Freight, mail and stagecoach passengers endured the rough, dangerous road from Rawlins on the Union Pacific through Lander to the Shoshone reservation for 27 years. “God bless the old stage line; she is doomed,” one postmaster wrote in 1906, when a railroad first reached Lander, “but it beat walking.”
A century ago there were hundreds of boarding schools for American Indian children. Many were on reservations, and many were run by religious orders; there were three on what’s now the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Others were intentionally built far from tribal homelands, to separate children from their languages, lands and families.
In the early decades of the 20th century, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho people in Wyoming found new ways to keep old traditions alive. At the same time they settled an old dispute by means of a long lawsuit, while always negotiating and re-negotiating their evolving relationship with the U.S. government.
Tribal sovereignty, retained by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho since before Wyoming statehood,governs wildlife conservation on the more than two million acres of tribal lands on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Game populations have increased steadily since a tribal game code was adopted in 1984.
With the buffalo gone and poverty, hunger and disease increasing, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes came under intense pressure in the 1890s to sell their land. In 1896, they sold the U.S. government a piece of their reservation ten miles square—including the splendid hot springs at present Thermopolis, Wyo.
In the 1860s, the Eastern Shoshone people signed two treaties with the U.S. government. The first set aside vast holdings for them. Just five years later, as the transcontinental railroad was approaching, a second treaty established a Shoshone reservation in the Wind River valley—with less than a tenth the earlier amount of land.