Northern Shoshone and Bannock - History and Cultural Relations

Little is known of these peoples before the early nineteenth century. The horse probably reached the Shoshone in the late seventeenth century, perhaps from the Spanish settlements in the Southwest. With the aid of the horse, they spread as far as the Canadian border of Montana where they met the Blackfoot, who pushed them back to their present area by the mid-eighteenth century. In contrast, relations with the Flathead to the north and the Nez Percé to the northwest were generally friendly and peaceful, although relations with the latter may not always have been so. They were also on friendly terms with their linguistic relatives, the Western Shoshone to the south and the Northern Paiute to the west. Fur trappers and traders came into their territory in the early nineteenth century, reaching Lake Pend Oreille in the first decade. American expeditions and traders from the time of Lewis and Clark (1803-1804) moved westward from the Missouri River, with various trading posts being established in the period 1807-1832, all with fairly negative implications for Shoshone life. The fur trade had collapsed by 1840, and by 1860 the local bison herds had been almost extinguished. White settlers were moving through the area in fairly large numbers, beginning about 1840. Mormons began moving into the southern areas in 1860, followed by other settlers and gold miners, which resulted in several wars.

Treaties with the United States were signed in 1863 and 1864, and the Fort Hall Reservation in southeastern Idaho was established in 1867. The Lemhi Reservation to the north was established in 1875, but was terminated and the inhabitants removed to Fort Hall in 1907. Because of the demands of a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad and the establishment of the city of Pocatello, as well as the Dawes Act of 1887, the lands of the Fort Hall Reservation were much diminished. Day and boarding schools were established in the 1870s and 1880s.

After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation approved a constitution and by-laws in 1936 and ratified a corporate charter in 1937. The Fort Hall Business Council consists of individuals elected from the reservation to two-year terms. The council has authority over purchases, borrowing, engaging in business, performing contracts, and other normal business procedures. The tribes are actively trying to increase and to buy land for the reservation. Phosphate deposits on the reservation are being mined and a tribal trading post has been established. There is an annual tribal festival held in mid-August, as well as Sun Dances, an all-Indian rodeo, an Indian Day in late September, and other traditional dances throughout the year.

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