Lemhi Stories by willowjack2006

DO NOT COPY WITHOUT PERMISSIONS: This paper I wrote for class, it is pure research, and I would like people to respect that I spent long hours on this paper and just sit back and enjoy. I am hoping to CREATE more awareness and to honor my Lemhi bloodlines. yes, I am Bannock too, but my identity is Lemhi. I enjoyed writing this paper and if anyone publishes this without my permission I’ll send my ninjaz to use their taikwondo skizzles. OK so please respect  that this paper is my baby and people keep teasing me about stealing my work. After a few times it really starts to make ya worry. This is mainly my FAMILY STORIES which I share with YOU out of kindness.  Respect my story for you and respect my family. I hope you all enjoy and these stories were written in the utmost respect of my people, ancestors, bloodlines and all of my familia. LOVE YA GUYS! THANKS and ENJOY, its winter so its STORY TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Narratives of the Lemhi Shoshone

This paper is the story of the Lemhi told from their perspective. This history stems from the oral histories shared by the elders and the people who live and still acknowledge themselves as Lemhi. It is important to share this story, because much as assimilation works among the greater mainstream of society, it also works as a melting pot of tribal peoples. The Lemhi are currently living with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho, which is a mixture of five different Shoshone bands and tribes (ARCIA 1911, p. 59). Today many of the youth are losing the knowledge of their Lemhi heritage, everyone only identifies as Shoshone-Bannock, but not with their unique heritage (Idaho Statesman Online, 2003). If we do not share and acknowledge these stories, they may be lost. The youth must understand who they are. In my own conversations with some of my younger tribesmen, there is no knowledge that the Lemhi were their own Tribe. My son is often caught-up in the “tribal name”, Sho-Ban, rather than identifying himself with his Lemhi lineage. He is only eight years old and I hope he will know who he truly is as I keep reinforcing his Lemhi background. Lemhi are distinct from Shoshone-Bannocks in culture. We now focus on the narrative of the Lemhi people, not only to promote awareness regarding their identity, but also to share in united stories of Native Peoples who have graced the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University. Anywhere a person goes on the Haskell campus, someone who can share a piece of Haskell history in oral history is to be found. Our ancestors are never forgotten with narrative.

As a Lemhi Shoshone, Agai dika, and the last born in my homelands, I feel it is important to share the stories of my people. The narratives I will share are from first-hand sharing, however some will be second-hand as was told to another, and then shared with me. For example, a story told to someone by an elder who is long gone cannot be told first-hand anymore; it becomes second hand knowledge. I found many interesting narratives, because I loved listening to stories as a child. I have heard these stories shared by my family and elders from 1800 history to when the Lewis and Clark expedition brought our famous Sacatzahweyah (Sacajawea) home and when the Lemhi Removal from their homelands in 1907 and the accounts of those who stayed.


The Lemhi Shoshone, traditionally known as the Agai dika (salmon eater) and Tuku-Duka (sheepeater) and Painituh (Bannock) are the northern-most of the Shoshonean peoples. The Lemhi lived on the Fort Lemhi Indian Reservation in their homeland before being removed to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in 1907. The Lemhi homeland is located along the Rocky Mountains of the Lemhi Range, the Sawtooth, Salmon River Mountains, the Clearwater and the Bitterroot Range. Lemhi have their own customs and life-ways unique to Lemhi people. The Shoshone are a Uto-Aztecan speaking people that reside, today, in five of the western United States (Lowie 1909, p. 171). The Shoshone have reservations hundreds of miles apart and on different lands. For example, the Lemhi lived in the mountains of central Idaho, but now reside in southeast Idaho on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation with the Shoshone-Bannock. The Northwestern Shoshone live in northern Utah (also related to the Northern Ute and Goshute). The Shoshone-Paiute live in northeastern Nevada, the Temoak in north-central Nevada and the Paiute-Shoshone live near Reno, Nevada. The Eastern Shoshone occupy western Wyoming, which is located near Yellowstone National Park. The furthest from the region of most Shoshonean people are the Comanche who reside in southwestern Oklahoma in Lawton.  Lastly, the Burns Paiute reside in Oregon (Lowie 1909, p. 171). Technically, many other tribes besides Shoshone, Bannock, Paiute, Ute, Goshute and Comanche share the language, tribes in Arizona, California and Central America also speak the same language (Fowler 1965, p. 134, 137). The Uto-Aztecan language is unique because it is shared by many different tribes who all are distinct and have very separate distinct cultures. However, this paper will not discuss the different Shoshonean speaking peoples; it will focus on the Lemhi Shoshone and their oral history and narrative as a people.

