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for viewing maps at right.)
Trail over Lemhi
from a photograph by John E. Rees ca. 1900
(Lewis and Phillips: 1923)
Lithograph from John Mix Stanley original. (Stevens:1855) Courtesy
of The University of Montana Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library,
Granville Stuart's sketch
of Deer Lodge City, looking west to the 'Gold Creek Mountains'
(Flint Creek Range today).
Big Hole Prairie
From the north. Lithograph from John Mix Stanley original, ca. 1855.
(Stevens:1861) Courtesy of The University of Montana Mike and Maureen
Mansfield Library, Government Documents.
1865 sketch of Virginia City
in September of 1865
Montana Territorial Governor, July 1966-69.
Library of Congress
Courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society
Photo courtesy LCHS
|Lemhi Pass > Culture > In Limbo
Bluffs along the Salmon
River, Lemhi camp in foreground.
This location was a camping and gathering area for Shoshone, Flathead,
Nez Perce, and some Blackfoot bands.
From an original photograph by John E. Rees, 1903. (Lewis and Phillips:
In the twenty years from 1855 to '75, the Northern Shoshone and Bannocks
struggle to make a living. The fur trade era has passed, taking many of
the area's resources with it. The old ways are gone like the buffalo from
the Snake River Plains. By 1855, some Bannocks have joined the group descended
from Cameahwait's band. Leadership falls to Cameahwait's brother, Snagg,
after the death of Cameahwait at the hands of the Blackfeet on Bloody Dick
Creek, in Horse Prairie, not far from where he had met Lewis and Clark in
|Common Hunting Grounds
The Shoshones are unofficially included in the "shared hunting grounds"
established by the Lame Bull Treaty of 1855. This treaty is negotiated with
the Blackfeet and "Western Tribes" as a peace treaty, with the
goal of protecting white settlers across the region, and to establish tribal
boundaries and common hunting grounds. The Shoshones had hunted above the
Three Forks for as long as they could remember, and they remain unaware
of any change in their official status. When the neighboring tribes agree
to share these rich hunting grounds of the Missouri Headwaters, none of
them can imagine the demise of the bison in this territory in less than
a decade nor can they imagine the thousands of miners who would overrun
these lands, right in the heart of these shared hunting grounds.
Portion of Stevens
and Cummings 1857 Map
of the Indian Nations and Tribes
Territory of Washington & Nebraska,
courtesy of MSCUA,
University of Washington, neg. # 979.7 W27m.
This map section illustrates the Common Hunting Grounds,
a rich basin defined by the continental divide and the Yellowstone River
(in southwest Montana).
Compare with 1876 Rand McNally map of the same area.
Portion of Rand McNally's
map of Montana,
published of their Business Atlas in 1876
|Mormons, Miners, and Cattle Barons
Also in 1855, Brigham Young has a vision to establish a mission on a
branch of the Salmon River. He sends missionaries forth and they name their
establishment after King Limhi, a figure in the Book of Mormon. Although
the Mormons leave the valley within three years time, the area becomes known
as the Lemhi Valley and eventually the descendents of Cameahwait's band
become associated with this Mormon name.
A small number of settlers are getting established in the territory of
the Northern Shoshones and their neighbors, the "Flatheads" (Bitterroot
Salish), during the 1850s. One of these men, John Owen, is appointed in
1858 as subagent for the "Cayuse District," which includes the
Bannock and Mountain Snakes. Owen operates the Fort Owen Trading Post in
the Bitterroot Valley and serves as special agent to the Flatheads. He is
married to a Shoshone woman (known only as "Nancy") and his journals
and letters through the years refer to the locations, conditions and activities
of various bands of Northern Shoshones.
Beaverhead Rock near Dillon,
Montana, ca. 1920
(Lewis and Phillips: 1923)
During the 1850s, Richard Grant and others around Fort Hall see an opportunity
in purchasing worn-out horses and cattle from emigrants, then fattening
them up on the grasses of the high country north of the Snake River plain.
In 1857, they choose the Beaverhead Country. In 1858 and '59, they winter
with their stock on Henry's Fork and in spring of 1860 head back north to
the Beaverhead where they plan to camp again "at the mouth of 'Pak-sam-ma-oi,'
which in the Indian Language [Shoshone] means cottonwood grove" (Stuart 1925:154).
"We were soon joined by a middle aged trapper named Louis Simmons and
a young Snake Indian boy named Tabbabo. This boy we employed as a horse
herder, and he proved to be a good and faithful one" (Stuart 1925:154).
