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Sacajawea's People - The Lemhi-Shoshone and the Salmon River Country

Sacajawea's People - The Lemhi-Shoshone and the Salmon River Country


Also read an excerpt from the book: "The Lemhi Shoshone, Federal Recognition, and the Bicentennial of The Corps of Discovery"

By: John W. W. Mann

On October 20, 2001, a crowd gathered just east of Salmon, Idaho, to dedicate the site of the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Education Center, in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. In a bitter instance of irony, the American Indian peoples conducting the ceremony dedicating the land to the tribe, the city of Salmon, and the nation the Lemhi Shoshones, Sacajawea's own people had been removed from their homeland nearly a hundred years earlier and had yet to regain official federal recognition as a tribe.

John W. W. Mann's book at long last tells the remarkable and inspiring story of the Lemhi Shoshones, from their distant beginning to their present struggles. In anticipation of the bicentennial celebration of the voyages of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, the U. S. Mint issued a $1 coin in 1999 bearing the image of Sacajawea, the Indian woman who accompanied the expedition and contributed to its successful journey to the Pacific Ocean and back. While the coin has been heralded as a sign of long-overdue recognition of the contributions of Native Americans by the government, it has also been widely criticized.

For some, the image of Sacajawea on the coin is tantamount to a validation of the conquest of the American West. Sacajawea, they argue, is celebrated because she “complied with the goals of white America,” not because she was an Indian woman. Others suggest that Sacajawea’s contributions to the expedition have been magnified by myth, and that her role in the journey does not merit the acclaim she has received. Still others point to the irony of an American Indian on currency that will be spent disproportionately by non-Indians. Or to the obvious irony of the juxtaposition of the image of Sacajawea, who, some claim, was essentially a slave, and the word that appears above it: “liberty.”

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Sacajawea Shoshoni

Special Features & Articles focusing on Sacajawea's people from the Salmon, Idaho area

National Geographic - Searching for Sacagawea

National Geographic - Searching for Sacagawea

 Idaho Statesman Special Feature - Sacajawea, Her Story by Her PeopleIdaho Statesman Special Feature - Sacajawea, Her Story by Her People

 New York Times - Sacajawea's People seek a homecomingNew York Times - Sacajawea's People seek a homecoming

 Professor Orlan Svingen - WSU - Assisiting Lemhi-Shoshone to regain federal recognitionProfessor Orlan Svingen - WSU - Assisiting Lemhi-Shoshone to regain federal recognition 

Trail Tribes - Focus on Sacagawea's descendants, traditions, customs, photos, petroglyphs & more Trail Tribes - Focus on Sacagawea's descendants, traditions, customs, photos, petroglyphs & more

 Sacagawea descendants to help dedicate ship - NAVY USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2)Sacagawea descendants to help dedicate ship - NAVY USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2)

 Sacajawea Shoshoni



Sacajawea Shoshoni

Face of Gold - Randy'L Teton - The Modern Face of Sacajawea

Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia - Lemhi-Shoshone

Official Website of the State of Idaho - Lemhi-Shoshone

Minnesota State University (Mankato) - Shoshone

Lewis and Clark in Idaho - Lemhi-Shoshone Tribe

Wikipedia - Lemhi-Shoshone / Agaidika "Salmon-Eater Shoshone"

In memory of the Bear River Massacre, Preston, Idaho.


Research from Washington State Universtity

"Sacajawea's People: Who Are The Lemhi And Where Is Their Home?"
By: Professor Orlan J. Svingen History Department, Washington State UniversityTendoy-right-Lemhi-Shoshone before parade.Photo caption: Chief Tendoy located right on horse, photo taken before the Salmon parade, late 1800's.

Grant's broken promise of a 100 square mile reservation.(1) On February 12, 1875, President Grant established a 100 square mile executive order reservation for Sacajawea's People the Lemhi-Shoshone in the Lemhi Valley. Known as the Lemhi Valley Indian Reservation, the executive order established the reserve for "the exclusive use of the mixed tribes of Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheapeater Indians.

