerge. – Another force from the east
came and this was the gun. Eventually, all the
tribes got horses and all the tribes got guns. When that happened,
all the forces because of the reputation of
the Shoshones, the Snakes, they allied and they began to
push the Snakes out of Canada and they pushed them back down
into Montana, into Wyoming. – [Narrator] To politicians
like Thomas Jefferson, the west offered space,
a vast empty repository where you could send
restless pioneers and Indian tribes from the east. But as more Indians
were pushed west and more Whites moved in,
the pressure was immense. Indians struggled to figure
out their new neighbors because their lives
depended on it. They spoke a language
few Indians understood. They were protected by
the well-armed troops who seemed to think
the land was theirs. Into this tumult
stepped Washakie, a tall striking figure
whose broad experience prepared him as a
new kind of leader for a new era in the west. His leadership was evident
not just to the Shoshone, but to the non-Indians as well. – [Reader] He was a
man born to command, having strength and
dignity, endurance, and a countenance
expressive of fine character and determination, Elizabeth
Burt, army wife, 1865. – [Narrator] Strangers saw
these attractive qualities in Washakie at an early age. As a young man, after his time
with the Lemhi and Bannocks, he hooked up with
white trappers. – Washakie said in
an interview in 1893 with Captain Patrick Henry
Ray, who was an Indian agent, that he met Jim Bridge
soon after Bridger made his entry into this
country, that occurred in 1824, so we can probably
assume that Washakie met Jim Bridger 1825-26,
somewhere in there, which was the dates of
the first rendezvous. – [Narrator] Washakie’s
friendship with Bridger may have played a role
in his rise to power among the Eastern Shoshone, proof he could communicate with
the ever increasing Whites. – Great leaders of people
come up through the ranks. In them days, you
had to have power, and to me, power comes
in at least two forms. One is physical power
and you had to be strong, physically strong and brave. The other one is spiritual and that is
something within you, the important thing was how
you related to your people and your relationship
to the one above, so I think a combination of
them things makes for a leader. – There’s nothing
that’s hereditary about, in our tribe, it’s a
matter of people’s choice of who they wanna follow. A group of people are
willing to follow you because you’re able to
make those decisions, it’s earned, it’s
a title of respect. As far as skills, you know you talk
about some of those being able to just meet
the needs of the tribe by knowing where game is or to set up a defense
if they’re attacked or even to attack some of those that have come into the area. – We know from Washakie’s
interview with Captain Ray that he went on at
least seven raids. The first two or three,
Washakie is a follower, somebody else is
leading these raids. By the third or fourth raid,
Washakie is the leader. So, this demonstrates
that he was following that Shoshone pattern of
movement into prominence. He was noticed
first as a young boy who then gain some notoriety
as a leader of raids. – They wanted to put Washakie
through a certain ceremonies where they cut their fingers to make blood and they marked on his, the chief’s body, and then the chief
marked his on his, so they become blood brothers. – Washakie comes into the
written record in the 1840s and this is when Osborne
Russell mentioned that Washakie was one of
the rising young warriors who was well known
for his prowess in battles against
the Blackfeet. – [Reader] The village of
the Snake chief, Moh-woomba, already amounted to
more than 300 lodges and moreover, he was supported by the bravest men in the nation among whom were Ink-a-tosh-a
pop, Fibe-be-un-to-wat-see, and Washakie, who were
the pillars of a nation, and at whose names the
Blackfeet quaked in fear. Osborne Russell. – [Narrator] The
years that followed were a most difficult time
for the Shoshone Indians. They were beset on all sides, white immigrants to the south, Blackfeet and Crow to the
north, Sioux from the east, the Utes to the west, and
now Mormons moving into Utah. With game diminishing, many tribes coveted
the hunting grounds of the Wind River
and Big Horn basins. The Fort Laramie
negotiations of 1851 were the first major
attempt by the US government to settle matters with the
powerful plains tribes, the Sioux, the Cheyenne,
the Arapaho, the Crow. It was Jim Bridger,
Washakie’s trapper friend, who convinced the Shoshone
that they should be at this treaty meeting, too. The Shoshone hesitated
before entering the open country
of their enemies. There had been trouble with
the Sioux only days before. When they finally did arrive, it was with a great
