#lookback: Mountain Shoshone Cookware

    A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

    Thousands of years before the first white man stepped foot in the Upper Wind River Valley, indigenous people left their mark on this region. Archaeological evidence shows that people continuously occupied the Helen Lookingbill Site north of Dubois for over 10,000 years while the High Rise Village site south of Dubois boasted continuous occupation for 2,500 years.

    One of the peoples to occupy this region were the Mountain Shoshone, also called the Sheep Eaters due to the prominence of bighorn sheep in their diets. Living off the plant and animal resources of the region, these intrepid people moved across huge expanses of modern-day Yellowstone National Park in annual treks.

    Some of the oldest artifacts in the Dubois Museum are soapstone objects carved by the Mountain Shoshone, namely, sturdy bowls with which they cooked. Men gathered the stone from natural quarries in the region, but women probably carved the pots since cooking was a woman’s task in Mountain Shoshone society. Considered an heirloom object, mothers passed cooking vessels down to daughters over several generations.

    Steatite is fire resistant. When placed in the hot coals of an open fire, soapstone heats quickly and holds its heat to keep its contents warm. Also called steatite, this stone’s high density made it incredibly durable and excellent for cooking, but it was also very heavy. The Mountain Shoshone traveled great distances between summer and winter homes that varied in elevation. Instead of carrying these heavy items with them, the people cached them near campsites for use when they returned each season.

    The 1868 Treaty of Fort Bridger established the Wind River Indian Reservation east of Dubois, where the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes currently live. Bowls, like the one pictured here, are often found near the remains of sheep traps or abandoned campsites high in the Wind River or Absaroka Mountains. The Mountain Shoshone and their culture eventually disappeared into the larger cultures on the reservations, leaving behind only oral histories and archaeological evidence as testaments to their presence.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museums

    December 15, 3pm at the Dubois Museum, “Christmas Crafts”

    Children’s Exploration Series Program

    The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum work extremely hard to provide programs, care for the facilities, create exhibits and care for the thousands of artifacts and archival documents in the collections of the museums. In order to consistently accomplish these objectives the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.


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