Skin tepees, Shoshone Indians. Photo: Library of Congress

JACKSON, Wyo. — Long before European colonists set foot on what has become the United States, nomadic tribes inhabited the area now known as Wyoming.

Many tribes passed through and lived in what is now Teton County, Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park cites evidence of human inhabitants in the area back to at least 11,000 years ago, just after the last ice age.

The Wyoming State website recognizes the tribes to include, “the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone, and Ute tribes. Of all of these tribes, the Cheyenne and Sioux were the last of the Indians to be controlled and placed on reservations.” These groups had mixed hunting and gathering societies, creating trails throughout what has become many of the roads and highways used today.

In the greater Yellowstone area, Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum (JHHSM), cites the “Mountain Shoshone, Crow, Kiowa, Lakota, and Cheyenne tribes to hold significant ties to the area. The Bannock and Nez Perce tribes migrated seasonally through the area.” These groups harvested the valley’s seasonal resources, including hunting bison, elk and deer.

Much of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were explored with the help of Native peoples. Natives served as guides, including the famous Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman, who was a guide during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She is buried west of Fort Washakie.

Another Shoshone guide, Togote, navigated the expedition of Capt. William Jones in 1873. Jones worries that the group wouldn’t be able to enter Yellowstone from the east due to impassable mountains. Togote led the expedition through Blondie Pass, over the Owl Creeks, Sylvan Pass in the Absarokas, and east into Yellowstone. Togwotee Pass was named for Togote, he knew the trails well from a lifetime of hunting.

In 2021, President Joe Bide was the first U.S president to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Oct. 11 as a national holiday.

“We must never forget the centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation, and terror wrought upon Native communities and Tribal Nations throughout our country,” Biden said in the 2021 proclamation.