Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation


Last Updated: 3 years

The Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation shares this reservation with the Arapaho. Eastern Shoshone people belong to the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family, which once stretched from the Cascades in the northwest, to the northern plains of Wyoming, and southward to Mexico. Except for the Washos of California, this linguistic group included all the Indians in the Great Basin Area, including the Shoshonis, the Paiutes, the Bannocks, the Commanches and the Utes.

Official Tribal Name: Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation

Address: Eastern Shoshone Business Council, PO Box 538,Ft. Washakie, WY 82514
Phone: (307) 332-3532
Fax: (307) 332-3055

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

Eastern Shoshone

Alternate names / Alternate spellings: Shoshoni

Name in other languages:


Great Basin, Great Plains

State(s) Today: Wyoming

Traditional Territory:

The Eastern Shoshone formerly roamed freely between their summer homes in eastern Idaho and their ancestral hunting grounds in the Wind River Valley in Wyoming. The tribe was influenced by the diversity of its home territories and culturally they showed attributes associated with Plains Indians—the use of horses, reliance on bison, tipis for housing, etc.—as well as the influence of their Great Basin and Colorado Plateau kin. Their relatives, the Sheepeaters, were mountain Indians who lived in Wind River Country year round, following the annual migration of bighorn sheep from the high peaks of the Wind River and Absaroka Mountains down to the foothills for the winter.

As pressure from white settlement began to push tribes out of their traditional homelands, Chief Washakie determined that his people were best off moving permanently into Wind River Country, which was known for its mild winters, abundant game and plentiful mountain-fed streams.

In the early 1860s, however, other tribes were also vying for control of the Wind River Valley, in particular the Crow Indians, who lived in the northwestern corner of what is now Wyoming. Under Chief Big Robber, the Crow began encroaching into territory the Eastern Shoshone considered their own. Chief Washakie sent a message to the Crow offering a compromise, but Chief Big Robber ignored the request and killed the messenger sparking a fierce war between the tribes, which also included the Shoshone’s allies, the Bannock.

The fighting was inconclusive and finally the two chiefs agreed to a dual to determine the outcome and control of the Wind River Valley. The battle was hard-fought but ultimately Washakie prevailed and killed Big Robber. According to local legend, Washakie cut out Big Robber’s heart and put it on the end of his lance as a sign of respect for his fallen foe’s valor. Crowheart Butte, in the northwestern part of Wind River Country, is named in honor of this famous encounter.

Confederacy: Shoshone

Shoshone children
Photo Courtesty of NSF, a federal agency created by Congress in 1950


The Great Treaty Council, officially known as the Fort Bridger Treaty Council of 1868, was highly significant as it was the last treaty council called for the purpose of establishing a reservation. Thereafter, all reservations were created by executive order.

Washakie and a council of tribal elders signed a treaty formally establishing the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Unlike most American Indian tribes, the Eastern Shoshone were the only one to have a say in the location of their permanent home.

Reservation: Wind River Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The reservation is an area about 3,500 square miles or 2,268,000 acres, just east of the Continental Divide. It is bordered roughly on the north by the Owl Creek Mountains that join the Rocky Mountains and east to the Wind River Canyon.

The Wind River Reservation serves as the contemporary home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe 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.

Land Area: The reservation covers 2,268,008 acres.
Tribal Headquarters: Fort Washakie, Wyoming
Time Zone:

Population at Contact:

Enrolled Population Today:

There are 4,005 Eastern Shoshone.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


The Eastern Shoshone are located on the Wind River Reservation, which is located in the central region of the state of Wyoming. The reservation is home to two tribes: the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone. The tribes operate as two separate tribal governments.

Name of Governing Body: Eastern Shoshone Business Council
Number of Council members: 4
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: Chairman and Vice-Chairman


Language Classification 

Language Dialects:

The Eastern Shoshone migrated onto the Plains from Nevada in the 1600s.

The vast territory belonging to the Shoshonean linguistic stock of the large Uto-Aztecan family once stretched from the rugged Cascades and Sierra Nevadas to the northern Plains, then southward almost into Mexico. With the exception of the Washos of California, it included all of the Indians in the Great Basin area-the Shoshonis, the Paiutes (Paviotsos), the Bannocks (Northern Paiutes), Commanches, and the Utes. There were a variety of dialects, but the natives had little difficulty understanding each other.