The Nez Perce and the Chinese

To start, I will share a funny story. This story is shared from my mother; it was passed down to her from Lemhi elders (Abrahamson, Personal Interview 2007). It is about the time when railroads were connecting the United States from one end to the other. In this time, there were many Asian immigrants, known to have built the railroads, as well as become miners. The Lemhi still traveled by horse and the white men traveled on wagons. Well, the Nez Perce people sent a delegation to the Lemhi to discuss trading and alliance issues, when the delegation came upon a wagon. In the wagon were some white men and an Asian man (Chinese). The Nez Perce wanted to have fun and stop the white men from oppressing Indian people anymore and decided to kill all the white men. After they killed the white men, they played around with the Asian man and dressed him in Nez Perce clothing, they did not kill him because he almost looked Indian. The Nez Perce men thought the Asian sounded funny when he talked, they made the Asian ride around back and forth on a horse, bouncing wildly. They laughed as he shouted in Chinese in protest. Now, on the mountain range, just above this whole scene, was a group of Lemhi warriors. They came down to see what the Nez Perce were up to, the Nez Perce told them what they were doing and they all shared in the comedy of the situation. The Nez Perce and Lemhi than, took off to go discuss their issues, leaving the Asian man, dressed as an Indian, surrounded by a bunch of dead white men. The Lemhi elders always chuckle at this story because they wonder what ever happened to the poor Asian man when other travelers found him. I like the story because it reminded me of a movie that came out in May of 2000 starring Jackie Chan, Shanghai Noon. I can see how hilarious the whole scenario must have been because Indians do have a unique sense of humor.

What is even more hilarious is this story was collaborated by non-Indians and the time period was 1877. The Butte America Website says, “During the Nez Perce War in 1877, Nez Perce warriors retreating south from the Battle of the Big Hole intercepted a freight wagon train enroute to Salmon, Idaho. They killed the white teamsters, but spared two Chinese, because their war was not with that tribe (Butte America Website 12/07/2007)”. The Website never stated what happened to the unfortunate Chinese men, but the story came from Granville Stuart (1834-1918), a pioneer who found gold in Deer Lodge, Montana, in 1898 (Butte America Website). Another collaboration of this story can be found in the book, Nez Perce Summer 1877: the U.S. Army and the Nee-Mee-Poo Crisis by Jerome A. Greene. In chapter seven of the book there is story of how Nez Perce warriors, on run from the Battle of the Big Hole came upon a freight wagon train in Lemhi territory. The book says:

On Wednesday, August 15, along Birch Creek, sixty miles from Junction, a group of warriors attacked a horse-and-mule-drawn freight train, killing five men—James Hayden, Albert Green, Daniel Combs, all of Salmon City, and two unidentified men (a man named Albert Lyon escaped through the creek) and burning three wagons and three trailers loaded with general merchandise, including canned goods, crockery, window glass and sash, and whiskey, en route from the Union Pacific Railroad transfer point at Corrine, Utah Territory, to Salmon City and Leesburg, Idaho Territory. Two Chinese cooks rode with the train. One of them, Charles Go Hing, later testified about the raid as follows:

We camped for dinner about noon on Birch Creek, had finished dinner and were lying under the wagons when we heard the clatter of horses’ feet, looked up and saw a party of armed and mounted Indians advancing towards us at a gallop. The men all started for the wagons to get their guns, but before they could get them the Indians had surrounded us and leveled their guns and commanded us to surrender, which we did. I counted them and there were 56 of them, all well-armed and mounted. . . . The Indians after eating made us hitch up the teams and drive up to their main camp about a mile away, where they made us go into camp. The men started with some Indians to drive the animals out to feed. I never saw any of them again. The other Indians broke into the wagons and helped themselves to goods. The Indians said they were Nez Perces and belonged to Joseph’s band.

