Make your own free website on
This site is dedicated to the Agaidaka (Salmon-Eater Shoshone) of the Salmon River area.

From the Idaho Statesman
Sacajawea: Her story, by her people

"As the nation commemorates the Lewis and Clark bicentennial with seemingly inexhaustible tributes to her, her people are living as an obscure and repressed minority on a desert reservation nothing like the beautiful mountains of their homeland.
The woman who appears on the Sacajawea coin isn´t a Lemhi-Shoshone, and the tribe of the woman who contributed more than any other to the opening of the West isn´t recognized as a tribe by the federal government.
This is her story and theirs. The story of Sacajawea and her people - by her people." More >>
View the text version (no pics) >>

Photos courtesy of Robert Michael .
October 26, 1999
Sacajawea's people seek a homecoming
By Timothy Egan - The New York Times

SALMON, Idaho - Here in the valley where the Shoshone teen-ager Sacajawea led Lewis and Clark to one of the most serendipitous encounters in the annals of discovery, the stores are full of Indian art, the pastures are grazed by Indian-bred horses, and the land itself is imprinted with Indian names. But there are no American Indians here.

The Lemhi Shoshone, living links to the teen-age girl who was instrumental in leading the Corps of Discovery over the Continental Divide in 1805, have been all but erased from this place they have called home for hundreds of years. The 400 or so Lemhi live on a reservation 200 miles south of here, on desert land set aside for two much bigger tribes.

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.

Spurred on by an extraordinary surge of interest in the journey of Lewis and Clark, hoopla over a new dollar coin honoring Sacajawea and recent scholarly finds that bolster Lemhi legal claims, the Indians from the west side of the Continental Divide are stirred by their last best hope for a homeland.

The Lemhi have asked President Clinton to carve out a small piece of federal land in the Salmon River country on the Idaho-Montana border as a place where the tribe can tell its story to the hordes of Lewis and Clark history buffs, honor their dead and try to stitch some of the past to the present. As it is, the only visible Indian in this valley is the Salmon High School mascot, a chieftain who represents "the Home of the Savages," as the school sign says.

"They have Sacajawea heritage days, they have Sacajawea arts and crafts, they have everything but the real Indians who are Sacajawea's people in the valley," said Ariwite, an Air Force veteran and high school principal who grew up in Salmon but now lives in New Mexico and in Fort Hall, Idaho. "The feeling we get is, "We don't want you here, but we want your Sacajawea heritage."
(Visit )

The white leaders of this community say they revere the most famous native of the valley but are ambiguous about any land being set aside for the Indians.

"We all believe Sacajawea is not only the most famous Indian, but the most famous woman in America," said Stan Davis, mayor of this town of 3,000, set in an isolated Rocky Mountain valley of heart-stopping beauty. "And the way things are going now, with our timber, mining and fishing in trouble, it's almost like we've come full circle. We know what the Indians went through."

Even late in this century, a small group of Lemhi, Ariwite among them, continued to live in shacks by the river at the edge of town here. But that tumbledown village was destroyed by the local authorities more than 10 years ago. It is now a small park covered with gravel.

"It was our home," Ariwite said. "But I guess everyone else thought it was an eyesore." For a man who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the many slights dealt the Lemhi, Ariwite betrays only a trace of bitterness.

My kids come up here with me to fish and camp in the summer, and they say, "Dad, how could you ever give this land up?" he said. "But we haven't given up. The Lewis and Clark bicentennial is going to be our last fight."

"In 1805, the Americans asked for our help. Now we're asking for theirs."

Also read - Research may lead to formal tribal recognition

Ted McDonough

Research by a Washington State University professor suggests a group of Idaho Indians were improperly stripped of formal tribal recognition by the United States government.>>>

Reprinted under the Fair doctrineof international copyright law.

Ted McDonough

Research by a Washington State University professor suggests a group of Idaho Indians were improperly stripped of formal tribal recognition by the United States government.

Associate history Professor Orlan Svingen hopes his work, coupled with the upcoming bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, will help the Lemhi people become one of a handful of American Indian groups to have restored federal recognition as a distinct tribe.

Representatives of the Lemhi Shoshone -- who claim Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery member Sacajawea as an ancestor -- were invited to the White House May 4 for a Sacajawea coin reception ceremony. Rod Ariwite, head of the Lemhi community, was scheduled to deliver to Hillary Clinton a letter formally requesting tribal recognition. In 1995, the Lemhi people formed the Fort Lemhi Indian Community to put together a petition for formal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. With part of a $65,000 federal grant obtained for the effort, Svingen was hired to research Lemhi history.