Stuart and another trader traveled north to a Hudson's Bay Trading Post
near St. Ignatius Mission, and on their return were:
"...greatly surprised to meet...James, Simmons, and Tabbabo,
with all our stock at Camp creek, on the Big Hole river, moving to Deer
Lodge valley. They told us that soon after we had left a large camp of Bannock
Indians came into the valley and soon began to show an insolent semi-hostile
disposition, and game being scarce, they killed one of our cattle. So to
avoid serious trouble James packed up and started for Deer Lodge. We held
a consultation and decided to go on to Gold creek and locate and work our
gold prospect of 1858.
"This insolent band of Indians was under a chief named
Ar-ro-ka-kee, who was six feet, two inches tall and weighed two hundred
and seventy-five pounds. Captain Grant and his retainers called him, 'LeGran
Coquin,' which in French means 'The Big Rogue,' and our experience with
him convinced us that they had rightly named him" (Stuart 1925:154).
Agent Owen's letter to Superintendent of Indian Affairs E. R. Geary in December
of 1860 describes conditions of 300 lodges camped in the Deer Lodge valley,
and expresses their great need for help:
"I have just dismissed a delegation of Snakes & Salmon
Fall Indians. They were in the most destitute condition. Charges had been
filed against them here of Killing Cattle belonging to our Settlers. They
did not deny the charge, and their appearance confirmed the reasons they
assigned for foraging on the property of another, which was nothing else
than in obedience to the first law of Nature. They had done it through Necessity.
"My own impression is that if the Dept. would take hold
of these poor, destitute Indians, extend over them its fostering arm Much
good must result from it.
"But let things remain in the present unsettled Condition
and serious results will follow. I am openly accused of trifling with them...
"This large camp of Snakes are boldly defying the White
Man. It may not be Safe for me to Visit them. Still duty prompts me to make
the effort" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).
Owen urges Geary to schedule a council before they scatter, "Some
to the fighting grounds, Some to the Mts, Some to Buffalo ect ect" (Owen,
in Madsen: 1979).
Two months later, Owen writes a second letter to Geary explaining the
Indians were still hanging around the new settlement in Deer Lodge Valley,
stealing and such:
"They are objects of Charity I Visited their huts Made
of boughs & grass Myself in order that I might Not be deceived by the
intelligence I had recd Poor Miserable Naked Starving Wretches. Language
is inadequate to describe their truly destitute condition The citizens have
appealed to Me & petitioned Me as the only Govt. officer Near to Make
some provisions for them. I am issuing Beef & Flour in Small quantities.
I have procured Some tents for them.
"In fact I could not resist the appeal after Visiting them
& with My Own Eyes beholding their condition...
"These Indians twelve years ago were the avowed friends
of the White Man. I have had their Young Men in My Employment as Hunters
Horse Guards Guides etc etc I have traversed the length & breadth of
their Entire Country with large bands of Stock unmolested. Their present
hostile attitude can in great Measure be attributed to the treatment they
have recd form unprincipled White Men passing through their Country. They
have been robd Murdered their women outraged etc etc and in fact outrages
have been committed by white Men that the heart would Shudder to record.
Those are incontrovertible facts" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).
Hundreds of miners scour the region and gold is struck in Bannock, Montana
in '62, and Virginia City in '63. By late 1864, 10,000 people are mining
at Alder Gulch near Virginia City. Bison are gone from the area, hunted
out by 1865, and Indians fear for their own lives. "A good Indian is
a dead Indian" is the belief of many of these miners.
"Heavy issues have been Made during the Winter to destitute
& deserving Indians... if the Inds had not recd some relief from the
Gov't many of them would have certainly perished" (Owen, in Madsen: 1979).
|There are whites on Grasshopper Creek in the Beaverhead
country by late 1862. The Bannock City gold discovery brings hundreds of
miners into Horse Prairie area, on the path of Bannock and Shoshone annual
buffalo hunts, and their summer root gathering areas. Chief Snagg is murdered
by a Bannock City saloon keeper in 1863, and Tendoy becomes his successor.
Due to his strong presence, within a few years this band is known as "Tendoy's
Photo courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society
Ken Furrow photo.
Idaho Territory is established in 1863, Montana in '64, and the Lemhi
territory now straddles that boundary as well as the Continental Divide.