As the warriors celebrated, the cooks managed to get away in the night and made their way to Junction. The forty animals from the train were absorbed into the Nez Perces’ herd. On the night of August 16, Tendoy and some fifteen of his Lemhi warriors caught up with the Nez Perces and in the darkness ran off seventy-five of their stock, some of which had been taken in the Horse Prairie raid. Next day, a party headed by Colonel George L. Shoup of the local Idaho volunteers (later first governor of the state of Idaho and U.S. senator, 1890-1901) arrived at the scene of the smoldering train and buried the dead” (Greene 2000. Ch.7).

The story collaborates that there was a group of white men killed by the Nez Perce, the Lemhi met up with them and there were Chinese involved. If you ask me, I would rather believe the word of my people because the white men have had a history of lying, to my knowledge, in regards to Indian history. I do believe, however, the Nez Perce did not kill the Chinese, as the “Butte America” website says, because “their war was not with that tribe” is true and they did perhaps dress them for fun. ( I didn’t add this suggestion in my paper, but do you think the ndns made the cooks cook for them too? This account doesn’t tell whether or not they played around with the Chinamen, it’s more focused on what the Indians did to the white travelers. Perhaps, this is because there was no concern for what happened to the Chinese men?).

Lemhi Trail of Tears

There are many hilarious accounts that our people shared stories about the days when the white men really came into our homelands. The town of Salmon was erected in the late 1860’s (Mann 2004). It started as a mining town because gold was discovered in our De’veah (our homelands) in 1862, or 1866 ( Madsen 1979, p. 45, Benedict, email communications), or as Idaho Historian Hope Benedict the director of Lemhi County Historical Museum says, in 1866 in the Lemhi Mountains. Many white men flocked to Lemhi country to become lucky and find the most gold. Salmon, Idaho is located on the Salmon River, also known as “The River of No Return” named after a film starring Marilyn Monroe, shot in Canada, but is now the nickname of the Salmon River for it’s whitewater rapids (Benedict, personal communications 2007). The Lemhi called the “river of no return” Agai-Pah, which actually translates to Salmon River. To the Lemhi Shoshone the homeland is their heart, and the land will always remain in their heart. There is even a petition online in which the Lemhi are asking to have their own reservation once again, because there is still a lot of dispute between them and the Shoshone-Bannocks of Fort Hall (Lemhi-Shoshone Website). My grandmother and other elders have always said the Lemhi people did not want to leave the homelands, near Salmon, because it was where we belonged.

We are mountain Shoshone and the Shoshone-Bannocks were of a treeless sage-brushed land. Our people loved their mountains and their Salmon River because it provided our culture and traditional foods. I heard that the Salmon will always go back to where they came from, even if its hundred of miles and the journey leaves them bloody from their persistence to journey back to their spawning ground so they may also spawn there was well. We are like the salmon because the Lemhi will always fight for their homelands, even if the battle seems to keep us down. Even the New York Times wrote an article about the Lemhi and their land issues in 1999. The article described the pain of the Lemhi people, “Orphans in an arid land, the Lemhi say they have been down so long that they use an ironic phrase to describe their current status, ‘Basically, we are the Indians to the other Indians,’ said Rod Ariwite, a leader of the Lemhi Shoshone. But the tribe’s luck may be about to change” (Lemhi-Shoshone and Idaho Statesman Websites). I feel this same way, because as a Lemhi I am a minority and second class citizen in Fort Hall, even the culture and language dialect of the Lemhi is at risk of being lost because the Ft. Hall is becoming a melting pot.

To express this place and the bittersweet memories of my people, I will share the stories of the Lemhi. My mother remembers the few families who did stay behind, they lived in shacks, made of plywood, cardboard, and whatever materials they could afford or scrape up. One elder who was at the removal just died in April of 2007 and he took with him valuable knowledge. Some of the knowledge I do know from listening to my family elders speak is this oral narrative of the Lemhi removal described by the late Walter Nevada.

