There are approximately 5,681 enrolled tribal members with a majority living on or near the Fort Hall Reservation. Through its self-governing rights afforded under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Tribes manages its own schools, post office, grocery store, waste disposal, agriculture and commercial businesses, rural transits, casinos, and more.
The traditional lands of the Shoshone and Bannock people were vast and encompassed areas that extended into what are now Canada and Mexico. They were hunters and gathers who moved with the seasons to gather various foods and resources, “de-de-vee-wah” (travelers). Because of the importance of the abundant natural resources needed for hunting, fishing, and gathering, they called themselves by the names of the foods they ate: Agai-deka (salmon eaters), Tuku-deka (sheep eaters), Kuchun-deka (buffalo eaters), Kamu-deka (rabbit eaters), Hukan-deka (seed eaters), Deheya’a-deka (deer eaters), Yamba-deka (root eaters), just to name a few. Each band has similar lifestyles but had some distinct differences in language dialects, traditions and beliefs.
The Shoshones of Idaho are the most northerly of the vast Shoshone language group, which extends throughout the northwest and southwestern United States, and well into Canada and Mexico. The Northern Shoshones stayed close to the Snake River, but traveled over vast areas for big game, salmon, camas roots and other important food sources.
The Bannock traveled much of Oregon and spread over Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. The bands also made regular expeditions to buffalo country, often following the proverbial Bannock Trail through Yellowstone Park into Canada. Southeastern Idaho was a favorite wintering area for both bands.
Today, descendants of the Lemhi, Boise Valley, Bruneau, Weiser and other bands of Shoshone and Bannock reside on the Reservation but all continue to return to their inherent areas to hunt, fish, gather, socialize, and to exercise their traditional and ceremonial practices.
The Shoshones and Bannocks are related linguistically under the Uto-Aztecan speaking group but otherwise call themselves “Newe” which means “the People”. The Comanche, Hopi, and Ute also share our linguistic heritage.
Presently, there are more Shoshone speakers living on the reservation than Bannock speakers. Through the Tribal Language & Cultural Preservation Department, we are making efforts to preserve both languages so that future generations may be able to speak them. It is so important to be able to maintain our identity through the retention of our language.
In 1832, Nathaniel Wyeth organized an expedition from Boston to Oregon in prospects of setting up a trading post, which was later established in Fort Hall in 1834. It was said that while Wyeth was traveling, he had shot a buffalo and where it fell marked the spot for Fort Hall, which was named after Henry Hall, one of the financial backers of the expedition (ISJ, Idaho’s First 100’s Years). The Fort became a key stop for fur trappers and travelers going westbound on the Oregon and California Trails. The Fort eventually closed in 1856 and a monument was erected in 1920 to commemorate its existence, the ruins of the Fort are visible today.
Despite the Fort’s closure, the trail way continued to be heavily used by travelers and their livestock. This heavy traffic through southeastern Idaho decimated wild game populations and vegetation that contributed to skirmishes between local Indians and settlers. The conflicts culminated in the Bear River Massacre, in which the United States Army, under Colonel Patrick Edward Conner, brutally murdered more than 400 Northwestern Band of Shoshones under Chief Bear Hunter near present-day Preston, Idaho, in the winter of 1863.
The massacre prompted the government to establish treaty negotiations and a reservation for the area bands for both the protection of settlers as well as the local Indians.
TREATIES IMPACTING FORT HALL
In 1867, an Executive Order set apart 1.8 million acres in Southeastern Idaho for the numerous bands of Shoshone and Bannock people. On July 3, 1868, the Fort Bridger Treaty affirmed the Fort Hall Indian Reservation as a “permanent home” for the Shoshone and Bannock people for their “absolute and undeterred use and occupation.”
The Treaty reserved off-reservation rights including hunting, fishing, and gathering to tribal members on “unoccupied lands of the United States.”
The federal government shortly thereafter restricted the tribes’ off-reservation rights for a time in an attempt to turn tribal members into farmers and ranchers. The experiment might have been a success had it not been for the failure of crops during drought years. During those years, families lived close to starvation due to inadequate rations from the government and restrictions on traveling off the reservation to hunt and fish. Many tribal members, however, have continued the ranching traditions to the present day.
- October 14, 1863: Soda Springs Treaty - UNRATIFIED
- October 10, 1864: Treaty of Fort Boise - UNRATIFIED
- April 12, 1866: Bruneau Treaty - UNRATIFIED
- August 21, 1867: Long Tom Creek Treaty – Between the Bannock Indians and Governor D.W. Ballard. Agreed to remove the Bannocks from the Boise Valley and go to Fort Hall Reservation provided that such reservation belongs to the Bannocks.