show of strength. – [Reader] They were
dressed in their best, riding fine war horses, and made a grandly
savage appearance. The chief alone a short
distance in advance. A Sioux sprang upon his
horse bow and arrows in hand and rushed towards Washakie. The chief moved a
few steps farther and raised his gun ready to fire just as the reckless Sioux was pulled from his
horse and disarmed. The attitude of the Snakes, the cool deliberate
action of the chief, the staunch firmness
of his warriors, and the quiet demeanor
of women and children who were perfectly
Percival Lowe, Dragoon. – When I think about the things that my grandmother directly
knew about what happened, she said, “Your grandfather
said that he rode in, “there was a lot
of enemies there, “but they didn’t do anything.” She said he was ready because this is where
he wanted to live. She said, “Your grandfather
took some of his men, “they would go out and
they’d practice a battle,” that everybody in the
camp was real quiet. They knew something
was coming up. Sometimes you would put
on your best regalia. if you weren’t gonna come back. He wasn’t afraid. None of his men were afraid. – [Reader] My chief
would’ve killed him quick and then them fool Sioux
would’ve got their backs up and there wouldn’t
have been enough room to camp around here
for dead Sioux. It’ll be a proud
day for the Snakes if any of the prairie
tribes pitch into ’em and they’re not a bit afraid. Awful brave fellows,
these Snakes, Jim Bridger. – When Washakie dealt with the
Whites in the 1840s and 50s, he dealt with the Whites
from a position of power. He regarded them as,
probably less than his equal because they were very
weak out here on the plains and in the Rocky
Mountains at that time. – [Narrator] But when the treaty
at Fort Laramie was signed, there was no mark
of Washakie on it. The Wind River Country
belonged to the Crows. Washakie was, in fact, at his
most powerful during the 1850s despite the army’s
attempt to undermine him. His people moved
about in eastern Utah, the Fort Bridger area,
the Green River country, and the Wind River Valley. – The Shoshone, every few years,
would continue a tradition that went back
several generations of all the different bands
from Oregon to Wyoming gathering in one place and at this time, they would
have like a supreme chief, I guess we would call them, and 1856, according to some
of the early historians, Washakie was that chief. The Crow controlled
the northern end of the Wind River Valley and there were fights between
them and the Shoshone. – The Battle of Two
Hearts or Crowheart Butte as it’s often known took
place about 1852 to 1857 as near as we can tell from
the documentary sources and based on oral
traditions as well. The battle came out
primarily because of federal meddling
in Indian affairs, namely the Treaty of
Fort Laramie in 1851. This treaty ignored the fact
that the Shoshone Sheepeaters had lived in the mountains
of the Wind Rivers in the Yellowstone area
for a long, long time and that Chief
Washakie’s Shoshones often traveled through
the Wind River, hunted there, used it
to get to other places. – [Narrator] In
a popular version of the Crowheart Butte story, Washakie and Big Robber
settled the tribe differences in hand to hand combat. The image of the two warriors
fighting atop Crowheart Butte has become wild west legend. The real story is
debated among historians, Crows, and Shoshone. – As I was told when
I was a little girl, was that the Battle
of Crowheart Butte did not actually happen
at Crowheart Butte. A group of Crow hunters had
come down and stole some horses from the Shoshone
people at their camp, and Chief Washakie
and the Shoshone chased the Crows as
far as Mexican Pass where the recovered the horses, but while they were
there, they did fight, and some Crows were killed. And the ones that
survived were sent back with half of their scalps intact as a message to the Crow people that the Shoshones
weren’t to be messed with. – When he challenged
that Crow chief, he said, “I’m gonna cut
your heart out and eat it.” When that battle was
over, he killed him, and they said he held
his heart on a lance. At the battle and rode with it. – And my dad used to say
that he did take his heart. My grandmother said he ate it. Between the two, I’d say
there’s some truth to it. – [Narrator] From this
battle, everyone agrees Washakie emerged
with a Crow wife. To her descendants,
that’s indisputable. – My great
grandmother was a Crow that Chief Washakie took as, it was actually his last wife. Well, you have to take something and women are always the best
unless it’s a good horse. – [Narrator] But
the real struggle of the mid-19th century
for the Shoshone as well as other
tribes on the plains and in the west
was for sustenance. The game that had sustain