Walter Nevada said the removal happened when he was about five years old. He can recall the day. It was very warm and he was standing by his father as the leaders organized the Lemhi for their 300-mile walk. There is rumor among our people that the removal of the Lemhi from their reservation in 1907 was due to the death of the great leader, Chief Tendoy. Oral history recounts that the May 9, 1907, death of Tendoy was an act of homicide. Tendoy is renowned for his determination to keep the Lemhi in their mountainous homelands and persistently fought against the Lemhi Removal to his last day of life (Madsen 1979, p. 187). There is no evidence of what exactly occurred but as the stories have been passed down through the generations of Chief Tendoy descendants, it is said that he was found “drowned in a creek.” The Lemhi believe he was murdered because the homeland was rich in minerals, forest, hunting, fishing and just a “garden of Eden”. Chief Tendoy resisted the removal of the Lemhi people and worked to retain the land (Madsen 1979). In June of 1907 a month after his death, Tendoy’s son Toopombay became Chief. Sadly, even during mourning he had to gather the people for their “long walk” to a new and arid place. Fort Hall is almost like night and day to the Salmon River Country of Central Idaho, it is like Kansas flat lands and the Salmon River Country is mountainous and full of rivers and trees like Yellowstone Park. Walter Nevada was a small child during this time, but he remembers the day. He was lined up with his family. He said that the “crier” was mounted on a horse and calling out to the people to get ready. The Crier was galloping up and down along the line; it was in a valley with mountains on each side. As the “crier” made his way down, the Indians got ready and then, all at once, they started to wail. This is officially the Lemhi Removal from their homes. Walter said he remembered all of this. He remembered that everyone was sad, and that the cries of the Lemhi were heard everywhere in the mountains. It echoed (George, Personal Communications 2007).

The people loved their De’veah so much, it was like having someone you loved ripped away, right before your very eyes, and you could not do anything about it. Walter Nevada was one of our oldest Lemhi Elders, but he died this past April. I felt sad; he had so many stories about the days of removal and the new reservation existence, as well as traditional knowledge. I actually sat home, reading the online email, I cried at the loss of someone as precious to my people as the Pope is to the Catholics. The story of the Lemhi is collaborated by many books and newspaper articles because the removal of the Lemhi from their land stemmed from the discovery of gold in 1862 (Madsen 1979 p. 45. Idaho Statesman Online. Lemhi-Shoshone Community Website ). An article in the Idaho Statesman says “the Lemhi loaded what they could on horses and wagons, sent some of their heaviest items by train and left the rest behind. Their oral history says their cries became a wail and the wail became keen that reverberated through the valley. Even ranchers living on what had been Lemhi land were said to have wept as they watched them go” (Idaho Statesman Online, 2003).

After the removal, only six families remained (Idaho Statesman Online), and they were faced with many hardships. The families who stayed did not get Indian Health Services unless they were on the Fort Hall Reservation almost 300 miles away, through mountain valleys. The families also did not get tribal housing, commodities or any of the other services provided to the Indians of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation (Idaho Statesman Online). What I find ironic is the main family who stayed behind was that of Chief Tendoy. From my knowledge, the families remained in the homelands because those moved to Fort hall were treated as outsiders. The Lemhi were removed onto an occupied reservation with people who did not want any change from their ways. It is still hard for Lemhi who live in Fort Hall to this day. The Fort Hall Indians were given millions of dollars for aid to the Lemhi, yet, the payments did not come for many years and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes kept the monies. Instead, the Lemhi monies were spread among the tribal members because the Lemhi were not granted their $4.5 until 1971 (Madsen 1979 p. 190). (personal note not in my paper for class..nonetheless I ove my people. Just th condition of reservation stuff that is upsetting. I love my people though because they are good people and have been there when I needed then).