With their linguistic bond and cultural similarity, they were not readily distinguishable. Yet the Shoshoni (Snake) Indians, bearing the linguistic name and speaking the Shoshoni-Comanche dialect, are unique in that they show the influence of three distinct cultures-namely, the Basin, the Plateau, and the Plains. Their territory, separate from that of their kinsmen, the Paiutes and Utes, stretched continuously from the desert area of California, across the central and northwestern Nevada, then across Utah and Idaho into Wyoming, over the Rockies and on to the Plains, with the Comanche branch pushing southeastward through Colorado deep into Texas.

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:


They were one of the first tribes to aquire horses from the Spanish settlements in New Mexico in the 1600s.



The Eastern Shoshone lived in hide covered tipis.


They were hunter-gatherers.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs

Tribal College: Wind River Tribal College
WRTC was chartered by the Northern Arapaho Business Council in September 1997.

Shoshone Chiefs & Famous People:

Chief Washakie (Whoshakik): A Biographical Sketch
Gahnacumah (headman in Washakie’s band, while Washakie was the principle war chief)
Horn Chief
Iron Wristband (Pahdahewakunda)
Little Chief (Mohwoomha or Mowama)
Cut Nose
Inkatoshapop (Incatashapa or Ungatushapa)
Fibebountowatsee (Tibebutowats or Tababooindowestay)
Cut Hair (Wakska or Wiskin )
Big Man (Oapich)

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

The Eastern Band of Shoshone Indians were the original inhabitants of the Wind River Reservation, the only Indian reservation in Wyoming, which was established solely for the Shoshone Indians.

In 1878, the Arapahos were settled on the reservation when they were in need of a winter home. The Shoshones were rewarded $4,453,000 in 1938 for the eastern half of the reservation occupied by the Arapahos.

The Shoshone Tribal members principally occupy the western areas of the reservation including Fort Washakie, Crowheart, Burris, and the Dry Creek Ranch area.

The Arapaho Tribe principally occupies the eastern segments of the reservation at the towns of Ethete and Arapaho.

Members of both Tribes live in the Mill Creek-Boulder Flat areas.


The United States Government as defined by the United States Constitution has governmental relationships with International, Tribal, and State entities. The Tribal nations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States. The Northern Plains Arapaho Tribe signed treaties in the 1800’s with the United States which are the legal documents that established the boundaries and recognized Tribal rights as a sovereign government.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribal lands were originally reduced to a reservation with defined boundaries by the U.S. Congress in the Ft. Bridger Treaty of July 3, 1868. The reservation was further reduced by the Brunot Agreement of 1872 and the McLaughlin Agreement of 1898. The Tribal governments maintain jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservation including all rights-of-way, waterways, watercourses and streams running through any part of the reservation and to such others lands as may hereafter be added to the reservation under the laws of the United States. The Tribal government operates under a constitution approved by the Tribal membership which is the General Council and is not under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The Business Council of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and four additional Council members which are elected by the Tribal members.

The Tribal Council Chairman is the administrative head of the Tribe and serves a two year term with the Vice-Chairman and the other members of the Tribal Council.

Tribal/Agency Headquarters: Ft. Washakie, WY
Counties: Fremont, Hot Springs, and Sublette Counties
Number of enrolled members: 5,703
Reservation Service Population: 4,297
Labor Force: 3,454
Unemployment rates: 65%
Language: Arapaho and English


Land Status: Acres
Total Area: 2,268,000
Tribal Owned: 1,701,705
Allotted Owned: 101,149
Total Tribal/Allotted Owned: 1,808,854
Government Owned: 1,235
Non-Indian Owned: 463,821


The Wind River Reservation is the only Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The reservation is located in central Wyoming and is named after the scenic Wind River Canyon.The reservation is an area about 3,500 square miles just east of the Continental Divide. The reservation is bordered roughly on the north by the Owl Creek Mountains which join the Rocky Mountains and east to Wind River Canyon. The Bridger and Shoshone National Forests and the Wind River Mountains serve as a border for the western segment. From these areas, streams flow south and east into the foothills and plains which constitute two-thirds of the reservation.

The Wind River Indian Reservation is located in central Wyoming and includes portions of Fremont, Hot Springs, and Sublette counties with 99.5 percent of the Indian people residing in Fremont county. The Arapaho-St. Stevens area of the reservation covers approximately 50 square miles and lies southwest of the town of Riverton and 28 miles east of Fort Washakie. The major share of the homes are located in the vicinity of the Arapaho Public School and along the banks of the Big Wind River and Little Wind River. There is some farming and ranching in this area. There are approximately 2,067 Indian people residing in this area.

The total land area of the Eastern Shoshone reservation is 2,268000 acres with 1,701,795 acres Tribally owned and 101,149 acres individually owned. The land is an integral part of the Arapaho culture and the economic base of the reservation.



