Statue of Shoshone chief placed in Capitol

WASHINGTON - As tribal chants, drums and prayers echoed throughout the Capitol Rotunda, Chief Washakie of the Eastern Shoshone Indians became the second Wyoming leader to be honored with a likeness in the National Statuary Hall.

''Having Chief Washakie represent us here in Statuary Hall is a great honor to all of our people,'' said James Trosper, Washakie's great-great-grandson, as the statue of the Wyoming leader was unveiled Thursday.

Shoshone and Salish/Kootenai dancers and drummers sang honor songs to Washakie and performed traditional dances. ''Dancing is a way for us to express gratitude to the creator,'' Trosper said. ''Today, we are dancing in honor of Chief Washakie.''

The statue shows Washakie wearing a full eagle headdress, fringed leather leggings and beaded moccasins. His left foot is elevated as he stands on a rock. In his right hand he holds a lance and in his left is a peace pipe.

The back of his full-length leather cape is decorated with paintings depicting battles he and the Eastern Shoshones fought.

The statue will remain in the Capitol Rotunda for six months, in a doorway opposite a bust of George Washington. After that, the chief will take his place in nearby Statuary Hall alongside women's rights leader Esther Hobart Morris, Wyoming's other representative.

Each state is allowed two figures in Statuary Hall. North Dakota, New Mexico and Nevada now are the only states with one statue each.

Historians say Chief Washakie rallied disparate bands of Shoshone warriors in the mid-1800s and sensed the tide of non-Indians passing through traditional tribal hunting grounds could not be stemmed.

He believed the Shoshones would need to make peace with the immigrants and press for a sanctuary. That goal was realized July 3, 1868, when he signed the Fort Bridger Treaty establishing a 3 million-acre reservation in his beloved Wind River Valley.

The valley is still home to the Wind River Indian Reservation, which is now shared with the Northern Arapaho tribe. ''He always placed the peace and the welfare of his people above all,'' said Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo.

When Washakie died on Feb. 20, 1900, he was accorded a full military funeral.


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