Fort Hall Business Council Vice-Chairman Darrell Shay speaks as other FHBC Secretary Marcus Coby (on left) and Sergeant-at-Arms Lee Juan Tyler look on.
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
FORT WASHAKIE, Wyo. — Various bands of Shoshone came together June 20 to 22 in Fort Washakie, Wyo. to attend the 17th Annual Shoshonean-Numic Language Reunion at Rocky Mountain Hall where attendees were encouraged to maintain their culture and language.
Organizers said more than 1,500 people pre-registered including 800 community members. On June 20, the day began with a sunrise ceremony the Eastern Shoshone Tribe hosted followed by breakfast. Various families hosted breakfast and lunch throughout the Reunion while dinner was hosted by the Reunion Committee.
Eastern Shoshone and other veterans brought in the flags that morning followed by a flag, victory and honor song the Fort Washakie Ramblerz drum group sang. Veterans were recognized and they were presented baseball caps from the committee.
There were numerous tribal leaders in attendance including Fort Hall Business Council members Darrell Shay, vice chairman, Marcus Coby, secretary and Lee Juan Tyler, sergeant at arms. Each welcomed those in attendance. Shay serves on the executive committee for the Shoshonean Reunion.
Eastern Shoshone Business Council Chairman Darwin St. Clair Jr. welcomed all the relatives and visitors saying he tells his children almost anywhere you go west of the Mississippi is Shoshone country. “We come a long ways I know why the federal government wanted to take the lands because they are some of the most beautiful places in the world.” He said his late grandmother Rosie St. Clair used to tell him stories when he was a boy reminding him of the Fort Bridger Treaty and that it was also signed with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. He added she told him about the significance of Bull and Dinwoody Lakes on their reservation where people used to find their power.
St. Clair said recently taivos (non Indians) found around 13 villages up in the cliffs in the Wind River Mountains and they date back 12,000 years. “This is where we come from since time immemorial and we know our Comanche relatives used to live here,” he continued. “The Creator says our Shoshone people are special and we’re here today to work together.”
He’s attended the Reunions the past three years saying it’s always a good feeling, maybe attendees might find friends, or another relative or even learned something new. “It’s a good feeling, a lot of us are related.”
St. Clair said he understands some Shoshone, knows some bad words but wished he would be talking to attendees in Shoshone. He thanked Boyd Graham, who was in the audience, for his Shoshone Word of the Day he puts on the Internet. St. Clair said he listens to it every morning. He also acknowledged Drusilla Gould for teaching the language.
He encouraged the tribes to do intertribal commerce with one another and it’s where Indian Country is heading. St. Clair said the Eastern Shoshone are doing business with the Chippewa Cree and Shakopee Tribe. The Shakopee’s help tribes with establishing economic development. He encouraged everyone to have respect for one another and help each other out in a good way. “I hope you enjoy the Warm Valley, as Eastern Shoshones we are fortunate – we have an abundance of game, fresh water, roots and berries – we have almost everything,” St. Clair continued. “We definitely have enough to provide for our people and share with others.” He also encouraged them to stay for the powwow happening this weekend.
A number of speakers followed. Reunion executive committee members John Washakie and Darla Morgan gave a history of the Shoshonean Reunions.
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Culture and Language Historic Researcher Loreen Buckskin Chavez did a genealogy presentation and said she was hired in 2011. She said the different bands are a product of when tribal people were captured by the military, treaties were signed and the tribal people were placed on reservations. She said she has over 2,000 family histories she’s put together. She encouraged attendees to visit her display table and complete a form, if interested in getting a family history done.
Following Loreen, Velda Racehorse, interim Shoshone-Bannock Culture and Language Director did a PowerPoint presentation on the treaties that impacted the various bands of Shoshone.
The Native Strut group did a hoop dance presentation with Ann Abeyta providing explanation.
Prior to lunch Larry Cesspooch, Northern Ute, did storytelling saying the stories have a lot of meaning behind them. He told a story about the different things Creator made utilizing a variety of props includes a coyote and bear. He also told a story of how the bear dance came to the Ute people.
A variety of workshops on language, basket making and history were offered in the afternoon. The Ute Tribe did a Bear Dance demonstration that evening at the powwow grounds.
Reunion coordinators John Washakie and John Wadda said their local committee consists of 53 people and each had responsibilities. They’ve been meeting and doing fund raising since January such as a basketball tourney, bake sales and bingo. They also received a donation from the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and other businesses. They had to rent porta potties and a large canopy that was placed outside Rocky Mountain Hall where tables were set up. He said the committee made decisions by consensus and everyone had a say. “One person can’t do this – it’s a big operation,” Washakie said.
“It’s a partnership among the committee and all of the giveaway items were made by the committee,” Wadda said.
The Reunion continued through June 22 featuring more workshops, storytelling, a fashion show, a parade and Indian Relay horse races, to name a few.
Panoramic view of the crowd at the 117th Annual Shoshonean-Numic Language Reunion.