ANTH 3001C Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Northwestern United States

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The Shoshone-Bannock tribes were the original Indigenous people of what is now Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah in the United States. They had a long history of successful habitation in these areas, predating the arrival of Europeans and the expansion of the United States.

The Shoshone-Bannock tribes were initially separate tribes spread across the northwestern United States. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers with distinct gender roles. Women were primarily gatherers, while men took on the role of hunters. Originally centered in the western Great Basin region, they gradually expanded north and east, settling in present-day Idaho and Wyoming. As more settlers moved westward, conflicts between the tribes and settlers arose in the latter half of the 19th century. Chief Pocatello, the leader of the Shoshone tribe, played a prominent role in the 1860 conflict against settlers in Idaho. The city of Pocatello is named after him.

ANTH 3001C Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Northwestern United States

In 1863, the first Fort Bridger treaty was signed between the Indian Bureau and various tribes in the area, including the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. The treaty aimed to establish peace between the Shoshone people and the settlers. It also ensured the safety of travel routes, including ferries, stage stations, stagecoaches, and telegraph lines. The route of the newly approved Transcontinental Railroad was also protected.

The Shoshone territory was defined as the Snake River in the north, the Wind River Mountains in the northeast, the Sweetwater to the North Platte in the east, and the Yampa River in present-day Colorado. The western border was not specifically defined due to the tribes’ extensive range in the Great Basin. The estimated territory covered around 44 million acres. In return for their concessions, the tribes received an annuity of goods worth $10,000 per year for 20 years, along with an upfront bonus of $6,000 worth of goods and presents. Goods were distributed each year at Fort Bridger.

ANTH 3001C Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Northwestern United States

The Treaty of 1868 at Fort Bridger added further provisions to the original treaty. It established a reservation in the Wind River Valley for the “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of the Shoshone tribes. The tribes were not required to move to the reservation until specific agency buildings were constructed. Shoshone members were allowed to hunt off the reservation on unoccupied lands. The treaty also included provisions for education, agriculture, and the distribution of clothing and other goods to tribal members. The Bannocks were assigned a separate reservation at a later time.

The Shoshone religion is based on the accumulation of supernatural power, known as “boha,” which is acquired through vision quests and dreams. Shamans, known as “boha gande,” use their supernatural abilities to cure the sick and lead ceremonial activities. One significant ceremony is the Sun Dance, which is held annually by each tribe during late spring or early summer when the buffalo herds gather. The Sun Dance involves hundreds of tribal members and is a time of celebration and sustenance.

ANTH 3001C Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Northwestern United States

From an anthropological perspective, the concept of cultural relativism is crucial in understanding the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. Cultural relativism emphasizes the need to comprehend a person’s ideas and beliefs by understanding their culture, rather than applying our own cultural lens. It allows us to grasp the tribe’s history, culture, and perspectives without imposing our own cultural biases. In contrast, ethnocentrism promotes cultural superiority and tends to disregard or devalue other cultures.

Despite the long-standing presence of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes in the region, much of their deep history remains unexplored. They have faced numerous challenges as they strive to protect their way of life and preserve their culture in the face of encroaching civilization.


Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 13). Shoshone. Wikipedia. Retrieved from Coming to Wind River: The Eastern Shoshone Treaties of 1863 and 1868 | (2018, May 23). WyoHistory.Org. Retrieved from

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2018, January 8). Sun Dance. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Brown, N. (2020, January 1). Introduction to Anthropology – Perspectives: An Open Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition. Pressbooks. Retrieved from