Svingen made the Lemhi recognition project, begun in 1995, the focus of his graduate public history seminar. Svingen is nearing completion of an 450-page legal and historical treatment of the Lemhi. A draft of the work, which Svingen anticipates publishing, has already been sent to the Lemhi.
Svingen's research suggests the Lemhi forcibly were removed from ancestral land, stripped of federal recognition and denied monitory compensation despite a treaty. After immersing himself in the history Svingen said it was difficult to watch news accounts of the White House reception.

"How can you celebrate Sacajawea's role with the Lewis and Clark expedition when recognition of Sacajawea's people has been removed?" he asked, calling the treatment of the Lemhi "something of a historical scandal."

Svingen said he "admits to being politicized" about the issue, "because I understand how (the Lemhi's) identity has been taken away from them."

Given the merits of the Lemhi's case and the timing of the Lewis and Clark celebration, Svingen gives the Lemhi "a strong chance" to regain recognition.

To win their bid to have tribal status reinstated, the Lemhi must meet a many part test that includes demonstrating political leadership, a continuous culture and association with a homeland.

Initially, graduate students John Mann and Shirley Stephens, who worked on the recognition project with Svingen, thought demonstrating a homeland for the Lemhi would be difficult.

The Lemhi had signed papers in 1905 giving up their reservation in Salmon, Idaho, and were removed to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Pocatello where they were absorbed into the Fort Hall Shoshone-Bannock.

Researching the history of the removal of the Lemhi, the WSU researchers found evidence that cast doubt on the official history. The Lemhi consistently resisted leaving Salmon, said Stephens, a doctoral candidate. Removal had been initially proposed in 1870 and in 1880 the federal government negotiated a removal agreement with Chief Tendoy, the last Lemhi chief. But the agreement required ratification by two-thirds of the adult male Lemhi population, which the federal government was unable to obtain for 25 years, Stephens said.

When the Lemhi were removed to Fort Hall after 1905, they began returning almost immediately, Stephens said. A population of Lemhi remained in Salmon for decades afterward and Lemhi from Fort Hall returned to Salmon frequently to hunt or to tend grave sites.

By 1880, most hunting areas on the Lemhi Reservation in Salmon had been taken over by non-Indians. The Indian population wasn't supposed to leave the reservation to hunt, said Stephens.

"They were literally starving on that reservation, but they still did not want to leave it," she said.

Examining papers of the federal negotiator who succeeded in winning Lemhi ratification of the removal agreement, Stephens and Mann were unable to find solid evidence the Indians had signed onto the plan.

The graduate students found documents containing signatures of people who supposedly had witnessed the signatures of male tribal members. There was no record of the Lemhi signatures themselves. Perhaps the most significant finding of the WSU team was that a Lemhi chief appears to have been a signatory to a 1868 treaty with the U.S. government. Being a signatory to a treaty is the "gold standard" of tribal status from the perspective of the U.S. government, Svingen said.

In the early 1970s the federal Indian Claims Commission, formed after World War II to determine compensation for aboriginal lands, researched a claim filed by the Lemhi with other Idaho tribes.

The commission apparently failed to discover the Lemhi were signatories to the Fort Bridger treaty of 1868, according to the WSU researchers.

Since a treaty between a tribe and the federal government only can be overturned by an act of Congress, being a part of the treaty should have given the Lemhi open-ended fishing and hunting rights, said Mann. The tribe also should have been entitled to control of much of the reparation money granted by the commission.

Because the Lemhi were not recognized as a tribe, they had to piggyback their claim on that of recognized tribes. Money was awarded for the Lemhi's traditional land, but shared with all groups filing the claim. "Being in a minority, (the Lemhi) did not have a say on how those moneys were spent," Mann said. In 1911, the U.S. government folded the Lemhi population into other tribal rolls. Mann said. Even after that decision was made, an official Lemhi census continued to be kept as late as 1939, Svingen said.

Mann said he could not discover in his research any particular reason the Lemhi census stopped. He infers "it was just too much trouble."

Folding the Lemhi with other tribes "just would make the system work better and make it cheaper for the federal government."

Links | Photo Album | Sign Online Petition | Guestbook|

Copyright ©2004 The Fort Lemhi Indian Community . All rights reserved. This site was designed and is updated by a Lemhi-Shoshone descendant.