Separated from Fort Hall by hundreds of miles, the Lemhi bands often trade
in the Bitterroot Valley at John Owen's post.
|Negotiating for a Permanent Home
Efforts are made to establish a reservation and supply rations, but there
is no treaty agreement with the U.S. government until 1868, and no reservation
In 1866, agent Owen redirects $2431.76 worth of goods destined for the more
affluent Flathead to poverty-stricken Lemhi; the Flathead agent suggests
that tribe be properly compensated for theft of their treaty goods. New
Montana Territorial Governor Smith informs the commissioner at year's end
that friendly Bannock and Shoshoni referred to in previous Montana correspondence
have no connection with related, troublesome tribes in Utah. He points out
that while hostile tribes receive annuities from the government, these Montana
groups "have never had any presents given to them" (Madsen: 1979).
Montana Gov. Smith emphasizes to the commissioner that the Lemhi have
lost all lands to whites, who have driven off all the wild game which the
Indians depend on for food. He concludes they are the only tribe in Montana
not provided for, and if the government does nothing for them "they
must suffer and large numbers of them die." He prompts the commissioner
to ask the Secretary of Interior to include appropriation for $20,000 for
the Lemhi to get necessary clothing and food for the winter.
Luther Mann, agent at Ft. Bridger, report to the commissioner in 1867
that 100 lodges of Shoshoni and some Bannock, both of Yellowstone tributaries,
and some bands of Sheep Eaters in Salmon River mountains are all very poor
and require government aid. The commissioner concludes they were part of
the 1863 Soda Springs treaty and reminds the Secretary of the Interior that
$20,000 had been requested for the Montana Shoshoni and Bannock.
Constant petitioning of Washington by government officials and friends
of the Lemhi finally sees results when a trickle of annuity goods come to
the Montana Superintendency in 1868. In late July, some Sheepeaters visit
Fort Hall and learn of the Treaty of Fort Bridger, and that Tahgee's tribe
of Bannock have signed a treaty rewarding them $15,000 worth of presents
and $20 apiece in money. "Captain John" and several other leaders
of Sheep Eaters go to Boise to complain to Gov. David W Ballard about inequity,
and remind him of long history of friendship. Agent George C. Hough thinks
it is a poor way to start the Fort Hall Reservation, to make "distinctions
among friendly Indians" which would only incite jealousy and ill feelings.
|The Virginia City Treaty is negotiated and signed in September,
but never ratified, and no rations are issued. In 1869, Tendoy camps with
his band outside Helena and seeks and is granted permission from Supt. of
Ind. Affairs General Sully to hunt on Crow lands. Sully writes in a letter
to Washington on the Lemhi's behalf:
Yellowstone River valley,
Crow hunting grounds
Ann Telling photo
"Set aside justice. Christian charity alone demands that something
be done to relieve these suffering creatures" (Sully in Madsen: 1979).
In early January, 1870, Tendoy, with 700 Lemhi, sets up camp at the territorial
capital of Virginia City and demands action to move his starving people
to a permanent reservation in the Lemhi Valley. Gov. J. M. Ashley appoints
A. J. Smith as agent and another plea is sent to Washington. Jasper A. Viall
is appointed superintendent and both he and Gen. Sully request funds for
winter provisions. There is an attempt to move the Lemhi bands onto Crow
lands during this time. Although the Lemhi bands hunt on the headwaters
of the Yellowstone, their choice for a permanent home and reservation is
in the Lemhi Valley.
In 1871 the Lemhi bands join with other tribes in a hugely successful
buffalo hunt in the Common Hunting Grounds of the Missouri/Yellowstone basin.
Tendoy and his group return to Lemhi Valley in March of 1872. Band members
who had remained in the Lemhi were farming, and the previous year's results
provide important food supplements to hunting. However, in1872 grasshoppers
wipe out the majority of crops, and the salmon runs are drastically reduced
by downstream fishtraps.
The tribe continues to divide time between the upper reaches of the Salmon
River, Lemhi Valley, Horse Prairie, and theYellowstone headwaters and buffalo
plains of southwest Montana. Yellowstone National Park is officially established
Tendoy meets with a commission from Washington in 1873, including agent
Henry Reed of the Fort Hall Reservation, but they reach no agreement. The
commission wants Tendoy's bands to relocate to Fort Hall and Tendoy holds
firm to the reservation being located in the Lemhi Valley.
The Lemhi Agency receives $20,000 in 1874, and Agent Fuller requests
an increase to $30,000 for 1875. Instead, they receive $15,000. A hunting
party leaves for buffalo country.
By Executive Order a tiny reservation is established in the Lemhi Valley,
approximately twelve by eight miles or approximately one-tenth of an acre
per person. Fort Hall, by comparison allows approximately one and one-half
acres per person.
Background: Salmon River,
photo courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society.