- June 14, 1867: Executive Order - adopting recommendation of Commissioner of Indian Affairs to establish boundaries as defined by the local Indian agents: The Boise and Bruneau bands of Shoshones and Bannock Reservation: "Commencing on the south bank of Snake River at the junction of the Portneuf River with the Snake River; then south 25 miles to the summit of the mountains dividing the waters of Bear River from those of the Snake River; thence easterly along the summit of said range of mountains 70 miles to a point where Sublette road crosses said divide; thence north about 50 miles to the Blackfoot River; thence down said stream to its junction with the Snake River; thence down Snake River to the place of beginning." Embracing about 1,800,000 acres and comprehending Fort Hall on the Snake River within its limits.
- July 3, 1868: Treaty with the Shoshoni (Eastern band) and Bannock tribes of Indians, 1868 (Fort Bridger Treaty) 15 Stat. 673.
- September 24, 1868: Treaty with the Shoshones, Bannocks and Sheepeaters - UNRATIFIED - Virginia City, Montana
- July 30, 1869: President Grant adopts recommendation of Secretary of Interior; Bannock reservation mentioned by the second article of the Treaty of 1868 to be included within reservation established by June 14, 1867 Executive Order.
- February 12, 1875: Lemhi Reserve established by Executive Order for the exclusive use of the mixed tribes of Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheepeater Indians.
The Fort Hall Reservation once consisted of 1.8 million acres but due to government acts and encroachment, it was ceded twice and now consists of 544,000 acres (804,270 sq. mi.), reducing the total original size to less than half.
The Indian Allotment Act of 1887 (Dawes Act) authorized the government to divide Indian land into allotments for individual Indian ownership in efforts to assimilate Indians into western society and to provide the government the opportunity to purchase Indian land for non-Indian settlements.
The Dawes Act had a negative impact on American Indian land holdings by decreasing millions of acres to a third of its original size, i.e. Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Not only did much of the Indians lose their lands but they were inadequately compensated and inexperienced with American currency.
The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, was passed to reverse the Dawes Act and return self-governing powers to the Native American tribes. Today, the Tribes are considered a Federally Recognized Tribe with all the powers and duties granted under the IRA to manage their own assets and economic development for the inhabitants of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
The Tribes have developed a successful land acquisition program to purchase fee lands located within the Reservation, resulting in 97% Tribal and trust holdings with 3% remaining in individual tribal and non-Indian ownership. (Sho-Ban News, June 2008)
The Tribes adopted its own tribal constitution and bylaws on April 30, 1936, establishing an elected tribal council and to set up governmental systems necessary to the welfare of its inhabitants.
“We, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation, Idaho, in order to establish a more responsible organization, promote our general welfare, conserve and develop our lands and resources, and secure to ourselves and our prosperity the power to exercise certain rights of self-government not inconsistent with federal and local laws, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.”
Powers and duties granted under the IRA allows for an elected tribal council and to set up departments typical of a local government including law & order, health, education and social services. The Tribes’ governing body is the Fort Hall Business Council, an elected body of seven members serving staggered two-year terms. The Constitution provides for an annual meeting of the Tribes’ membership at which resolutions may be passed governing future actions of the Business Council. The Constitution also provides for special meetings of the membership and for referendum votes. The tribes also have a federally chartered corporation to manage their enterprises.
Besides agricultural income, the reservation economy has relied in the past on the revenues generated from the mining of phosphate reserves both on and off the reservation in the form of both jobs and royalties. Phosphate mining on the reservation ceased in the early 1990s, after nearly 40 years of operations, causing a significant loss of royalties to the tribes for governmental operations which, fortunately, was quickly replaced by revenue from the tribes' new gaming operations. A phosphate manufacturing company continued operating on the reservation until 2001, providing badly-needed jobs to the economy, but leaving behind a Superfund site on the National Priority List. The Tribes’ Environmental Waste Program is working closely with the government agencies to ensure proper cleanup.
The growth of the tribes' gaming operations and other businesses has resulted in increased employment and a strong boost to the regional economy. Today, the tribes employ nearly 1,000 Native and non-Native people in various trades: 575 in tribal government, 85 by the enterprises and more than 300 at the tribes’ three casinos, with a combined payroll of more than $32 million.
Tribal government provides programs such as education, law and order, planning and zoning, enrollment and social and health services through a combination of federal grants and tribal subsidies. Recently, the tribes opened a 66,000 square foot Justice Center on the reservation to improve law enforcement, courts and corrections services. In addition, construction is proceeding on a new hotel and events center adjacent to the Tribes' main casino in Fort Hall to be open this summer 2012.
It was indicated in the 2009 Economic Impact Study that the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes increased regional employment by 4,097 jobs and have raised gross regional product by $183 million, 29% of which was from agriculture. In addition, the Tribes casinos have brought in new tourist flow estimated at 200,000 people per year, 40% were from out of state. These dollars have helped to generate the state’s economy as well as the Tribes economic servitude. In fact, the Tribes total sales were at $330.6 million in 2009. (Peterson 2010)
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