them for centuries had been wiped out in just
a few devastating years. – [Reader] Game enough
could not be found for Indians to
subsist for one year. In my opinion, reservations
should be made without delay. Jacob Forney, superintendent
of Indian Affairs, Utah territory. – [Narrator] Even Washakie,
who consistently made overtures of peace toward
the US government, protested the impact
of the settlers on the land and wildlife. – [Reader] This is my country
and my people’s country. My father lived here and
he drank from this river and our ponies grazed
on these bottoms. Our mothers gathered the
dry wood from this land. The buffalo and elk came here
to drink water and eat grass, but now they have been killed
or drive back out of our land. The grass is all eaten off by the white man’s
horses and cattle, and the dry wood has been burned and sometimes when our
young men had been hunting and got tired and
hungry would have come to the white man’s camp and
had been ordered to get out. – [Narrator] In his anger,
Washakie made some threats, but he repeatedly pressed
Indian agents for a reservation. He wanted to live in peace. – Wyoming, at that time,
was the last best place, the last largely
unsettled region, and not only was it
Shoshone home territory and had been for
hundreds of years, but now all these other tribes were trying to
move into the area. The Sioux especially, as the largest and most
powerful of those tribes, was overtly hostile, and they were dedicated to
driving the Shoshones back through South Pass into the
Great Basin to eat crickets. – [Narrator] With
his large horse herd and his hold on
valuable hunting lands, Washakie knew the Sioux
coveted his wealth, but his band was caught largely
by surprise in their camp along the Sweetwater River
by a Sioux war party. – [Guenther] In
mid-June of 1861, the Shoshones under
Washakie were camped at the site we call
Burnt Ranch today. At the time, it was a trading
post called Gilbert Station at the last crossing
of the Sweetwater. On the morning of June the 20th, one of the longest
days of the year, the older women were as
usual getting up early and beginning to light
the cooking fires
outside the teepees and prepared breakfast, when the sun was rising
over the bluff camp, between 100 and 200 Sioux,
Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors appeared with the
sun at their backs and the Sioux thundered
through the camp and waving in
between the teepees and they were stealing
all the tethered horses, it was a village under attack. – [Narrator] The theft of
horses was a major loss, but more devastating to Washakie was what happened to his
oldest son, Nau-nang-gai. – [Gruenther] Nau-nang-gai
rode into camp with the other warriors
from Gilbert Station where they’d spent the night, Washakie berated this young man. Called him an old woman, said, “What are you
doing riding into camp “after our enemies
have attacked and fled? “Why aren’t you chasing
them out there?” Nau-nang-gai went to his
horse and charged out of camp and up the hill alone. According to one of
the written records of the traders who
witnessed the whole battle, says he had a colts
revolver in each hand and he shot down
one Sioux on on side and another Sioux
on the other side before the remaining
Sioux warriors crossed their
lances in his body. And Washakie always felt
that his hasty words had led Nau-nang-gai to
ride out so impetuously. In addition to losing his son for which he supposedly
mourned four days and his hair turned white, his village was also
now in mortal danger. – [Narrator] Washakie
described as despondent removed his band to Green
River lakes and waited. Indian agents, ever
watchful and often wrong, tried to size up the situation. – One of the misconceptions
that the Euro-American tradition has about Indian leadership
is that there was this military organization
where one person had authority over all
the rest of the members of the tribe or the band. Shoshone leadership takes
place within the context of band or family affiliation. If there are disagreements, it’s okay for somebody
to go elsewhere. – [Narrator] The size of
Washakie’s band fluctuated. There were other Shoshone chiefs like Pashigo and Bear Hunter, and aggressive Bannocks who
were drawing away young warriors from the aging chief. – That was certainly the lowest
point in Washakie’s career and they reeled literally
back through South Pass, passed Fort Bridger even, clear down into the
Salt Lake Valley until Washakie could begin
to try and put some kind of power structure back together, and that really didn’t
occur until January of 1863 at the Bear River Massacre. – [Narrator] One of
the worst massacres of the war against
Native Americans
occurred at Bear River. Responding to reports of raids
