Northern Shoshone and Bannock
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Who's Who
All My Relations
Pipe Ceremony and Peacemaking
Great Circle
Intertribal Relations
"How the Indian Averted Famine"
Naming Ceremonies
Agaidika Perspective on Sacajawea
Horses, Trade, & Travel
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Sovereignty & Tribal Government
Arts & Artists
Annual Festival Dances
Recommended Websites

  Relationship with the U.S.
  Early Contact
Fur Trade
Naturalists in Shoshone Country
Missionaries and Emigrants
Making Treaties
Lemhi In Limbo
Lemhi Reservation and  Loss
Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

(MrSid plug-in download for viewing maps at right.)

Trail over Lemhi Pass, from a photograph by John E. Rees ca. 1900
(Lewis and Phillips: 1923)
Ft Owen
Fort Owen
Lithograph from John Mix Stanley original. (Stevens:1855) Courtesy of The University of Montana Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library, Government Documents.
Granville Stuart's sketch of Deer Lodge City, looking west to the 'Gold Creek Mountains'
(Flint Creek Range today).
Big Hole - Stanley
Big Hole Prairie
From the north. Lithograph from John Mix Stanley original, ca. 1855. (Stevens:1861) Courtesy of The University of Montana Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library, Government Documents.
Granville Stuart's 1865 sketch of Virginia City in September of 1865
(Stuart: 1963).
G.C. Smith
Montana Territorial Governor, July 1966-69.
Library of Congress
Chief Tendoy
Courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society
Bannock Pass
Photo courtesy LCHS

Lemhi Pass > Culture > In Limbo
Bluffs along the Salmon River, Lemhi camp in foreground.
This location was a camping and gathering area for Shoshone, Flathead, Nez Perce, and some Blackfoot bands.
From an original photograph by John E. Rees, 1903. (Lewis and Phillips: 1923)

In the twenty years from 1855 to '75, the Northern Shoshone and Bannocks struggle to make a living. The fur trade era has passed, taking many of the area's resources with it. The old ways are gone like the buffalo from the Snake River Plains. By 1855, some Bannocks have joined the group descended from Cameahwait's band. Leadership falls to Cameahwait's brother, Snagg, after the death of Cameahwait at the hands of the Blackfeet on Bloody Dick Creek, in Horse Prairie, not far from where he had met Lewis and Clark in 1805.

Common Hunting Grounds
The Shoshones are unofficially included in the "shared hunting grounds" established by the Lame Bull Treaty of 1855. This treaty is negotiated with the Blackfeet and "Western Tribes" as a peace treaty, with the goal of protecting white settlers across the region, and to establish tribal boundaries and common hunting grounds. The Shoshones had hunted above the Three Forks for as long as they could remember, and they remain unaware of any change in their official status. When the neighboring tribes agree to share these rich hunting grounds of the Missouri Headwaters, none of them can imagine the demise of the bison in this territory in less than a decade nor can they imagine the thousands of miners who would overrun these lands, right in the heart of these shared hunting grounds.
Portion of Stevens and Cummings 1857 Map
of the Indian Nations and Tribes of the
Territory of Washington & Nebraska,
courtesy of MSCUA, University of Washington, neg. # 979.7 W27m.

This map section illustrates the Common Hunting Grounds, a rich basin defined by the continental divide and the Yellowstone River (in southwest Montana).

Compare with 1876 Rand McNally map of the same area. image
Portion of Rand McNally's map of Montana,
published of their Business Atlas in 1876
`(Morgan: 1956).
Mormons, Miners, and Cattle Barons

Also in 1855, Brigham Young has a vision to establish a mission on a branch of the Salmon River. He sends missionaries forth and they name their establishment after King Limhi, a figure in the Book of Mormon. Although the Mormons leave the valley within three years time, the area becomes known as the Lemhi Valley and eventually the descendents of Cameahwait's band become associated with this Mormon name.

A small number of settlers are getting established in the territory of the Northern Shoshones and their neighbors, the "Flatheads" (Bitterroot Salish), during the 1850s. One of these men, John Owen, is appointed in 1858 as subagent for the "Cayuse District," which includes the Bannock and Mountain Snakes. Owen operates the Fort Owen Trading Post in the Bitterroot Valley and serves as special agent to the Flatheads. He is married to a Shoshone woman (known only as "Nancy") and his journals and letters through the years refer to the locations, conditions and activities of various bands of Northern Shoshones.

