FORT BRIDGER — The Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 drastically reduced the land originally set aside for the Shoshoni Indians, but it specifically set up land the tribe could call its own.
The prior treaty of 1863 laid out an area in which the tribe could hunt, provide for the safe passage of the westward trails and stagecoach through the tribe’s lands, provide for a peaceful co-existent for the stagecoach stations and for the new telegraph lines. But, as with progress, all life continues to evolve and new conditions arise.
According to Tom Rea, editor of Wyo.History.org, recently in Fort Bridger, the evolving circumstances continued to increase pressure on the tribes. Rea gave the fourth and final history presentation on the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 leading up to Tuesday’s re-enactment of the signing at the Fort Bridger State Historic Site. The series and re-enactment were a Wyoming Humanities presentation for the sesquicentennial, 150 years, of the signing of the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868. The treaty established the Wind River Reservation in west-central Wyoming and the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation in Idaho at Fort Hall.
The first treaty, 1863, set up Eastern Shoshone taking permanent residence in Warm Valley, the valley of the Big Wing River and its tributaries. The second treaty, signed in 1868, shrank the area to about 3.2 million acres, with its heart in the Wind River Valley. Seventy more years of land cessions and court cases further reduced the reservation to its present size of around 2.3 million acres, It is now home to two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho, and since the 1930s has been called the Wind River Reservation.
The Fort Bridger treaties of the 1860s were born of conflicts and compromises rooted in changing tribal economies, white emigration on the trails to Oregon, California and Utah, a local gold-mining boom, general encroachment on Indian lands—and the approach of the transcontinental railroad.