ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
For week ended October 31, 1999 Posted 14 Nov 1999

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?
Shoshoni Hoping to Re-Establish Tribal Homeland in Northern Utah

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 white settlers

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 buffalo."

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 grown vegetables.

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 sufficient funds.

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."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information