The reservation was originally established by the Fort Bridger Treaty of July 2, 1863, and included 44,672,000 acres in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. This area was reduced to 3,054,182 by the second Fort Bridget Treaty of July 3, 1868. The Brunot Agreement, dated September 26, 1872, ceded 710,642 acres from the southern border of the reservation to the United States. In 1957, the Shoshones received $443,013 for the land lost under this agreement.

The McLaughlin Agreement of April 2, 1898, transferred 55,040 acres from the northeast comer of the reservation to the United States. The second McLaughlin Agreement, April 21, 1904, ceded 1,480,000 acres to the United States for homestead purposes and the Riverton Reclamation Withdrawal that covered 325,000 acres.

In 1938, the Shoshones restored to the reservation the land alienated under the second McLaughlin Agreement. These lands, with the exception of the Riverton Reclamation Withdrawal, now belong to the reservation. Through these transactions, the reservation has been gradually reduced to its present size.

The reservation is now the home of 2 Tribes, the Eastern Band of the Shoshones and the Northern Band of the Arapaho. The Shoshones are original inhabitants of the reservation, which was established solely for that purpose. In 1878, the Arapahos were settled on the reservation when they were in need of a winter home. More than fifty years later, they are still there.

The Shoshones were rewarded $4,453,000 in 1938 for the eastern half of the reservation occupied by the Arapahos and used part of this settlement to restore to the reservation the land mentioned above. The Shoshone Tribal members principally occupy the western areas of the reservation including Fort Washakie, Crowheart, Burris, and the Dry Creek Ranch area. The Arapaho Tribe principally occupies the eastern segments of the reservation of Ethete and Arapaho. Members of both Tribes live in the Mill Creek-Boulder Flat areas.


Climatic conditions in the area of the Wind River Indian Reservation vary greatly due to the diversity of the land characteristics – mountainous terrain and plains. The annual mean temperature is 45oF. The temperature in January is approximately 18oF and in July 72oF, with an annual precipitation averaging between 15 to 20 inches. During a normal year, the sun shines 70 percent of the possible hours.


The Shoshone and Arapaho Nation Transportation Authority (SANTA) provides public transportation carrying persons to various parts of the reservation or to Lander or Riverton. There are public bus lines that connect in Shoshoni for connections to Casper, Thermopolis, Worland, Cody, or Sheridan within Wyoming and to Billings, Montana. There are three small charter flight companies which operate single and multi-engine aircraft out of Riverton and Lander Municipal Airports.


Many of the tribal members work on expansive ranches and farms, including the Eastern Shoshone Ranch as agriculture is a big part of the economy of the people. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and the Tribal government provide employment for many tribal members. Leases in oil and gas are another large source of income for the reservation. Some private business and tourism also contribute to the economy.

Shopping and housing on the reservation itself is somewhat limited, although day-to-day amenities can be purchased there. The larger cities on the outskirts of the reservation, Lander, Riverton and Thermopolis, provide residents with more specialized shopping needs for their families. Recreational facilities such as swimming pools, golf courses, libraries, churches, and movie theaters are available in these three towns. Tribal government headquarters are located at Fort Washakie, as are the Indian Health (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).


For the outdoorsman, the reservation and surrounding areas offer a variety of sports including fishing, boating and water skiing on Boysen State Reservoir, or on any of the mountain streams and rivers. Camping, hiking and backpacking are always popular. The Wind River Canyon will provide hours of educational exploration for the amateur rock hound or geologist, as some of the oldest rock formations in the United States can be found there.


Grades K-12 are available on the reservation, or in any of the three surrounding towns. For those choosing to go further in school, but do not want to leave the area, Riverton’s Central Wyoming College offers a number of associate degree programs in association with the University of Wyoming.

Ambulatory medical specialist services are provided at the Arapaho Health Center. Full time optometry and dental services are available to all patients. The Eastern Shoshone Tribe operates the Community Health Representative Program providing services as paraprofessionals in quality outreach care, health promotion/disease prevention services throughout the communities.


There are approximately 2,996 Indian homes located on the Wind River Reservation. The majority of available housing is provided through Mutual Help home ownership or Low Rent housing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development programs managed by the Tribal Housing Authority. BIA or IHS employees may choose comfortable, affordable housing at Fort Washakie, or they may choose to live in the larger communities of Thermopolis, Lander or Riverton. None of these three towns are more than an hour and a half drive from the reservation. Private housing stock is limited on the reservation.

In 1997, the Tribe’s environmental management staff identified the degradation of the water system that services 150 families at Boulder Flats as the primary environmental problem facing the Tribe.

In the News:

Related Tribes:

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation
Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation

Further Reading: