The historic Shoshone Indians, of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, occupied territory in California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, although most of them seemed to be settled in the Snake river area in Idaho.Historical documents from the Lewis & Clark expedition often refer to the Shoshone as the “Snake Indians”; the actual name “Shoshone” means “The Valley People” . The name means “inland”, or “in the valley”.The Shoshone were few in numbers, their total population being somewhere in the area of 8000.
In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant established a 100 square mile executive order reservation for the Lemhi Valley Shoshone, establishing the Lemhi Valley Indian Reservation for use by the Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheepeater tribes.
In 1905, nearly one hundred years after their first contact with the white man, the Lemhi Shoshone began their “Trail of Tears”, being forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands to the Fort Hall Indian Reservationto their newly “appointed” home.
An article by Professor Orlan J. Svingen of the History Department at Washington State University brings forth several injustices suffered by the Lemhi Shoshone.Prof. Svingen writes:
“But perhaps the ultimate act of dispossession was the Indian Claims Commission settlement involving the Lemhi people. During the 1960s, the ICC and the federal government determined that the Lemhi Claim to aboriginal lands would have to be submitted as part of the larger Shoshone-Bannock Claim. The Lemhis were prohibited from filing their own independent claim. When their claim, Docket #326-1, came before the ICC, the Lemhi claim to their land 200 miles north of Fort Hall totaled $4.5 million. Based on pressure from the federal government, the ICC, the Sho-Bans, and the Sho-Bans attorneys, the $4.5 million was assigned to the Shoshone Bannock general fund. Rather than dividing the 1971 Lemhi settlement among the approximately 500 Lemhis living at Fort Hall, it was, essentially, divided among as many as 3000 people living at Fort Hall–the overwhelming majority of whom had no direct or indirect tie to Lemhi lands.20 Opposition to the settlement was widespread among the Lemhi, but their dissatisfaction fell on the deaf ears of the Shoshone-Bannock majority and the Sho-Ban attorneys from the firm of Wilkinson, Cragun & Barker. Udale Simmer Tendoy, a Lemhi descendant, typified Lemhi opposition with his assessment of the ICC decision in 1971.”
Today, the Shoshone are still waiting to become a Federally recognized tribe, along with over 200 other Native American tribes such as the California Chumash and the North-Eastern Abenakis.There has been much controversy surrounding the U.S. Government’s plans to commemorate the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition.
Prof. Svingen comments on the proposed bicentennial celebration:
“…as the nation prepares to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it is difficult to consider how the country can celebrate the Corps of Discovery while such a debt to Sacajawea and her people remains such a scandal.”
For more details on the history of the Lemhi Shoshone, visit www.lemhishoshone.com