Beaverhead Rock near Dillon, Montana, ca. 1920
(Lewis and Phillips: 1923)

During the 1850s, Richard Grant and others around Fort Hall see an opportunity in purchasing worn-out horses and cattle from emigrants, then fattening them up on the grasses of the high country north of the Snake River plain. In 1857, they choose the Beaverhead Country. In 1858 and '59, they winter with their stock on Henry's Fork and in spring of 1860 head back north to the Beaverhead where they plan to camp again "at the mouth of 'Pak-sam-ma-oi,' which in the Indian Language [Shoshone] means cottonwood grove" (Stuart 1925:154).

"We were soon joined by a middle aged trapper named Louis Simmons and a young Snake Indian boy named Tabbabo. This boy we employed as a horse herder, and he proved to be a good and faithful one" (Stuart 1925:154).

Stuart and another trader traveled north to a Hudson's Bay Trading Post near St. Ignatius Mission, and on their return were:

"...greatly surprised to meet...James, Simmons, and Tabbabo, with all our stock at Camp creek, on the Big Hole river, moving to Deer Lodge valley. They told us that soon after we had left a large camp of Bannock Indians came into the valley and soon began to show an insolent semi-hostile disposition, and game being scarce, they killed one of our cattle. So to avoid serious trouble James packed up and started for Deer Lodge. We held a consultation and decided to go on to Gold creek and locate and work our gold prospect of 1858.
"This insolent band of Indians was under a chief named Ar-ro-ka-kee, who was six feet, two inches tall and weighed two hundred and seventy-five pounds. Captain Grant and his retainers called him, 'LeGran Coquin,' which in French means 'The Big Rogue,' and our experience with him convinced us that they had rightly named him" (Stuart 1925:154).

Starvation Times

Agent Owen's letter to Superintendent of Indian Affairs E. R. Geary in December of 1860 describes conditions of 300 lodges camped in the Deer Lodge valley, and expresses their great need for help:

"I have just dismissed a delegation of Snakes & Salmon Fall Indians. They were in the most destitute condition. Charges had been filed against them here of Killing Cattle belonging to our Settlers. They did not deny the charge, and their appearance confirmed the reasons they assigned for foraging on the property of another, which was nothing else than in obedience to the first law of Nature. They had done it through Necessity.
"My own impression is that if the Dept. would take hold of these poor, destitute Indians, extend over them its fostering arm Much good must result from it.
"But let things remain in the present unsettled Condition and serious results will follow. I am openly accused of trifling with them...
"This large camp of Snakes are boldly defying the White Man. It may not be Safe for me to Visit them. Still duty prompts me to make the effort" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).

Owen urges Geary to schedule a council before they scatter, "Some to the fighting grounds, Some to the Mts, Some to Buffalo ect ect" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).

Two months later, Owen writes a second letter to Geary explaining the Indians were still hanging around the new settlement in Deer Lodge Valley, stealing and such:

"They are objects of Charity I Visited their huts Made of boughs & grass Myself in order that I might Not be deceived by the intelligence I had recd Poor Miserable Naked Starving Wretches. Language is inadequate to describe their truly destitute condition The citizens have appealed to Me & petitioned Me as the only Govt. officer Near to Make some provisions for them. I am issuing Beef & Flour in Small quantities. I have procured Some tents for them.
"In fact I could not resist the appeal after Visiting them & with My Own Eyes beholding their condition...
"These Indians twelve years ago were the avowed friends of the White Man. I have had their Young Men in My Employment as Hunters Horse Guards Guides etc etc I have traversed the length & breadth of their Entire Country with large bands of Stock unmolested. Their present hostile attitude can in great Measure be attributed to the treatment they have recd form unprincipled White Men passing through their Country. They have been robd Murdered their women outraged etc etc and in fact outrages have been committed by white Men that the heart would Shudder to record. Those are incontrovertible facts" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).

Hundreds of miners scour the region and gold is struck in Bannock, Montana in '62, and Virginia City in '63. By late 1864, 10,000 people are mining at Alder Gulch near Virginia City. Bison are gone from the area, hunted out by 1865, and Indians fear for their own lives. "A good Indian is a dead Indian" is the belief of many of these miners.

"Heavy issues have been Made during the Winter to destitute & deserving Indians... if the Inds had not recd some relief from the Gov't many of them would have certainly perished" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).
There are whites on Grasshopper Creek in the Beaverhead country by late 1862. The Bannock City gold discovery brings hundreds of miners into Horse Prairie area, on the path of Bannock and Shoshone annual buffalo hunts, and their summer root gathering areas. Chief Snagg is murdered by a Bannock City saloon keeper in 1863, and Tendoy becomes his successor. Due to his strong presence, within a few years this band is known as "Tendoy's Band". image
Grasshopper Valley
Photo courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society

Horse Prairie
Ken Furrow photo.