Boarding School Narratives with a Slaughterhouse Antic

Aside from those stories of hardship, the Lemhi also have stories of hilarious antics by the people during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. For example, my aunt Emma George told me a story of “Auntie Grandma”, my late grandaunt Dorothy Baker, and her marriage to a Bannock Indian. In this story, my grand-aunt was around 16 years of age, she passed away some years ago and was very old. I never knew anyone’s real age because there were no birth certificates made for an exact year or even an exact day.

Auntie Grandma was a young woman and she said that one day she was told by her parents to pack her things up. She was loaded up onto a wagon and driven many miles away, possibly from Salmon to Fort Hall and than dropped off. Her family unloaded her belongings and just drove away. She did not fully understand that her time to be married had come. She described that it was embarrassing, imagine that you are a teenager and standing outside of someone’s house, kicking rocks. The whole family is standing at the windows staring at you. What can you do? She said that finally someone came and helped her bring her things inside. I would always laugh at stories like this because I try to imagine what it would be like if it happened now. I asked many times if it were true and Auntie Grandma would confirm it, she said that in those days your family would arrange a marriage. They felt that her new husband was a good man and would take good care of her and her family (Lowie 1909, p. 210. Therefore, off she went, to her new man’s home (George, Personal Communications 2007). Auntie Grandma used to come to our house at least three times a week, she would even tell stories about her boarding school experiences.

Auntie Grandma went through the Indian boarding school experience during hard times. I used to go with my mother and Grandmother (Cugoo) to visit her at home. My mother interpreted what had happened to her for me. As Auntie Grandma looked at her feet, she recalled how she tried to fit her feet into the hard leather shoes that were too small. As one observed her toes, you could see they were all angled to one side. When she wiggled her feet, she reminisced her boarding school days and recalled how she did not want to go nor be there. She wanted to be home with her grandparents.

Auntie Grandma said the first night she was there, she could not sleep, and she just twisted and turned in her bed. As the night progressed, her sheets came loose. She got up and adjusted them. The night matron saw her and grabbed her by the ear. Auntie Grandma said she was dragged down a flight of stairs into a cellar and thrown in. She said it was really dark, pitch black, and cried at being put into this dark place. Auntie Grandma was always well behaved as a child and was rarely disciplined, so this was frightening. On top of everything, she knew she was down in the ground alongside the dead people who were buried at the site. She said she cried and prayed for protection throughout the night. She said I made it out of that awful place, and said it was a bad place to put the Indian children. One thing, she always said was, how could people build a school on a burial ground and force kids to go there? How could anyone do that to little kids? She said that she had so many nightmares, and recalled one night when a ghost appeared in the dorm. The ghost was half way out of the floor looking at the kids. She said there were probably many Indian children who saw and experienced scary things, especially when they were flung in the cellar. Auntie Grandma would share these accounts with family, nieces, nephews and her husband, but not with strangers. Her husband Joe Baker, a Bannock had also attended the boarding school and had his stories. However, I will share the story told when he had an interesting account related to communicating with white folks (Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007).

Grandpa Joe Baker was a Bannock and shared this story with my Cugoo, my Aunts and my mother. I didn’t really know him well because he passed when I was young, we all called him “Uncle Joe.”  I am going to share it before the next narrative, which is about boarding school experiences. I feel Uncle Joe deserves to have his story next to Auntie Grandma’s. It is important to keep their stories together, as a sign of respect. It is a funny story with no sadness. Sit back and let me tell you about his first errand to town. Grandpa Joe had twinkly eyes and a good heart. He loved to sit and share stories about his experiences. One such experience is one of our family’s most favorite accounts.

This is the story of Grandpa Joe’s first errand run to town. He said he was about eight years old when he was told to go to town and find out if their cow was butchered. There was one problem: he could not speak English. His older brother took him aside and taught him a phrase, “Are you going to kill the cow today?” Joe said he repeated the question he was to ask many times. He had plenty of time to learn the question perfectly because, back in the day, it was no big deal to walk five miles to run an errand. Joe said he walked and practiced until he got to this great-big log. He started playing. When he started out again, he could not remember what he was supposed to say. Joe tried his best to put together the English words he was taught. Before he knew it, he was at the slaughterhouse. A tall white man was standing on a ramp. Being very scared, Joe ducked behind some bushes to gather up some courage. He said he puffed out his chest and marched right up to that white man and looked him in the eye and said, “Cow gonna kill’um you today!” (George, George and Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007). As, you can see the Lemhi were still unaccustomed to speaking English for many years, my Cugoo still barely understands English in the year 2007. My mother never learned to speak English until eight years of age in the 1960s.

