Wind River Indian Reservation
Fort Washakie Pow Wow Wind River Wyoming

Wind River Indian Reservation

Sitting in Wyoming's Wind River Basin in the "Valley of the Warm Winds" is the Wind River Indian Reservation. The seventh largest reservation in the United States, it encompasses more than 2.2 million acres and is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

Within its boundaries are the communities of Arapaho, Boulder Flats, Crowheart, Ethete, Fort Washakie, Hudson and Johnstown. It's also home to 240 lakes, miles of streams and some of the state's most special places, as the tribes welcome visitors to learn about their cultures and history. The reservation is home to around 26,000 residents, while nearly 12,000 residents are enrolled members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. 

A Walk Through the Past: Tribal History  

The only Indian reservation in Wyoming, the Wind River Indian Reservation was established with the Treaty of Fort Bridger in 1868. Originally home to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, the Northern Arapaho Tribe was moved to the reservation in 1878 where they were welcomed by Chief Washakie of the Eastern Shoshone. A traditionally nomadic tribe for thousands of year, the Eastern Shoshone traveled throughout 16 states (from central Wyoming to the west coast), while archealogical evidence has show that the tribe called parts of Wyoming home for millenia. Today, both tribes share their cultures, history and traditions through oral storytelling, sacred ceremonies, songs and dance. 

Points of Interest

Northern Arapaho Experience Room 

Located inside the Wind River Hotel & Casino, the Northern Arapaho Experience Room tells the story of the Northern Arapaho people through paintings, pictures, video and artifacts, with an Arapaho elder often guiding visitors through the room as he shares his tribe's history and culture. Held every Tuesday during the summer months, the Northern Arapaho Experience showcases fancy, grass and traditional styles of dance as American Indian dancers and performs share their stories and this important part of the tribe's culture through pow wows. 

Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary 

Located outside of Lander, the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary is the only wild horse sanctuary in the United States that's located on an Indian reservation. Opened in 2016, it shares the story and important history of the wild mustangs while its on-site visitor center offers interpretive displays about the importance of the horse to American Indian tribes. Home to 130 mustangs, vistors can schedule guided tours where they are able to tour the ranch and learn about the horses that call this place home.

Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary

St. Stephens Indian Mission 

Founded in the late 1800s by Father John Jutz, St. Stephens Mission at one time included a church, dormitory, gymnasium and Jesuit priest house. While many of the structures were lost over the years, today the chapel and Sister Incarnata Hall are used for programs, mass and other projects.

Wind River Canyon 

Starting at the town of Shoshoni and ending just north of Thermpolis, the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway (U.S. Highway 20) takes travelers through the Wind River Canyon and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Within view are the red rocks of Owl Creek Mountains, the deep blue waters of Boysen Reservoir and the 2,500 vertical feet of rock walls on either side of the canyon. Home to some of the oldest rock formations in the world, keep an eye out for interpretive signage along the way.

Wind River Canyon Wyoming

Pow Wows & Dancing Exhibitions

Throughout Wind River Country and the Wind River Indian Reservation, pow wows are an important part of American Indian culture. For visitors who are wanting to experience this rich part of Wyoming history, pow wows are a time-honored tradition that dates back generations as each tribes share their strories through dance. Each year, pow wows are held in various locations on the Wind River Indian Reservation and include the Eastern Shoshone Pow Wow in June, the Ethete Celebration & Pow Wow in July and the Northern Arapaho Pow Wow in September.

Fort Washakie Pow Wow Wind River Indian Reservation Wyoming

During the summer, the Wind River Hotel & Casino hosts dancing performances in the Northern Arapaho Experience Room every Tuesday, while the Museum of the American West in Lander hosts outdoor exhibitions Wednesday nights in July and August. 

Lodging and Accommodations

Both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes own and operate hotels and casinos on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Sitting just south of Riverton, the Wind River Hotel & Casino has 90 rooms and is a launching spot for exploring the reservation as well as nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Minutes from the outdoor recreation hub of Lander is the Shoshone Rose Casino & Hotel. Featuring 60 rooms, the Shoshone Rose is an ideal location for adventure in the nearby Wind River Mountains and Sinks Canyon. 

Additional lodging options can be found in nearby Dubois, Lander and Riverton

Etiquette in Indian Country  

It's important to note that American Indian tribes are sovereign nations within the United States. When you're traveling through or visiting Wyoming's First Nations, always be respectful. When experiencing a pow wow, be sure to ask permission before taking a dancer's photo or touching their regalia. Pow wows and other sacred ceremonies are an ideal way to experience this rich part of Wyoming's history. 

For more information about visiting, playing and exploring this area, discover Wyoming's Wind River Country.

Learn About the Eastern Shoshone Tribe
Learn About the Northern Arapaho Tribe
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