Idaho Territory is established in 1863, Montana in '64, and the Lemhi territory now straddles that boundary as well as the Continental Divide. Separated from Fort Hall by hundreds of miles, the Lemhi bands often trade in the Bitterroot Valley at John Owen's post.

Negotiating for a Permanent Home

Efforts are made to establish a reservation and supply rations, but there is no treaty agreement with the U.S. government until 1868, and no reservation until 1875.

In 1866, agent Owen redirects $2431.76 worth of goods destined for the more affluent Flathead to poverty-stricken Lemhi; the Flathead agent suggests that tribe be properly compensated for theft of their treaty goods. New Montana Territorial Governor Smith informs the commissioner at year's end that friendly Bannock and Shoshoni referred to in previous Montana correspondence have no connection with related, troublesome tribes in Utah. He points out that while hostile tribes receive annuities from the government, these Montana groups "have never had any presents given to them" (Madsen: 1979).

Montana Gov. Smith emphasizes to the commissioner that the Lemhi have lost all lands to whites, who have driven off all the wild game which the Indians depend on for food. He concludes they are the only tribe in Montana not provided for, and if the government does nothing for them "they must suffer and large numbers of them die." He prompts the commissioner to ask the Secretary of Interior to include appropriation for $20,000 for the Lemhi to get necessary clothing and food for the winter.

Luther Mann, agent at Ft. Bridger, report to the commissioner in 1867 that 100 lodges of Shoshoni and some Bannock, both of Yellowstone tributaries, and some bands of Sheep Eaters in Salmon River mountains are all very poor and require government aid. The commissioner concludes they were part of the 1863 Soda Springs treaty and reminds the Secretary of the Interior that $20,000 had been requested for the Montana Shoshoni and Bannock.

Constant petitioning of Washington by government officials and friends of the Lemhi finally sees results when a trickle of annuity goods come to the Montana Superintendency in 1868. In late July, some Sheepeaters visit Fort Hall and learn of the Treaty of Fort Bridger, and that Tahgee's tribe of Bannock have signed a treaty rewarding them $15,000 worth of presents and $20 apiece in money. "Captain John" and several other leaders of Sheep Eaters go to Boise to complain to Gov. David W Ballard about inequity, and remind him of long history of friendship. Agent George C. Hough thinks it is a poor way to start the Fort Hall Reservation, to make "distinctions among friendly Indians" which would only incite jealousy and ill feelings.

The Virginia City Treaty is negotiated and signed in September, but never ratified, and no rations are issued. In 1869, Tendoy camps with his band outside Helena and seeks and is granted permission from Supt. of Ind. Affairs General Sully to hunt on Crow lands. Sully writes in a letter to Washington on the Lemhi's behalf: image
Yellowstone River valley,
Crow hunting grounds
Ann Telling photo

"Set aside justice. Christian charity alone demands that something be done to relieve these suffering creatures" (Sully in Madsen: 1979).

In early January, 1870, Tendoy, with 700 Lemhi, sets up camp at the territorial capital of Virginia City and demands action to move his starving people to a permanent reservation in the Lemhi Valley. Gov. J. M. Ashley appoints A. J. Smith as agent and another plea is sent to Washington. Jasper A. Viall is appointed superintendent and both he and Gen. Sully request funds for winter provisions. There is an attempt to move the Lemhi bands onto Crow lands during this time. Although the Lemhi bands hunt on the headwaters of the Yellowstone, their choice for a permanent home and reservation is in the Lemhi Valley.

In 1871 the Lemhi bands join with other tribes in a hugely successful buffalo hunt in the Common Hunting Grounds of the Missouri/Yellowstone basin. Tendoy and his group return to Lemhi Valley in March of 1872. Band members who had remained in the Lemhi were farming, and the previous year's results provide important food supplements to hunting. However, in1872 grasshoppers wipe out the majority of crops, and the salmon runs are drastically reduced by downstream fishtraps.

The tribe continues to divide time between the upper reaches of the Salmon River, Lemhi Valley, Horse Prairie, and theYellowstone headwaters and buffalo plains of southwest Montana. Yellowstone National Park is officially established in 1872.

Tendoy meets with a commission from Washington in 1873, including agent Henry Reed of the Fort Hall Reservation, but they reach no agreement. The commission wants Tendoy's bands to relocate to Fort Hall and Tendoy holds firm to the reservation being located in the Lemhi Valley.

The Lemhi Agency receives $20,000 in 1874, and Agent Fuller requests an increase to $30,000 for 1875. Instead, they receive $15,000. A hunting party leaves for buffalo country.

By Executive Order a tiny reservation is established in the Lemhi Valley, approximately twelve by eight miles or approximately one-tenth of an acre per person. Fort Hall, by comparison allows approximately one and one-half acres per person.


Background: Salmon River, photo courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society.