Now I will continue with one last boarding school story. I feel it is important to share these stories because as a young person I can see the need to strengthen oral histories of Indian nations. Especially since I attend Haskell, where narrative has shed new light on the hardships of the boarding school era. This is a story, told by my late grandfather Wilford George (Toe-goe) and passed along the bloodlines. The boarding school in Fort Hall was a place where those who attended recount devastating memories. The school was built on a raised burial ground, where ancestors were buried for hundreds of years. Traditionally burial sites are built on the highest point in the Valley, and this area was a burial site. Parents did their best to hide their children from the agents, because they were forced to attend this institution at a very young age.

Willie George shared one such account. He said that he was taken away from his father and grandparents when he was five years old. His hair was cut and checked for lice. As he arrived, he said he was one of the little ones, and was taken care of by older students who dressed him and washed his face and hands. These were duties of the older students. He said although they took care of you, no one held you or hugged you. You were on your own emotionally as a little child, with no one to wipe your tears or comfort you when you were scared. Everyone knew about the burial ground and even if they did not they could feel a presence at night and in the corridors of this government institution.

Willie said everything was like a military base. Little Willie had to wake up to a bell, dress to a bell, wash to a bell, and march down the hallway to breakfast, again to a bell.

As time passed and he became older, he was oriented to the military process not by choice but by force. One aspect of this experience for him was his misshapen feet. He said as the boys would grow so would their feet, but the size of the feet were not considered when it came to shoes. They were forced to wear the same shoes for years, although their feet grew. He remembered bending his toes so his shoes would fit, and as a result, his toes were twisted at an angle into adulthood. He shared this experience with his older sister (Auntie Grandma Dorothy Baker). Both had misshapen feet because of the boarding school (Lopez and Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007). I would also like to say, Willie George is my namesake. I was thought to be a boy; instead, I was a girl and named Willow.


Another story I would also like to share is about our most famous Lemhi Sacajawea. In this story, it is told among the Lemhi that Sacajawea was captured (Mann 2004) while camping with her parents. In our tribal and family history, children were named at the ear piercing time. This was always done among our people. We are named by something we are observed constantly doing. Before the naming children were just called, “Geegee”.

Sacajawea was named in the very same way. She must have had a favorite little burden basket, which was termed as a burden. Children always had toys that imitated the adult implements and used them for the same tasks. If mom had a cradleboard and carried the baby, so did the little girls to carry their dolls.

Sacajawea must have been seen always carrying her little basket and imitating her mother in gathering willows. She was named by an elder, who called her Sacaja= “That is her or Her” Wea= “Burden”, Sacatzahweyah. It is also said that your name has meaning, its purpose will come forth and serve you later in life. (not in paper: but my own name seems to be this way. Medicine Woman, because before I was a month old I almost died, but survived with my “boo ha” by medicine. Not the kind that one can grasp but one that is special and unattainable. I think this boo’ha protected me from being hurt in both car accidents. How is it that one can be told they will never dance again, than overcome all that is said and do it?)

In 1805, when Sacatzahweyah came back among us, our people saw that her name had served her. Five years earlier, she was pitifully abducted by the Minnataree at twelve years of age and taken away from her family. As a Minnataree slave, she was traded to an older white man, Charbonneau, who was known for being abusive. She was impregnated by him. In her young life, Sacatzahweyah had many burdens. However, when she came back, our people were happy to see her. Nevertheless, they also noticed the man she was forced to be with and saw him eyeing the female members of the tribe. It was not the women, the teens, but the young girls he was ogling. Disgusted by this, they said that Charbonneau was her burden, and expressed it by saying her name loudly to him. He did not know what they were saying because her captors changed her name. Ewww, was what everyone would exclaim when they would talk about him. Then, the elder women would all nod their heads sadly at the fact that she had to accompany him because she had a child by him, but they said that was her burden. A Lemhi Shoshone woman would always stay with her husband and family no matter the condition, which is the responsibility of a respectable woman. . Fanny Silver, who was a proud Lemhi, shared this account (Abrahamson and George, Personal Communications 2007).

