The Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow

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I wouldn’t have known about the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow if I hadn’t strolled Main Street in Lander.  Many businesses include event postings in the window.

The Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow, located in Fort Washakie, is a free, three-day event held over the last weekend of June.  According to the website, the Grand Entry (whatever that was) on Sunday was scheduled at noon. I glanced at my watch which read a little after 11am.

Getting to the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow Grounds

I had plenty of time to get to Fort Washakie, just 16 miles away.  Unsure of how much traffic a pow wow draws, I arrived to Fort Washakie with plenty of time to spare.  Finding the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow grounds was a different story.  A church was located at the address provided on the website, and I was pretty sure the pow wow was not going to be inside.

After some trial and error, I finally entered Ft. Washakie Pow Wow Grounds in google maps, and the location popped up!  Upon my arrival, much to my dismay, there was no sign of a “Grand Entry” in my opinion.  A bunch of empty chairs lined an inner circle of grass.  And bench seating, saved with blankets, sat empty in the shade of a wooden structure.

The Grand Entry

I finally asked a spectator when the next event would be.  She explained the Grand Entry, which is the introduction of elders, royals, and tribe members from all over the USA, takes place at 2pm.  Thereafter, the dance competitions begin for large prize money.

grand entry indian pow wow

While I wasn’t too enthusiastic about waiting two hours, I was grateful for a better understanding of the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow.  When the time came, the crowd gathered, and I quietly sat next to some of the young women who would be dancing as they prepared their costumes.

They donned colorful clothing, bells, beads and clipped the ends of their braids with remarkable barrettes they had made.

Soon a voice chimed over the loudspeaker announcing members of the armed forces, the royals, and dancers from Florida to Washington State and even Canada.  What a spectacle!  Words can’t describe the wardrobes and dances.

Some men wore such intricate chest plates and elaborate feathered head dresses that I wondered how much all their garb weighed as they danced in the heat of the afternoon sun.  The headdresses also reminded me of a tidbit I learned at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge is a repository for all the bald eagle feathers in America.  When one dies, they keep the feathers for the Indians who consider the bird sacred.  There is a nine-month waiting list for a fully intact tail of a bald eagle! But I digress.

While the Grand Entry certainly featured the most variety of people hopping from one leg to another while generally looking toward the ground as the music groups pounded on drums and chanted, I liked watching the dance competitions.

Dance Competitions

The dance competitions were separated into age groups and categories such as traditional dance, feather dances, grass dances and more.  It gave me a chance to compare the same types of movements and extraordinary costumes.  Judges selected the best, though the results were not announced by the time I left at 4pm.  I hadn’t planned to stay so long, but the vibrant colors, intricate bead work, and special dances made it a photographer’s paradise.

Being rather uneducated in Indian customs, I hesitated even making a blog post, as I wouldn’t want to mistakenly disrespect them, but I could not pass up sharing these photos.  It very much reminded me of watching Naadam in Mongolia, which was also a special treat! 

Sacajawea’s Gravesite

Also, while I was in Fort Washakie, I visited the gravesite of Sacajawea, located at the Sacajawea Cemetery. I’m embarrassed to say I did not know she has been honored with more statues, monuments, and landmarks than any other woman in the United States. I only knew of the dollar gold coin. I also didn’t know or had forgotten how instrumental she was in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In my defense, I hated history as a child, and I could barely get a B- with the help of getting 100’s on all my geography tests!

The Life of Sacajawea

Sacajawea kept the expedition from getting attacked because the Native Americans believed the group was traveling in peace as a war party would never travel with a woman and a baby. Additionally, she helped with translation to get food and horses and even helped guide the expedition through her native territory.

Sacajawea’s life after the expedition is shrouded in mystery, but the Native Americans believe she returned to Fort Washakie to be with the Shoshone people, her son, and her nephew which she adopted. She acted as a translator for Chief Washakie (who warrants his own blog post) during the Ft. Bridger Treaty negotiations.

The Native Americans believe she died on April 9, 1884, and the missionary John Roberts testified to her identity at the time of her death. Today she is buried next to her nephew’s grave as well as a memorial to her son.

The Sacajawea Cemetery

The Sacajawea Cemetery is very colorful, and what I found most unique were all the sand mounds on the graves. At first I had thought, many people had died recently from COVID. But upon looking at the dates, I noticed many graves with fresh sand indicated many years have past since their death. Inquisitive, I found this article on grave mounding.

In all, I enjoyed a great afternoon in Fort Washakie learning about Native American culture. I used the word Indian at the beginning of this post because that is how they referred to the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

3 thoughts on “The Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Pow Wow

  1. Really interesting! Having grown up in Montana, I learned quite a bit about Sacajawea when I was a kid… but I didn’t know she ended up in Wyoming and was buried there.

      1. Yes, I’ve heard one other account in which she died many years earlier. It’s strange that there is such discrepancy yet no one can definitively prove any of them.

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