Filed Under Native Americans

The Fort Bridger Indian Agency

Before the creation of official reservations for Native American tribes, the federal government organized Indian agencies across the nation to supervise tribal activities. The Fort Bridger Indian Agency was organized in 1861 to supervise the Shoshone and Bannock tribes.

In 1861, the Eastern Shoshone Native American tribes and mixed bands of Shoshone and Bannock tribes were combined into a new agency, the Fort Bridger Indian Agency. Previously, federal agents supervised these tribes from Salt Lake City, but due to the increased tension between the settlers and tribes, a new agency was organized. For two years, the agency attempted to maintain peace between the settlers and Bannocks through various means, including appeasement packages and the call for federal enforcement. It all escalated in violence, with the battle between some Shoshone tribes and Colonel Patrick Connor’s men at Bear River, Idaho. As a result, 1863 was marked as a year of treaty-making among the various Shoshone and Bannock tribes. After the signing of the treaties, there was relative peace at the Fort Bridger Indian agency for several years. Many of the treaties stipulated that annual annuities were to be delivered to Fort Bridger. Upon delivery, Indian agent Luther Mann distributed the supplies to the tribes before they left for their winter hunting grounds.

However, the Indian Agency often ran into problems. One problem was distributing annuities. Between 1863-1868 the federal government was faithful in sending supplies annually. However, they were sometimes guilty of either not sending the full amount or sending the supplies late. This caused some frustration with the Indian agents and the Shoshones. Indian Agent Luther Mann recognized the need for these supplies to arrive in time before the Shoshone’s annual move to their winter hunting grounds. He petitioned, “that in the future all supplies designed for this agency should be forwarded as early as practicable, that they might reach their destination by the first of August every year. It would thus give the agent time to collect the Indians, who from necessity are scattered over a very large extend of country, distribute their presents, and send them to their hunting-grounds early.”

However, Mann’s request was not always granted. Additionally, with the discovery of gold and silver in and near the territory, more white settlers flooded the region. These settlers often crossed into designated hunting grounds, causing distress among the natives. To avoid potential violence, Mann occasionally stepped in and served as a mediator between the settlers and the natives, especially among the Bannock tribes. The Indian Agency continued to operate out of Fort Bridger until the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868. As the treaty stipulated an Indian reservation was created, the Wind River Reservation, for the Eastern Shoshone tribe. The Fort Bridger Indian Agency was officially dissolved in 1871, and while their relationship started off rough, members from both the Eastern Shoshone tribe and the agency contributed in establishing peace between one another.

Images

Fort Bridger
Fort Bridger Source: L. Tom Perry Special Collections. Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. William Henry Jackson Collection. MSS 1608 item 718. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/Jackson/id/3369. v Creator: William Henry Jackson Date: ca. 1860-1870
Shoshone at the Fort
Shoshone at the Fort Source: WyoHistory.org. [courtesy of Wyoming State Museum]. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/coming-wind-river-eastern-shoshone-treaties-1863-and-1868.
Fort Bridger depicting Indians and Soldiers
Fort Bridger depicting Indians and Soldiers Source: American Heritage Center. Digital Collection. University of Wyoming. Resource Identifier ah001829. http://digitalcollections.uwyo.edu/luna/servlet/detail/uwydbuwy~1~1~5818~100745:Fort-Bridger-drawing-depicting-Indi?qvq=q:fort%2Bbridger&mi=11&trs=80.

Location

Metadata

Rachel Hendrickson, Brigham Young University, “The Fort Bridger Indian Agency,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 19, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/241.