The Lemhi say that Sacatzahweyah led the expedition away from her people on the way back to the Midwest because she did not want them “using” them once again. The Lemhi have stories of how she talked with her brother, who was the Chief (Daygwahnee) when the expedition came through. Sacatzahweyah’s only descendants are those of her brother, Cameahwait, who was the chief. Her sons from her French husband Charbonneau did not survive long enough to bear children of their own. My relatives and I are recognized descendants and her story is shared from generation to generation (mother served as special guest of the White House for commemoration of the Sacajawea Coin in January 2001. She was also specially invited there to receive a certificate that recognized Sacajawea as an Honorary U.S. Army Sargeant for all her bloodlines).

Lemhi Life in Salmon

In the 1800’s, the Lemhi were not allowed to leave their reservation to hunt and gather. The agents controlled their movements and many times would not let them leave the area. The people would go to White settlers and request food to feed their families (Madsen 1979, p.55-57). One day, Maude Wingo’s family needed some food, but was concerned about how to request it in English. Finally, an uncle felt his English was good enough and started out towards a home of the nearest settlers. This uncle was a typical stoic looking Indian, maybe a little on the fierce side but a kind soul, nonetheless.

Unknown to him, the settlers had a visitor from the eastern United States who was a little nervous and skittish about being in the Wild West. That morning, just as it was barely getting light, the visitor was up very early having her coffee.

He walked up to the house, finding it quiet. Someone was up and awake. He proceeded to the door, but decided to look in the window. The visitor saw him and fainted stone cold, falling to the floor. Seeing this happen, he ran back home.

When he got home, gasping, he told everyone, “I killed a White woman, I killed a White woman!” Everyone became upset and told him to tell them what happened. Then everyone laughed, and told him that she was okay and that this is what White women do when they get too excited (George, Personal Communications 2007). Zuni Navo to Elmer Navo and than Camille Navo-George (my cugoo) shared this story. It is a story that describes the hardship of reservation life and shares my family history. Nevertheless, there is more, and I will not stop here so keep reading and you will be sure to enjoy the next narrative.

In the latter 1800’s to mid 1900’s the Lemhi, throughout their contact with Whites (taivo) would give them names, unknown to the Whites of course. Every store owner or White person they did business with had an Indian name. Here are some examples shared by the Lemhi elders (George, Personal Communications 2007):

Hardware Owner: The elders said that when he took your money he would lick his fingers as he counted the money you gave him or if he gave you change. So, the Lemhis called him Big Tongue, and many Indians wanted to see this man with the big tongue and would crowd to the store to stare at him. He couldn’t understand why everybody would stare hard at him.

Drugstore Clerk: The elders said the clerk would wear really high heels which made her rear poke out when she walked around the store. They called her One Whose Behind Pokes Out When She Walks. The Indian men liked going into that store.

Minister: He was a preacher for the Assembly of God Church. He was a kind man with a small pug nose. He was called “No Nose” by the Indian people. The Indian kids and elders would stare at his nose when he would come to visit. It was believed that many did not even hear a word he said, because they were too busy looking at his nose.

The names of the white folk given by the Lemhi are interesting for myself, because I learn that my people loved to share “inside jokes” with one another. As most Haskell students know, the early reservation life was a time of hardship and suffering, because Haskell’s narrative and history tells of these times.

When gold mining became prevalent in the homeland of the Lemhis, it brought in a population of Chinese peoples. The Chinese settled in an area near the Salmon River and created a small China town (ARCIA 1882, p. 52). Elder Ray Crow said that some of them were intolerant of the Indian children who were hanging around, gawking, and simply fascinated by the Chinese (George, Personal Communications 2007). They were somewhat similar, but yet so different. Many times, the Chinese men would sweep a broom in their direction tell them to go away and play somewhere else. Ray said there were a few who were especially grouchy.

