Wyoming Tribes

Wyoming tribes originally included the Atsina, Bannock, Crow, Blackfeet, Flathead, Shoshoni, Cheyenne, and Ute.

Archaeological findings indicate that Wyoming was occupied as early as 7000 BC, but little is known of the state’s inhabitants before 1800.

During the early 19th century travelers encountered Crow, Blackfoot, Ute, Flathead, Shoshoni, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians; and Sioux moved in during the 19th century. All were nonagricultural and lived primarily on buffalo and other hunted animals.

Some historians question whether Francois and Louis Joseph de La Verendrye were the first to arrive when they explored parts of the West in 1742-43. In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase transferred Wyoming to the United States, and in 1805 the French-Canadian fur trader Francois Antoine Larocque became the first authenticated visitor, trading furs with the Indians in the Powder River region.

John Colter is usually credited with being the the first explorer of western Wyoming in 1807.

Other early explorers were Wilson Price Hunt, who led the Overland Astorians westward through Wyoming in 1811; Robert Stuart, who led the first party eastward across Wyoming in 1812 via the South Pass; and Jacques La Ramie, for whom Fort Laramie and the city of Laramie were later named.

The fur trade expanded rapidly during the 1820s and brought to Wyoming William H. Ashley and such colorful mountain men as James (“Jim”) Bridger, Jedediah Smith, William L. (“Bill”) Sublette, David E. Jackson, and Robert Campbell. Increasing competition with the Hudson’s Bay and American Fur companies depleted the beaver catch and brought an end to the fur trade by 1840.

The Indians were important partners in the early fur trade but became increasingly hostile as their hunting lands were destroyed. Except for the Shoshoni and Arapaho, now on the Wind River Reservation, all were driven from the state by 1878.

Federal list last updated 5/16

Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation
Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation

(Not recognized by the Federal Government)



Northwestern Shoshoni


The area that would become Wyoming was inhabited by several Native American groups before the arrival of Europeans. The Shoshone, Arapaho, Cheyenne and Crow lived in the eastern portion of the area.

They hunted bison, following the tremendous herds through their seasonal migrations, and lived in tepees. The Ute people inhabited Wyoming’s western mountains, depending less on bison and more on the gathering of wild foods, the hunting of smaller game (antelope, rabbit, deer, elk) and fishing.

Westward-bound traffic became important after John C. Fremont led a government expedition across Wyoming in 1842, and many mountain men found work as guides and supply men on newly developing trails to the West.

The principal trail followed the Platte and Sweetwater rivers and crossed the Continental Divide at South Pass. This became known as the Oregon Trail and, after Brigham Young led the Mormon migration through Wyoming into Utah in 1847, as the Mormon Trail.

It became known as the California Trail after 1849 and was used by the pony express (1860-61) and by stagecoaches until the Overland Trail opened farther south.

Treaties with the Indians and cavalry stations at Forts Bridger, Laramie, Fetterman, and elsewhere protected the early travelers, but attacks increased during the Civil War after the Bozeman Trail in northeastern Wyoming was blazed across Indian hunting grounds in 1863.

Two major Wyoming battles during the ensuing hostilities were the Fetterman Massacre of 1866, in which Lt. Col. W. J. Fetterman and 81 men from Fort Phil Kearny were killed by Sioux Indians under Chief Red Cloud, and the Wagon Box fight of 1867, in which more than 1,000 Sioux were driven back by Capt. James Powell.

One Indian reservation remains in Wyoming today. The Wind River Reservation is home to over 5,000 Shoshone and Arapaho Indians.

The Arapaho were once sedentary and seem to have lived in the Red River Valley, until they moved southwest across the Missouri at some time prior to the Cheyenne.

Sometime afterward the Atsina separated from the rest, possibly cut off from the main body by the Crow, and moved off to the north; and within the last century the rest of the tribe have slowly divided into a northern and a southern branch, the Northern Arapaho living along the edges of the mountains at the headwaters of the Platte, while the Southern Arapaho continued on toward the Arkansas.

About 1840 the Arapaho made peace with the Dakota, Kiowa, and Comanche but were at war with the Shoshoni, Ute, and Pawnee until they were confined to reservations.

By the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 the Southern Arapaho were placed upon a reservation in Oklahoma along with the Southern Cheyenne; this was thrown open to white settlement and the Indian lands were allotted in severalty in 1892.

The Northern Arapaho were assigned to a reservation on Wind River, Wyoming, after having made peace with the Shoshoni who occupied the same reserve. The Atsina were associated with the Assiniboin on Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana.


Some Bannock ranged into western Wyoming. (See Idaho.)

The Cheyenne hunted and warred to some extent in the eastern part of Wyoming; were long allied with the Arapaho. (See South Dakota.)

Before separating from the Shoshoni, the Comanche probably occupied territory in Wyoming, afterward moving south-ward. (See Texas.)
The Crows occupied Wyoming in the valleys of Powder, Wind, and Big Horn Rivers and ranged as far south as Laramie. (See Montana.)

Dakota hunting and war parties frequently reached the territory of Wyoming, but the tribe had no permanent settlements there. In 1876 they participated with the Northern Arapaho and Northern Cheyenne in the cession of the northeastern territory of Wyoming. (See South Dakota.)

According to tradition,the Kiowa lived for a time in or near the Black Hills before moving south. (See Oklahoma.)
The Kiowa Apache lived in close conjunction with the Kiowa. (See Oklahoma.)

The Pawnee were known to Wyoming only as hunters and warriors. (See Nebraska.)
The Ute were just south of the present Wyoming and entered its territory at times to hunt or fight. (See Utah.)


People were living in the area we now call Wyoming more than 12,000 years ago.

These people were probably part of the Clovis culture. In the next two to four thousand years, there is evidence of other cultures living and moving through this area including people who hunted big game, including animals that no longer exist, like the wooly mammoth.

One site that offers us more questions than answers about the early inhabitants of Wyoming is the Medicine Wheel, near Lovell.

The Wheel, actually an arrangement of white stones forming a 70-foot diameter wheel with spokes, has been dated by archaeologists as being about 7,000 years old. Scientists believe it may have been built as an astronomical observatory, or to mark the equinox, but no one knows for sure who built it or why.

However, the Crow Indians, as well as other Plains Indian tribes, believe the wheel is a sacred religious site that was constructed by their ancestors “before the light came, by people who had no iron.”

Today, the site is being studied, but steps have been taken to respect the Native Americans’ access to the site for religious rituals. Another prehistoric site that shows evidence of Wyoming’s earliest residents is the remains of stone quarries near the town of Lusk.

These quarries, called the “Spanish Diggings”show how people mined quartzite, jasper and agate for use in making tools. We know people made and traded these items, because artifacts made of Wyoming minerals have been found as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys.

Genealogy:Sources of records on US Indian tribes Wyoming Tribal Colleges


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Places to visit native american culture exhibits in Wyoming USA

Here is a list of places to visit in Wyoming USA to learn about Native American culture.

Anna Miller Museum
401 Delaware
Newcastle, WY 82701
mailing address:P.O. BOX 698, Newcastle WY 82701
tel (307) 746-4188

Bradford Brinton Memorial
239 Brinton Rd.
Big Horn, WY 82833
mailing address:P.O. BOX 460, Big Horn, WY 82833
tel (307) 672-3173
fax (307) 672-3258

Buffalo Bill Historical Center
720 Sheridan Ave,
Cody, WY 82414
tel (307) 587-4771
fax (307) 587-5714

Campbell County Rockpile Museum
900 W. 2nd St.
Gilette, WY 82716
tel (307) 682-5723
fax (307) 686-8528