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This photograph was taken by Wesley Andrews some time in the late 1800s. Information on the photo identifies the individuals as “Bannock War Chiefs.”
The Bannock are a Northern Paiute people whose ancestors emigrated from eastern Oregon to southern Idaho sometime in the pre-contact era—prior to 1800. Once settled in the Snake River Plains, the Bannock developed peaceful relations with the local Shoshone people. Over time, the Bannock adopted the horseman culture of the Plains Indians, including the all-important buffalo hunt. Although these cultural changes distinguished them from their Northern Paiute relatives in Eastern Oregon, the two related groups continued to interact into the early reservation period of the nineteenth century (1870s). Following the outbreak of hostilities between regional Native groups and miners in Oregon and Idaho during the 1860s, the Bannock joined the Northern Paiute and Shoshone in confronting miners flooding into the region. In addition to the influx of miners, the decline of the buffalo herds severely impacted the traditional lifeways of the Bannock and their Shoshone neighbors. By the late 1860s Mormon pioneers and other emigrants began to settle in the Bear River Valley and the Boise River basin, home to two Native groups.
The Shoshone-Bannock groups signed an important treaty in 1868 that was designed to reserve some traditional lands while also opening up additional areas for Euro American settlement. Minor armed conflicts between the Shoshone-Bannock groups and the settlers continued into the late 1870s. In 1878, the Bannock War began in Idaho, finally ending among the Northern Paiute of Oregon in 1879—this later conflict also was known as the Sheepeater War of 1878–79. The main reservation that eventually became home to most of the Bannock and Shoshone groups of Idaho was the Fort Hall Reservation. Another reservation, the Fort Bridger Reservation was terminated in 1907 and all the remaining Indians were moved onto the Fort Hall Reservation. The original Fort Hall Reservation of nearly 2 million acres has progressively been reduced in size and now stands at just over half a million acres. The first of many encroachments on the reservation was the 1877 agreement giving lands to the Union Pacific Railroad, which was then building a rail line from Ogden, Utah to the new mining areas in Montana.
Murphy, Robert F. and Yolanda Murphy. “Northern Shoshone and Bannock.” In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 11. Great Basin. Warren L. D’Azevedo, ed. Washington D.C, 1986: 284–307.
Ruby, Robert H. and John A. Brown. Indians of the Pacific Northwest: A History. Norman, Okla., 1981.
Written by Melinda Jette, © Oregon Historical Society, 2003.