(2) Almost from the outset, however, the government and local residents began efforts to rescind the executive order reservation. They ultimately succeeded in 1905, and in 1907 the Lemhi began what many have called the "Lemhi Trail of Tears," which saw their forced removal from their ancestral homelands to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

(3) Banished from their homeland in 1907 and seeking to return ever since, the Lemhi-Shoshone people create a dilemma for the nation. As it prepares to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, the United States needs to reassess its commitment to the Lemhi-Shoshone, to Sacagawea / Sacajawea's people. The obligation the nation acknowledges toward wolf and salmon recovery efforts is dwarfed by the responsibility it faces in treating fairly the people who played such a crucial role in advancing the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In August of 1805, Lewis and Clark and their Corp of Discovery approached the Three Forks of the Missouri River. At Fort Mandan in October of 1804, they had acquired the services of Toussaint Charbonneau and one of his wives, Sacajawea, a fifteen year old "Shoshone" woman who was six months pregnant. The expedition valued Charbonneau and Sacajawea for their skills as interpreters--he for his French and she for her Hidatsa and Shoshone. Sacajawea, along with several other Shoshone girls, had been captured by a Hidatsa raiding party near the Three Forks four years earlier. Living at Fort Mandan, Charbonneau won Sacajawea in a wager with Hidatsa warriors. Lewis and Clark recognized the importance of being accompanied by someone who spoke the language of one of the tribes living in the Rocky Mountains in the vicinity of the Three Forks.

(4) By the time Lewis and Clark reached the Three Forks of the Missouri River, they understood the critical need for obtaining horses from the Shoshones living just to the west, and they recognized as well the need to obtain geographical information necessary for crossing into the Columbia River drainage. The role of Sacajawea loomed large indeed. First Lewis and then Clark together with Sacajawea, the expedition met and established friendly relations with the Shoshones. They shared food and presents, and they smoked a pipe with the people under the leadership of Cameahweit, later revealed to be Sacajawea's brother. Shortly thereafter, Lewis and Clark assessed the Salmon River as too wild to carry them to the Columbia so they discussed with Cameahweit how best to cross the mountains to the land of the Nez Perce. Cameahweit provided them with a guide, Old Toby, and the "expedition bartered for about thirty horses to convey their goods across the mountains. With Old Toby's assistance, the Corps of Discovery finally reached the Nez Perce villages in late September of 1805. Historian Stephen Ambrose placed a high value on the role Sacajawea's people played. "Without Shoshone horses, without Shoshone information," he explained, "the expedition might as well turn around and go home.

(5) The tribal people living in the Lemhi and Pahsimeroi valleys and along the Salmon River in 1805 were comprised initially of two groups. They included the Agaidika, or Salmoneaters, the Tukukika, or the Sheepeaters who lived in the surrounding mountains. These people subsisted by digging camas, fishing for salmon, and hunting mountain sheep, deer, antelope, and buffalo. As such, they exhibited the classic characteristic of Plateau Indian culture. The two groups subsisting in the Salmon River Country were an organized tribe that crossed the Bitterroots to hunt buffalo north and west of Yellowstone, traveled to the Camas Prairie near Nez Perce country, and traveled north to trade with their allies, the Flatheads. Sometime after 1805, perhaps in the 1850s, the Salmoneaters and Sheepeaters were joined by a number of Bannock Indians who came north from Fort Hall where the main Bannock tribe resided. These Bannock people, numbering about one hundred, became absorbed into the Lemhi tribe living in the Salmon River country.

(6) Mormon missionaries who came to the Salmon River Valley in 1855 were the first non-Indians to establish a sustained relationship with the Salmon River Indian people. Approximately twenty-seven Mormon men left the Salt Lake Valley on May 18, 1855. The party reached Fort Lemhi on May 27, and they selected a permanent site for their mission on June 15, 1855. The mission, named Fort Lemhi, was located approximately two miles north of present-day Tendoy, Idaho. The word "Lemhi" was associated with King Limhi who was one of the kings cited in the Book of Mormon. In Mormon scripture, King Limhi organized an expedition that lasted twenty- two days--the same duration it required the Mormon missionaries to reach the Salmon River Country. Consequently, they named their mission after King Limhi, and, in time, Limhi became Lemhi.

(7)The Mormon mission enjoyed some success, especially after the Lemhi leader, Snag, became a convert to Mormonism, and his acceptance of Mormon doctrine sparked as many as 100 baptisms among the Lemhi people.

