Eastern Shoshone

Eastern Shoshone

Native American tribe in Wyoming

Eastern Shoshone are Shoshone who primarily live in Wyoming and in the northeast corner of the Great Basin where Utah, Idaho and Wyoming meet and are in the Great Basin classification of Indigenous People. They lived in the Rocky Mountains during the 1805 Lewis and Clark Expedition and adopted Plains horse culture in contrast to Western Shoshone that maintained a Great Basin culture.[3]

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Map of traditional lands of the Eastern Shoshone

The Eastern Shoshone primarily settled on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, after their leader, Washakie signed the Fort Bridger Treaty in 1868.[4]


The Eastern Shoshone adopted horses much sooner than their neighbours to the North, the Blackfoot Confederacy (made up of three related groups, the Piegan, Siksika, and Kainai). With the advantages that horses provided in battle, such as speed and mobility, the Eastern Shoshone were able to expand to the north and soon occupied much of present-day southern and central Alberta, most of Montana, and parts of Wyoming, and raided the Blackfoot frequently. Meanwhile, their close cousins, the Comanche, split off and migrated south to present-day western Texas. Once the Piegan, in particular, had access to horses of their own and guns obtained from the Hudson's Bay Company via the Cree and Assiniboine, the situation changed. By 1787 David Thompson reports that the Blackfoot had completely conquered most of Shoshone territory, and frequently captured Shoshone women and children and forcibly assimilated them into Blackfoot society, further increasing their advantages over the Shoshone. Thompson reports that Blackfoot territory in 1787 was from the North Saskatchewan River in the north to the Missouri River in the South, and from Rocky Mountains in the west out to a distance of 300 miles (480 km) to the east.[5]

Through the early 1800s, the Eastern Shoshone and Crow fought over the contested Wind River Basin, a prime bison hunting area, culminating in an incident at Crow Heart Butte, where Washakie challenged and defeated a leading Crow warrior for possession of the Wind River Valley. The Eastern Shoshone participated significantly in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade and bison hide trade from the 1820s and 1840s. The rendezvous sites along the Wind River Range were established in areas previously used by the Shoshone for trade fairs.[6] By the 1850s, Washakie had emerged as a leader among the Shoshone, known for his war prowess as well as his ability to negotiate with whites. Fluent in English and a friend and father-in-law of Jim Bridger, Washakie championed the establishment of the Wind River Indian Reservation through negotiations at the 1863 and 1868 treaties at Fort Bridger.[7]

After the reservation period, the Eastern Shoshone saw the arrival of Northern Arapaho on the Wind River Indian Reservation in 1878.[8] Later negotiations reduced the size of the reservation[9][10] and resulted in settlement of lands within the Wind River Reclamation Project. In 1938 the Eastern Shoshone won the case United States vs. Shoshone Tribe of Indians,[11] securing rights to timber and mineral resources on the reservation reserved to them under the Fort Bridger Treaties. This lawsuit argued by George Tunison ruled that the Shoshone were owed payment for the location of the Northern Arapaho to the Wind River Indian Reservation.[12] In the 1970s, Eastern Shoshone tribal members uncovered that oil field workers on the reservation were stealing oil without paying royalties, a scandal that led to reforms.[13]


Eastern Shoshone speak the Shoshone language, a Central Numic language in the Uto-Aztecan language family. It is spoken on the Wind River Indian Reservation.[1]


Bands of Shoshone people were named for their geographic homelands and for their primary food sources.

Contemporary tribes and communities

Notable Eastern Shoshone

  • Cotsiogo (c. 1866–1912), artist
  • Washakie (c. 1798–1900), war leader and diplomat

See also


  1. "Shoshoni." Ethnologue. Retrieved 20 Oct 2013.
  2. Loether, Christopher. "Shoshones." Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. Retrieved 20 Oct 2013.
  3. Shimkin 308
  4. "The Wind River Reservation." The Shoshone Indians. Retrieved 20 Oct 2013.
  5. "Beyond Borderlands: Discussion: Aftermath". Segonku.unl.edu. Archived from the original on November 1, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  6. "The Arapaho Arrive: Two Nations on One Reservation | WyoHistory.org". www.wyohistory.org. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  7. "When the Tribes Sold the Hot Springs | WyoHistory.org". www.wyohistory.org. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  8. "The Tribes Sell Off More Land: The 1905 Agreement | WyoHistory.org". www.wyohistory.org. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  9. Shimkin 335
  10. Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series: SHOSHONI AND NORTHERN PAIUTE INDIANS IN IDAHO
  11. Crum, B., Crum, E., & Dayley, J. P. (2001). Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs. University Press of Colorado. Pg. 200 doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt46nz00


  • Hodge, Adam R. 2019. Ecology and Ethnogenesis: An Environmental History of the Wind River Shoshones, 1000-1868. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Shimkin, Demitri B. "Eastern Shoshone." Warren L. d'Azevedo, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, Volume 11. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1986: 308–335. ISBN 978-0-16-004581-3.

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