by Shoshone Bannock bands along the Idaho-Utah border, Colonel Patrick Connor and
the 3rd California Volunteers made a surprise attack
on a Shoshone encampment along the Bear River. Two hundred Indians were killed including women and children. Newspaper accounts never
told the Indian story. – [Reader] The carnage present
in the ravine was horrible. Warrior piled on
warrior, horses mangled and wounded in every
conceivable form. With here and there, a squaw
and papoose who had been accidentally killed,
San Francisco Bulletin. – Well, there was a
woman, an elder woman, and she told her
little grandson, “Let’s go out there
and lay among the dead “and maybe our lives
will be spared.” And from there, they
saw the entire massacre. The ice on the river was red. The snow was bright red with
the blood of wounded people. – [Narrator] Subdued survivors
of the massacre at Bear River rejoined Washakie’s band. The chief had been right, a small tribe had no chance against the might
of the US military. It was time to negotiated. – He wasn’t going
to be able to stop the movement of the Whites. He understood that he needed to develop an alliance
with the white people and with the military
in order to secure the safety of his people. – And he’d achieve
that in several of the other smaller tribes. Washakie thought they were
in the same condition. So, when they were there and they saw this
new mighty force coming that numbered as many as
leaves on the prairie, untold numbers of newcomers, so they made sure that they
were allies with this new force because maybe they saw
the writing on the teepee. – [Narrator] At Fort
Bridger in 1863, the US government offered the
Shoshone a vast reservation stretching from the
Wind River Mountains, north to the Snake River, south
to Utah’s Uinta Mountains, and west to some undefined
border near the Great Salt Lake. This was not the sort
of barren unwanted tract from which reservations
were usually made. – So, 1863 treaty was much larger, it encompassed a lot of things that our tribe needed. – [Reader] The importance
of these treaties to the government
and to its citizens can only be appreciated by those who know the value of
the continental telegraph and overland stage to the
commercial and mercantile world and to the safety and security which peace alone can provide
to the emigrant trains and to the travel of the
gold discoveries to the north which exceed in richness any
discoveries on this continent. James Duane Doty, commissioner
of Indian Affairs, 1863. – [Narrator] The
government’s motives weren’t purely generous. They saw a Shoshone
reservation as a buffer to keep the aggressive
Sioux and others from attacking emigrants
as they headed west. Stabilizing the region
that connected the coast of a country divided
by civil war, but the huge Shoshone
reservation was poorly defined and five years later, another treaty council
was held at Fort Bridger. – They were all
called to Fort Bridger to talk about a treaty. They was given a chance to pick the reservation where
they wanted it to be and they went round in through Pinedale and through there and
all that territory and that’s where they was at, “Too much wind,” they said, went down into
Jackson, too much doe, then they went further on down where they always go for winter, “Everything’s there that
we need,” they said, so they picked this place
here, made a treaty for it, all the old fellas,
their names is there. – [Reader] I want for my home
the valley of the Wind River and lands on its tributaries
as far as east as the Popoagie and want the privilege of
going over the mountains to hunt where I
please, Washakie. – Chief Washakie chose this
area because of the vast beauty, because of its vast
abundance of wild game. We have the water which
provided fish for the people and an area for
camps to be set up. Now our primary
source of revenue is generated by the
minerals of this land. In retrospect, Chief
Washakie is still looking out for the people here
on the reservation. – He and his council members
got to choose the reservation, so they chose a land
that they knew well and was rich in
natural resources. – I see the 1868 treaty
as another attempt, on the part of Washakie
not only to secure one of the last remaining
refuges of the buffalo and a food supply,
which he knew, but also the government
must’ve felt very good about moving the
Shoshone and other people away from the critical passage
through southern Wyoming. The idea of moving them into
the Wind River territory, that became a perfect
place for a reservation. So here, government and
Shoshone interests coincided. – [Narrator] Washakie again showed his skill
at negotiations. In the second treaty, he
demanded military assistance, food, and clothing,
and firm boundaries defining three million
acre reservation that included the
Wind River Valley. It also encompassed South Pass where the Oregon
Trail passed through and the high Wind
River Mountain country with its hundreds of lakes
and herds of elk and deer. Washakie is often quoted
speaking with a confident air of an absolute leader. His command seemed
to come naturally, but what sort of man was
he when he stood beside you and spoke with you and
showed his feelings? these are hard things to know
across the gulf of history. – My grandfather is the
son of Chief Washakie. My grandmother that raised me was a daughter-in-law
of Chief Washakie and she took care of him. To the last days of his life. The thing that I
always thought about that grandmother told me was
he had a good spirit about him and he prayed. He was able to lead his people
because of his spirituality, because he believed
in the creator. The man that took him when he
was a boy was the same way. He was the one that was given
the Shoshone sun dance now. Ohamagwaya. So, Chief Washakie knew about
the sun dance and he sang. – He carried a
pipe all the time. He went to the
medicine wheel first, then he prayed and
got his directions, where to go, to go down a
get one of those stones you fix a pipe out of. It is known that they
use it for prayers and the older Indians,
they believed in it, that way to get connections
with the Great Spirit. – [Narrator] He seemed quite
capable of irony and sly humor. When a group of
Mormons suggested that they would like to take
young Shoshone women as brides, Washakie thought a
moment, then he said, “Fine and we will
be over to your camp “to select women for ourselves.” In 1874, a young schoolteacher
named James Patton accompanied Washakie
on a hunting trip in the Owl Creek Mountains. There, among his people, we
find a man well into his 70s, still full of
vigor and vitality. – [Reader] Huge fires were
burning throughout the camp, harangues were made
by the old men, incantations made
by medicine men, drums were beaten,
a rattle shaken. Washakie himself
seemed on this wild and weird camping ground
like another being. His voice loud and clear
rang out on the night air as he addressed his people. His face lighted up and
caused great enthusiasm among the young and the old as they joined in singing
their old war hunting songs and the drums beat louder as one and then another of the
old men took to speech, enumerating a victory here
and there over their enemies, their own bravery, and
their success on the hunt. James Patton,
schoolteacher, 1874. – [Narrator] That would be
one of Washakie’s last hunts. The bison, already wiped
out in most of the west, would soon be gone
from the Wind River and Big Horn Basin, too. The era of reservation
life had begun. An experiment in which
neither the US government nor the tribes knew
what to expect. For the Eastern Shoshone, the adjustment from
their old nomadic life to a settled community
was difficult. They hung back near
Fort Bridger at first, fearing that they would be
attacked by their enemies if they settled
permanently at Wind River. – After the treaty of 1868, it took ’em a couple of years
to actually move over here and the expectation was
that they would move here and the United States
would guarantee a physician for medical purposes,
education for their children, food, things that they needed, and that they would actually
learn to become farmers. Those were their expectations, they would be
protected from attacks – [Narrator] The
enormous Sioux tribe often allied itself with
Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors. In a sense, the Shoshones
relationship with the US army was a similar alliance
for mutual defense, but often in the early
years on the reservation, the tribe had to
take care of itself. Washakie and his war
chiefs were up to the task when the Sioux,
Cheyenne, and Arapaho attacked at Trout Creek. – They had a little block
house where they could put the government and military
dependents, wives and children, but really there was no place to put the women and children
of the Shoshone tribes, so what they did was they
actually took ’em west up Trout Creek and hid ’em because they had advanced
notice on that battle, they was able to set their
teepees up a long a ridge and actually dig down
inside the teepees and set the teepees up high where you could see out of them. There was warriors
with rifles and bows and they were inside
those teepees, dug down much like you
would probably dig a foxhole and they were able to shoot
out from under those teepees, and kill quite a few. What they didn’t kill,
they chased towards Caspar. – [Narrator] Shoshone
warriors sometimes accompanied US army troops in
campaigns to subdue tribes that were traditional
Shoshone enemies. Even Washakie, now in
his 70s, sometimes went. Riding with General George Crook in his campaign
against the Sioux, the Shoshone say
that if the generals had listened to Washakie, Custard’s death a Little Bighorn
would never have happened. – That’s what the,
was told to be. They joined up with the armies to, see they
had their enemies, too. That to straighten things out, they got help from each other. They fought the Siouxs, Siouxs
and Cheyennes and Arapaho. – [Narrator] Sometimes the
battles were close to home. In June of 1874, troops
under Captain Alfred Bates set out from Camp Brown after
an Arapaho hunting party, though there was no evidence
that they were to blame for any attacks. These were Shoshone
enemies, though, so Washakie and his warriors
accompanied the troops as they traveled at night
to the Owl Creek Mountains. – [Reader] We had several
boggy, alkali creeks to cross and deep arroyos, ravines,
high sandy ridges, and infernal sage brush deserts. found the terrain
treacherous and taxing. Flowing hair and the swarthy
countenances of the Shoshones mingled with the eager faces and courtly uniforms of the
officers, Dr. Thomas Maghee. – [Narrator] In early morning, the troops and warriors
came over a ridge above the sleeping Arapaho camp. The battle was hand to hand with heavy losses
for the Arapaho who retreated to a
plateau above the camp and fired down on the attackers. – [Reader] When
Lieutenant Young fell, Washakie and his
men held the line and when it was impossible, owing to a concentration
of the enemy, to hold the point longer, Washakie ordered the
noted scout Cosgrove to carry Lieutenant Young off and slowly retreated
behind the lieutenant under a desperate fire,
James Irwin, Indian agent. – [Narrator] Four
years later in 1878, about 600 Arapaho would
arrive starving and cold at the Shoshone reservation. They had suffered
losses in hunger and promises of an
Arapaho reservation had been made and broken. – The Arapaho people arrived
here on the reservation destitute, hungry, and they
had no place else to go, and when the government put
them here on the reservation with the Shoshone people,
Chief Washakie said, “Yes, they may stay
for one winter.” – Nevertheless, the government
intended it to be permanent and never made that plain to
the Shoshones or the Arapahos. – [Reader] The Shoshones,
although they were opposed to it and look upon it as an
encroachment on their right, yet will make no
great objections. Washakie and the headmen, though they dislike bitterly
to divide their property with other bands, have
to great heart to say no. James A. Patton, Indian agent. – As I was told
by my grandmother, even though we’re
two separate people or we’re two separate tribes,
we’re still Indian people. And she would tell me
(speaking in foreign language), we are as one. – [Narrator] The Arapaho
would never leave the Wind River
Indian Reservation. It was one of many
promises made and broken to both the Shoshone
and the Arapaho. To this day, people still argue about what is right and
wrong about reservations, but in Washakie’s time, what
was wrong was quite evident. The tribes had
exchanged their freedom and their claims on
the traditional lands in exchange for their own
inviolate piece of property and government support
to help them get started. The efforts of tribal
members were stymied when annuities were cut or farm
implement failed to arrive. – Farming on the Wind
River Reservation is a dicey proposition
for anybody, not to mention Indians
who had basically no background in farming,
they were a hunting culture. The government expected
the Shoshones to farm, but they never supplied them
with what they really needed to make that successful
and that was water. – He never dreamed in
his wildest nightmares that the Whites would come in and literally take
over everything. By the late 1800s, his
people would be enduring a one in three mortality rate. – [Washakie] The white
man kills our game, captures our furs, and sometimes feeds his
herd upon our meadows, and your great and
mighty government does not protect
us in our rights. It leaves us without
the promised seed, without tools for
cultivating the land, without food we still lack, without the schools we need
so much for our children, I again say the government
does not keep its word. – [Narrator] At the
very time the Shoshone were signing the 1868 treaty, a gold rush was developing
in the high country around South Pass. The miners were digging within
the reservation boundaries, so the government
sent Felix Brunot, a veteran negotiator
with tribes, to see if the Shoshone
would give up the land in exchange for some
acreage to the north. – [Felix] The government
thinks that exchange is fair. If the Indians do
not think it fair, it is for them to say so. – [Washakie] I have
two hearts about it. This land is good, there
is plenty of grass, berries, prairie