(8) Ultimately, however, unrest among some Bannocks, Nez Perces, and the mission led to violence. In February of 1858, two hundred Shoshone and Bannock warriors attacked the mission, killing two missionaries and making off with stolen cattle and horses. The mission closed its doors on March 26, 1858.


(9) Next came a series of treaties and executive orders that further defined the relationship between the federal government and the Lemhi-Shoshone people and their tie to the Salmon River Country. On July 3, 1868, the United States government through its commissioners and chiefs and headmen of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes signed the Fort Bridger Treaty. Tendoy, the successor to Snag, was unable to attend the treaty negotiations, but he sent in his place one of his sub-chiefs, Taytoba, whose name appears among the signatories to the treaty. Throughout the deliberations, however, General Christopher C. Augur failed to recognize that Taytoba was a Lemhi headman, not a Bannock. When presents stemming from the treaty signing were not forthcoming to the Lemhi as they were to the Shoshones and Bannocks, the Lemhis concluded erroneously that they were not signatory to the Fort Bridger Treaty *(Ariwite is A-wite-etse: his mark on the Fort Bridger Treaty)-despite the fact that Taytoba had signed the treaty.

(10) Failing to grasp the meaning of what had taken place, the federal government agreed to enter into what it thought to be separate negotiations with the Lemhi Tribe. Meeting with only two members of the Indian Peace Commission, five to six hundred Lemhis met at Virginia City, in Montana Territory. The Virginia City Treaty was signed on September 24, 1868, and it provided the "mixed tribe of Shoshones, Bannacks, and Sheepeaters" with two townships of land on the Salmon River, twelve miles north of Fort Lemhi. The treaty acknowledged the claim of the Lemhis to a vast holding, extending westward from the Yellowstone River to the Bitterroots Mountains. Lands noted in the Virginia City Treaty, moreover, were preferable to the Snake Plains near Fort Hall because they supported the Lemhi's traditional hunting and fishing activities. Unlike the Treaty of Fort Bridger which the United States Senate ratified on February 26, 1869, the Senate failed to ratify the Virginia City Treaty, causing its stipulations to become meaningless.

(11) By 1868, it had become clear that the mixed tribes living in the Salmon River country shared cultural traits that distinguished them from other Shoshone people. Their leadership was distinct from the people at Fort Hall and the Wind River country, and the geographic setting was quite different from the Snake Plains of Fort Hall. They consumed salmon, sheep, deer, elk, buffalo, and camas, giving them Plateau characteristics that set them apart from the Shoshone - Bannock people at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. And they were likely to hunt buffalo in Montana and visit and trade with the Salish and Kootnai people to the north. Gradually, the non-Indian name, Lemhi, came to define these mixed bands of people who lived cooperatively in the Salmon River region. The failure of the United States Senate to ratify the Virginia City Treaty of 1868 created uncertainty over the Lemhi's tie to their homeland, but it seemed to be relived when in 1875 President Grant issued an executive order that created the Lemhi Valley Indian Reservation. The order created a tract containing about 100 square miles for the "mixed tribes of Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheepeater Indians," and it referenced the unratified Virginia City Treaty of 1868. By now, Tendoy was the acknowledged leader of the tribe, and the annual report of 1875 listed 210 Bannocks, 340 Sheepeaters, and 500 Shoshones living on the reservation.

(12) Opposition to the Lemhis remaining in their homeland emerged almost before the ink had dried on the executive order - coming from policy makers in Washington, DC and local settlers. Three Shoshone reservations seemed excessive and local residents resented sharing what they perceived to be limited space in the Salmon River region. Meanwhile, Tendoy and his subchiefs continued to reject emphatically the suggestions that they relocate to Fort Hall, so the Indian Office considered moving them to the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana Territory. This alternative failed to win support as well. Finally, the government decided to take a Lemhi delegation to Washington, DC, where it hoped to secure their agreement to remove to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. After experiencing a tour that was designed to impress the Lemhi with the grandeur and majesty of the United States, Indian Office officials persuaded Tendoy, his son Jack, and two other Lemhi leaders to sign an agreement to move from the Lemhi Valley Indian Reservation to Fort Hall. Before the agreement was binding, however, a majority of the male population of the Lemhi Reservation was required to give its approval. While approval was never forthcoming, it was used as leverage by the federal government to brow beat the Lemhis into moving to a location that had been historically and overwhelmingly rejected.