The Indian kids also knew that the Chinese men liked to sit in a squatting position and gamble with each other, around small fires, throughout the night. It was said that they would become very consumed in their games and chattering in their Chinese language and dialects. It was during this time that Elmer Navo, Paseeute (Dan Fisher’s father) and some of the Indian kids decided to play a trick on the meanest or grouchier of the Chinese men. They sneaked into the Chinese encampment when the men were gambling away. Aided by the darkness, they were able to get in and tie the long braided pigtails of these grouchy men. They said they were able to tie the pigtails of six men together, without being noticed. The Lemhi still laugh about what happened when the grouches got up and left their games (George, Personal Communications 2007).

In the early 1900’s, there was a small movie theater in Salmon, Idaho which opened up for the public. The White owners were quite kind to the Lemhi and allowed them to watch the movies free. The owner’s wife had always nodded to the Indian people as they came in, but had not talked to them at length. She decided to talk to a group of young Lemhi women. As she spoke, she said, “I want to talk’um to you. Did you like’um show?” The Indian women looked at each other and smiled, then one of them stepped up to the White woman and said, “Yes maam, we enjoyed the movie immensely.” They exited smiling, leaving behind the red-faced owner (Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007).

The Lemhi had a small encampment that they called the Indian Camp. One of the most humorous storytellers was Joe Sawyer.  He was not a Lemhi but married to a Lemhi, Lillie Navo Sawyer, he passed away in the 1960’s. He had enjoyed going to town, then coming back, and sharing his ventures with everyone. He would have a serious manner, but a smile always flickered at his lips and a twinkle was always in his eyes. In Shoshone, his stories were very funny according to the elders. Here are two of his ventures:

Joe went to the Post Office and always liked to visit with Frosty Wheeler the postmaster. One day, Frosty said to him, “I heard you Indians can tell what kind of winter we’re going to have”. Joe nodded his head, agreeing with the statement. So, Frosty proceeded to ask him, “Well, what kind of winter are we going to have?” Joe said, “Real cold, real cold winter.” Frosty, thinking about what he was told, said, “Really?” to which Joe simply nodded. Then, Frosty leaned in real close and said, “Tell me Joe, how is it you Indians know what kind of winter we’re going to have?’ Joe looked around and then said in a very serious tone, “Whiteman, he woodpile really high.”

A few Lemhi had cars, and Joe was one of them. He had a black car that rumbled down the road and was generally loaded with his wife, children, and extended family. One day, he was driving down the road especially fast and stopped by a police officer. The police officer proceeded to inform Joe that he was speeding, and said, “Do you understand what I just told you?” Joe shook his head and said, “Me, no sabbe.” The officer tried to explain to him about the required miles per hour and the speeding laws. Joe just stared blankly and then shook his head indicating he didn’t understand. The frustrated officer finally told him to go on, but not to be speeding. As Joe drove off, he leaned out the window smiling and said, “Me sabbe.”

The stories shared by Lillie Navo Sawyer about Joe Sawyer have been passed on from my Cugoo, Camille George to my mother, who than told me and I am delighted to share them with you (Abrahamson, Communications 2007).

All things Connected

Through narrative, one can connect our people to our ancestors. We are bonded in a narrative that is always moving, it passes from one generation to the next. In this, I share what has been shared with me, and the stories I have found with in my research. The stories are about people and sharing these stories reminds me that Haskell Students have persevered; even today, some students have never forgotten their histories. I guess assimilation did its best, but our stories will persevere through the journey of time and space. Therefore, I share these stories with you, because it is our stories that keep us connected to our ancestors:

“It is the story of all life that is holy and it is good to tell, and for us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four leggeds and the wings of the air and all the green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one spirit“( Black Elk Speaks p.1).




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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. Sge;noh, I read your stories you write on here and they sound so similar to our (iroquois) teachings. alot of the native ways are similar in a way I guess. Keep up the good work !

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