Summarized by Eric Bunker
Shoshoni Hoping to Re-Establish Tribal Homeland in Northern Utah
Salt Lake Tribune 31Oct99 N4
By Dan Egan: Salt Lake Tribune
WASHAKIE, UTAH -- 400 members of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshoni
are struggling to reestablish a reservation north of Brigham City Utah.
Currently the Native American tribe owns only 184 acres of desert which is
located west of Interstate 15 about five miles south of the Utah-Idaho state
line. It is negotiating with a ranch north of its property to buy 6400 more
acres and turn it into a federally recognized reservation that could
represent the historical core of their lands that they inhabited before
white settlers came.
Currently, the only inhabitants of this micro-reservation are the buried
remains of the survivors of the Bear River Massacre and their descendants
who settled at Washakie after US troops decimated the tribe in 1886. In the
most bloodiest massacre ever recorded by the army, the troops slaughtering
hundreds, mostly defenseless women and children, in the name of protecting
Many of the Northwestern Shoshoni converted to Mormonism in 1873, after
which the Church in the 1880s settled the tribe on land it owned at
Washakie. Reports show this ranching community thrived until World War II,
when many of its residents left the 4,000-acre private reservation for
combat abroad or war-industry jobs along the Wasatch Front. By the 1960s,
the community's permanent population had plummeted to just three families
housed in ramshackle buildings.
Three decades ago in an effort to divest itself of unproductive assets, the
Church sent remaining tribe members eviction notices and cleared the land of
what they thought were abandoned structures, so that the property could be
sold to a local rancher. Inadvertently, the church destroyed a lot of
personal property that was valuable to absentee tribe members. The Church
recently has since tried to makeup to the tribe for their losses. The
property was eventually resold to the Kingston Clan, a polygamous group.
Currently, a tribe member is genetically as likely to have as much white
blood as Shoshoni, as generations have married into white families and
assimilated themselves into the white community and culture. However, many
old tribe members still considered Washakie home, and are electing to be
buried at the old cemetery though they live elsewhere.
Tribe old-timers worry about the future of the tribe if it does not get
land. But the tribe needs more property to attract enough members to form a
community. Members say if they don't create a place for their people, the
tribe's heritage and culture will be buried in their cemetery within a
couple of generations;
"If you don't have land, you don't have a tribe," says member Bruce Parry,
who adds that without new land to give the tribe a sense of community as
well as economic opportunity, "We're just going to disappear like the
Nearly 90 percent of the tribe call themselves Church members. 71-year-old
Helen Timbimboo, a Washakie native and active lifelong member, says, "I'm
not really afraid for [my descendants]. I just wonder about them."
Sis. Timbimboo does worry about the future of her tribe if it does not
acquire a new reservation. "This is our last chance," she says. "We've got
to come together once more."
If a purchase is made, the tribe plans to continue with the ranch, as well
as staff other such projected enterprises like a truck stop and hotel and
leasing land to national chains on both sides of I-15, which passes through
their planned reservation. One additional plan is to tap hot springs on
their current property and use the water to raise crayfish or hydroponically
The tribe is tying to collect the funding necessary to make the purchase and
start enterprises. The feel that they have a significant block of federal
funds lined up from various sources and are expecting some help from the
state and private charitable institutions in addition to hoping that the
Church will help out in some fashion. Save the Kingston Clan, they see no
opposition to their plans. All that stands in the way is the acquisition of
Additionally Sis. Timbimboo is eager to see a thriving Mormon-Indian
partnership and the town return to northern Utah. "Hopefully, [members]
will come back if they have a home to come home to, and employment to come
home to," says Timbimboo. "There are a lot of talented people who could
even be bishops."