(13) For the next twenty-five years, the federal government and local residents hounded the Lemhi, talking persistently about the tribe's removal to Fort Hall. Tendoy and others refused repeatedly, but by 1905 Tendoy and others became brow-beaten and worn down by the weight of thinly-veiled threats by federal agents and by the demands for their removal. Inspector James McLaughlin arrived on the scene and negotiated an agreement which, he claimed, was signed by eighty-six of the 137 adult Lemhi males. Tendoy and others seemed to have been persuaded that remaining at Lemhi meant starvation while land and food was said to be plentiful at Fort Hall. Despite Tendoy's apparent support, rumors abounded that he had no intention of leaving his home in the Pahsimeroi Valley.

(14) Tendoy never did leave the Lemhi Reservation. He died on May 9, 1907. That same month, however, more than 500 Lemhis departed their reservation bound for Fort Hall. They rejected the idea of removing to Fort Hall by rail, explaining that the government usually used trains to move prisoners and they objected to being classified in that fashion. Instead, they rode horses and wagons on the 200 mile overland journey. They packed their meager belongs on horses, strapped the ends of their wick-I-up poles to the sides of their horses and they dragged them along. They were very sad and passed thru the valley, crying. The ranchers along the way could hear their crying for some distance before they passed their homes.

(15) The approximately five hundred Lemhis who removed to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation faced a difficult adjustment to their new surroundings. As minorities on a reservation where Great Basin Shoshone-Bannocks outnumbered them, they were forced to enroll at Fort Hall, they received second-rate allotments as the reservation was allotted, and they quarreled with a government that was slow to respond to their request for annuities promised from the 1889 agreement. It is small wonder that they established the tradition of returning annually to the Lemhi Valley to hunt, fish, and visit with a number of Lemhis who remained behind in Salmon. They also tended the graves of relatives buried in their homeland.

(16) Rather than submitting to the new and negative circumstances they found themselves in, the Lemhis retained their identity by reacting to their adversities. During the 1930s, they formed the Lemhi Committee which was comprised of Lemhi Elders committed to preserving Lemhi cultural and political identity. The committee offered the leadership to pursue issues such as their annuities claim, allotment allocations, and enrollment questions. Despite the forced enrollment at Fort Hall, for example, as late as 1939 the agency still conducted a Lemhi Census for the purpose of distributing Lemhi annuities. Members of the Lemhi Committee and scores of other Lemhis who had the means continued to return to Lemhi Country in the summers. The old Indians who remember when they ruled the valley, cling to their birthplace. They visit the reservation at Fort Hall, where they are supposed to stay, but they come stubbornly back, bringing their children and their grandchildren. . . . .

Elk Rock

(17) Lemhi people who remained behind, choosing to live in Salmon, Idaho, lived at three different locations. Some lived on the "bar," while others lived at the encampment and in particular Salmon neighborhoods.

(18) Difficulties attendant to a minority group whose numbers were diluted by the Sho-Ban majority continued to plague the Lemhis. In 1951, for example, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Business Council passed a resolution that absorbed the remaining $3,027.00 from the Lemhi annuity account. The resolution created a special account with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and designated the money for celebration and recreational purposes. This was opposed by Lemhis who saw no tie between the annuity funds linked to their reservation and the Sho-Bans.

(19) 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. Well, as a native... the belief the natives have is that we are so related to the mother. earth, and that's why we, like myself, I would reject that offer of four and a half million...As I think about our little ones, Where are they going to go? Our little ones, our babies, Where are they going to go if we sellout? That's my own thinking. But perhaps the greatest irony that followed was an Idaho Supreme Court decision of 1972. In Idaho v. Tinno, a Lemhi man named Gerald Tinno had been charged with violating Idaho fishing regulations; he had been caught fishing on the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River. The court ruled in his favor, however, holding that the Lemhis possessed hunting and fishing rights that were guaranteed by the 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty.