squirrels, and fish. That in the north is poor and I think it
belongs to the Crows. – [Felix] Suppose you give
the president that land and the president gives
you $5,000 worth of cattle every year for five years. – [Narrator] The Shoshones
gave up 700,000 acres in the negotiations with Brunot. Though, Washakie
recognized the value of resources like gold, he could see dangerous
conflicts looming with miners in the South Pass area. Peace was the path that he and the other Shoshone
leaders had chosen. – Washakie does confer
with his council members to pursue the best policy. It looks like he has
absolutely authority, but he’s doing the same
thing he did all along which is use his advisors
to help him decide the best course of
action for his people. – I think that’s one of those
main qualities of leader is the ability to represent
your people and to compromise. – After 1885, Shoshone
wealth declined rapidly. This happened because
buffalo had been killed off. It also happened
because where there were good hunting and game lands, now white ranchers spread their hundreds of
thousands of cattle into the areas which
destroyed the resources available for wild game. There was also something
called the panic of 1893 which was the most severe
recession depression the United States had ever
experienced up to that point and budgets to Indian
agencies were cut severely. All in all this contributed
to a massive poverty of all Indian tribes
not just the Shoshones. – [Narrator] Once again,
the federal negotiators came around to parley for
a chunk of the reservation. This time, in 1896,
speculators were interested in the eastern side
of the reservation, particularly a huge hot spring that flowed into
the Big Horn River. US Indian inspector
Jame McLaughlin offered Shoshone
and Arapaho $60,000 for the hot spring and 10
square miles of land around it. – [Reader] Major
McLaughlin evidently had his instructions as
to what he should do. At the same time,
the treaty was not entirely satisfactory to me. I thought that the amount
paid was absurdly low for the finest hot
spring on earth, Colonel Richard Wilson, 1896. – [Narrator] But Washakie’s
focus was not on monetary value, it was on the survival
of his people. – [Washakie] I used to
go to the hot springs on the Owl Creek when the
game and buffalo were there. When buffalo were
plenty, I wintered there, and now I have moved away. I was afraid to stay there
when there was nothing to eat. My friends I spoke for
to secure this land are all dead and gone. Then, only one of the old
men of my people left. – [Narrator] Wilson was
one of many military men who had the greatest respect
for the old Shoshone chief, that respect went all
the way to the top. President Ulysses S. Grant, something of a warrior
himself during the Civil War, sent Washakie a silver trimmed
saddle as a gift in 1876. Asked by an Indian
agent for a reply to take back to the president,
Washakie was silent. Only after some
prodding did he speak. – [Reader] When a favor
is shown a white man, he feels it in his head
and his tongue speaks. When kindness is
shown to an Indian, he feels it in his heart
and his heart has no tongue. Washakie, 1876. – [Narrator] Washakie
was an old man now. The life he had been born to, following the cycles of
the seasons, was long gone. Skirmishes, battles, and
wars had been won and lost. His people are around
him in the warm valley. He had the respect
of presidents, but he stayed close
to his family. – And he lived to be old. A lot of times good
people live to be old, to be good seeds, that’s
what they’re here for, to be examples. – [Narrator] To the
end, the old man lived a robust unpretentious life. He made visits around
the reservation, often riding his horse. In February 1900, his health
to a turn for the worth. He had been having
difficulty eating and finally could no
longer rise from his bed. He had last words with
his friends and family. – [Zedora] Before
he died, he said, “I brought you
here to this land. “It’s beautiful. “this is where I’d liked to live “and this is where
I brought my people. “We lived a good life here.” (tribal chanting) – [Washakie] I wanna
say a few words to my children and family. I want you to open
your ears and hearts, so you will know what
I am saying to you. It has always been my hope
to keep peace and harmony. I have never permitted the
disgraceful degradation by my people when it was
possible for me to prevent it. It is my earnest prayer
that you, my children, will follow the footsteps
which I have made for you and you will always
be highly respected by our people and
the white people. I’m not telling this to
one of you, but to all. – [Narrator] He was buried
with full military honors at the cemetery in Fort
Washakie where he lies today. (mournful melody)


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