The founding and eventual demise of the Shoshoni settlement known as Washakie.
In 1880, a handful of Shoshoni families and a few Mormon missionaries settled on a plot of land near the Utah-Idaho border and called the settlement Washakie in honor of an esteemed Shoshoni leader. The LDS Church put up much of the seed money and land for the settlement, though the Shoshoni applied for the land themselves under federal provisions. Over the next 80 years Washakie would be the home of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshoni Nation.
The first years at Washakie were tough. Sickness and food shortages often plagued the community. Over time, though, the settlement began to flourish. In the 1920s the Shoshoni were successful in establishing a school complete with playground equipment and modern desks. The people of Washakie, many of whom were Mormon converts, also donated more of their labor to the building of the LDS Logan Temple than the residents of the surrounding towns of Snowville, Honeyville, Plymouth, Deweyville, and Malad.
The second half of the twentieth century marked the gradual decline of the Washakie settlement. Illnesses claimed some residents, while others move away in search of greater economic opportunity. By the 1960s, according to Shoshoni historian Mae Parry, the LDS Church had begun burning houses at Washakie that appeared to be abandoned, but which Parry claimed were still inhabited. According to Alice Pubigee, who had a house at Washakie, “one day we came home and our house was gone. Amy Timbimboo came over and we all stood around and cried. We were never informed our house was going to be burned. We received no letters.” In the 1970s, the Washakie land was sold to a rancher and the last vestiges of the Shoshoni colony vanished. In 1988, however, the Northwestern Band of Shoshoni bought back 185 acres of the Washakie land with the intention of making it their tribal headquarters.
Image: Shoshone Indian Washakie Reservation, October 28, 1945. Mormon meeting house at Washakie, erected by the church for the Shoshone Indians. J.R.Korns holding the door open. View taken looking northwest. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See Mae Parry. “The Northwestern Shoshone,” in The History of Utah’s Indian Tribes, ed. Forrest Cuch (Salt Lake City: Utah Division of Indian Affairs and Utah State Division of History, 2000); and Scott R. Christopher, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 1999), 164-188, 201-205. Alice Pubigee is quoted in Parry, “Northwestern Shoshone,“ 61-63.