In the process, the court also determined that one of the signatories to the treaty was a Lemhi leader named Taytoba who had been sent by Tendoy to represent the Lemhi. Possessing signatory treaty rights places any tribe who can claim them in something of an elite category, but what became clear was that since the 1875 executive order and throughout the twentieth century the Lemhi had been treated as a second-class, non-treaty tribe. Classified as a non-treaty tribe, their ICC claim, which never included acknowledgment of their treaty status, was attached as a rider to the Shoshone-Bannock claim. Scholars employed to make the best case for the Lemhis in their litigation research remained ignorant of their status which surely compromised the final outcome. Forcing the Lemhis to "piggy-back" their claim under the purview of the greater Shoshone-Bannock claim was the ultimate attack on the identity of Sacajawea's people.

Meanwhile, the Fort Lemhi Indian Community continue to push their case for restoring federal recognition to the Lemhis. Since its establishment in 1978, the Bureau of Acknowledgment and Research, an agency of the BIA, has received recognition petitions from approximately 325 Indian tribes nationwide seeking federal recognition. To date, fewer than twenty of the 325 tribes have won recognition. These are not good odds for the Lemhis, and 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 Sacagawea / Sacajawea's and her people remains such a scandal. Who are the Lemhi-Shoshone and where is their home? Lemhis are Agaidikas, Tukudikas, and Bannocks and their home is in the Lemhi Valley of Idaho in the Salmon River drainage. (2000)




1. ldaho Statesman, February 16, 1996. 2. Kappler 839 3. Idaho Statesman, February 16, 1996. 4. Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage, Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1996), 187. 5. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage, 259-285, 289-301. 6. Shoshone Tribe of Indians of the Wind River Reservation v. The United States of America, Ind. Cl. Comm. 387-413 (1962). Brigham D. Madsen, The Bannock of Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1958), 170, 196-97. 7. Dorothy Clapp Robinson, "Fort Lemhi Mission, Idaho: Chapter in Review," Relief Society Magazine (September 1946): 583. 8. John D. Nash, "The Salmon River Mission of 1855: A Reappraisal," Idaho Yesterdays 11 (Spring 1967): 26; Merrill d. Beal, "Brigham Young's Indian Policy," A History of Southeastern Idaho (Caldwell, ill: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1942), 139. 9. Salmon River Mission Journal, February 24, 1858; Beal, Southeastern Idaho, 144-149; Nash, "Salmon River," 30-31. 10. The Fort Bridger Treaty of July 3, 1868, 15 Stat. 673, II Kappler 1020; Idaho Statesman, June 26, 1877. 11. The Unratified Treaty with the Shoshones, Bannacks, and Sheepeaters, September 24, 1868, 5 Kappler 707. 12. Kappler 839; Commissioner of Indian Affairs Annual Report, 1875,45-46,89. 13. "C.I.A Annual Report," 1880,278; Shirley Stephens, "The Lemhi Indian People of Idaho: Removal from the Salmon River Country to Fort Hall, 1880-1907," (M.A. thesis, Washington State University, 1996), 15-18. 14. Stephens, "The Lemhi People of Idaho," 95-105, 173-174, 177. 15. Ethel Kimball, "The Vanishing Americans Along the River of No Return," Real West, May 1975, Vertical File, Idaho History: Native American Lemhi Shoshone, Salmon Public Library, Salmon, Idaho. 16. Marcia Babcock Montgomery, "The Struggle to Retain Tribal Identity: The Lemhi Indian People of Idaho, 1907-1929," (M.A. thesis, Washington State University, 1996),93-96. 17. Unidentified reporter, newspaper article, 1938, File 354, Indians, Idaho, University of Idaho Special Collections, University of Idaho, Moscow. 18. Susie Bennet, "The Village That Once Was, " Patchwork: Pieces of Local History, Salmon High School, (May 1989): 19. Resolution of the Fort Hall Business Council of Shoshone Bannock Tribes, Number 211, December 7, 1951, Central Classified Files 054, Fort Hall, File 39977, Box 220, Accession 56A- 588, Record Group 75, National Archives. John W.W. Mann, "Returning To The River Of No Return: The Lemhi Indian People and the Salmon River Country, Idaho, 1945-1972," (M.A. thesis, Washington State University, 1997.) Chapter 2. 20 . Fort Hall Business Council Resolution 4431 (Sharing Resolution), January 30, 1971.


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