While little is known about Washakie’s early life, tradition tells that the Native American was born to a Shoshone mother, Lost Woman, and a Umatilla father, Crooked Leg. Washakie met his first white men in 1811, when a party of fur trappers, seven months late for their scheduled arrival at Fort Astoria, approached Crooked Leg to ask for horses. Washakie’s father refused, agreeing only to sell them some dried fish and four dogs. Crooked Leg was later killed in 1824 by a band of Pigeon Blackfoot during a raid on a Shoshone hunting camp. Yet despite the loss of their leader, the Shoshone emerged victorious, and at the conclusion of the conflict several Blackfeet tribes agreed to ally with the superior warriors. By the late nineteenth century, Washakie was made head chief of the Eastern Snakes, another branch of Shoshone, and after Custer’s defeat at Little Bighorn, he led his people in retaliation against the Sioux. His actions earned him recognition by the U.S. Government, making him the only Native American to receive such an honor. Washakie also worked closely with trappers and traders, including the famous Jim Bridger, who later married his daughter. The chief learned French and English from those he met, and his kindness toward the frontiersmen translated into a close relationship with U.S. officials as well.

In 1863 and 1868, Washakie signed treaties with the U.S. that designated a three million acre area around Utah and Oregon—the Wind River Reservation—for use by the native peoples. The Fort Bridger treaties also established the Shoshone and Bannock Indian Agency. The land was later reduced by 800,000 acres, but even today it remains the home of the Eastern Shoshone. Washakie had always been a close friend of Brigham Young, and after the minister’s death he joined the Mormon Church. Only a few years later, however, John Roberts, an Episcopalian, came to the reservation to establish a school for Indian girls. He quickly gained Washakie’s trust, and by 1897 the chief had converted to Robert’s religion and was baptized again. Washakie’s skill in battle, as well as his efforts toward peace and his dedication to his people’s well-being, made him one of the most respected leaders in Native American history, and upon his death in 1900 he became the only Indian to be given a full military funeral.

Key events during the life of Washakie:

A party of trappers came to the Shoshone camp.
Father was killed during a Blackfoot raid.
Signed the Frot Bridger Treaty.
Signed a second treaty at Fort Bridger.
Joined the Church of the Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
John Roberts arrived to minister to the Shoshone and Arapahos.
Converted to the Episcopalian religion.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Washakie, Shoshone Chief and Friend of White Men  in  Famous Indian Chiefs I Have Known  by  Oliver Otis Howard

Short Biography
Brigham Young Leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints after the death of Smith. Led the Mormans to Utah.
Sitting Bull Medicine man who organized resistance to U.S. Army. His warriors defeated Custer at Little Bighorn.
Chief Joseph Led Nez Perces in a resistance against the encroachment of white settlers. Finally surrendered.