The Shoshone

Members of the Shoshone Nation with their tepees. (USU Special Collections & Archives, Compton Photograph Collection, P0313 C Board 119)

The earliest people known to have lived in the Brigham City area were the Fremont people. They sustained themselves by hunting and growing crops like corn and squash. Their baskets, pottery, clay figures, rock art, and other artifacts have been found in Box Elder County and throughout Utah. After about 1300 A.D., the Fremont culture disappeared. No one knows exactly why these people vanished, but it may be related to drought and increased competition for resources.

Chief Washakie was a leader of the Eastern Shoshone. The Shoshone settlement in Box Elder County was named after him.

After the Fremont culture ended, the Shoshone culture developed in the region. The Shoshone Nation originated in the Great Basin. Modern Brigham City was just one portion of the lands that once belonged to this nation, which eventually reached both sides of the Rocky Mountains. Most bands of the Shoshone Nation were hunters, living in teepees and traveling throughout the year to follow the animals they hunted. When horses were introduced to America, the Shoshone were quick to adapt them to their lifestyle.

As white settlers began moving west, the Oregon Trail passed through Shoshone lands, encroaching on the Shoshone’s way of life. The Mormon pioneers further disrupted it when they settled in Utah. Attempting to protect their lands, some of the Shoshone attacked settlers, immigrants, and miners, leading to sporadic conflicts in northern Utah and Idaho. In January of 1863, Colonel Patrick E. Connor led a punitive military expedition against the Shoshone camped along the Bear River for the winter and massacred most of the men, women, and children.

Following the Bear River Massacre, the Shoshone under the leadership of Chief Pocatello agreed to the Treaty of Box Elder with the U.S. government. The government was supposed to compensate the Shoshone for their lost lands but did not make most of their promised payments until a lawsuit forced it to in 1968.

Some Shoshone prepare to work on a Utah-Idaho Sugar Company sugar beet farm. (USU Special Collections & Archives, Compton Photograph Collection, P0313 C Board 119)

In the aftermath of the massacre and treaty, some of the Shoshone chose to stay in Utah and join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They settled at Washakie, north of Brigham City. Many of them helped to build the Latter-day Saint temple in Logan. Other surviving Shoshone moved to the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho. The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation is currently headquartered in Brigham City, and many members of the band live in the area.

For further reading:

Colin G. Calloway, “The Treaty of Box Elder,” OUPBlog, https://blog.oup.com/2013/07/treaty-of-box-elder-shoshones/.
Natalie Larsen, Brigham Young University, “Washakie Township: The Mormon Alternative to Fort Hall,” Intermountain Histories, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/206.
“The Fremont Culture,” National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/care/learn/historyculture/upload/Fremont-2.pdf.
“Shoshone,” Utah American Indian Digital Archive, http://utahindians.org/archives/shoshone.html.
“Chief Pocatello,” Utah History to Go, https://historytogo.utah.gov/pocatello-chief/.