The Fort Hall Indian Reservation is an Indian reservation of the federally recognized Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in the U.S. state of Idaho. It is located in southeastern Idaho on the Snake River Plain north of Pocatello, and comprises 814.874 sq mi of land area in four counties: Bingham, Power, Bannock, and Caribou counties. Founded in 1868, it is named for Fort Hall, a trading post that was an important stop along the Oregon Trail and California Trail in the middle 19th century.
The Tribes are composed of several Shoshone and Bannock bands that were forced to the Fort Hall Reservation, which eventually became the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. There are approximately 5,681 enrolled tribal members with a majority living on or near the Fort Hall Reservation. Through its self-governing rights afforded under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Tribes manages its own schools, post office, grocery store, waste disposal, agriculture and commercial businesses, rural transits, casinos, and more.
The reservation was established by the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 between the United States and the Shoshone and Bannock tribes in the wake of the Bear River Massacre (1863).
In the 1850s the Shoshone, led by Chief Pocatello, had attacked emigrant parties in part because the increasing tide of settlers was encroaching on their hunting grounds and game. The Mormons, led by Brigham Young, had subsequently pursued a policy of reconciliation with the Shoshone. In 1858, the arrival of the U.S. Army into the Utah Territory led to a full-scale conflict between the U.S. and the Shoshone. Colonel Patrick Edward Connor killed more than 400 Shoshone in present-day southeastern Idaho. The massacre was the culmination of a long struggle between the Shoshone and Bannock, and U.S settlers, which included numerous attacks by both sides. Connor led his troops from Fort Douglas in January 1863 in order to “chastise” the Shoshone and killed more than 400 Shoshone of one band.
Warned of Connor’s advance, Pocatello led his people out of harm’s way. Another chief and his band were attacked. Pocatello subsequently sued for peace and agreed to relocate his people to the newly established reservation along the Snake River. Four bands of Shoshone and the Bannock band of the Paiute relocated to the reservation, then consisting of 1.8 million acres of land. The U.S. government agreed to supply the Shoshone-Bannock annually with goods and supplies annuities worth 5,000 dollars.
The reservation, located on the Snake River Plain, was not appropriate for the model of subsistence agriculture which the government wanted the Shoshone-Bannock to adopt. In addition, the U.S. government often failed to provide the annuity goods on time and food supplies sometimes arrived spoiled. In the years following their relocation, the Shoshone-Bannock suffered severely from hunger and disease. Hoping to relieve his people’s suffering, Pocatello led a small group to a missionary farm in the Utah Territory to receive mass baptism and conversion to Mormonism. Although the Shoshone were baptized, the local settlers, primarily Mormon, agitated for the Indians’ removal. The U.S. Army forced the Shoshone back onto the reservation.
From 1868-1932, the reservation territory was reduced by two thirds due to encroachment of non-Native settlers and governmental actions to take land. For instance, under the Dawes Act of 1887, the government allocated individual plots of land to registered tribal households. It declared the remainder of the land “surplus” to Shoshone-Bannock needs, and sold much of it to European-American settlers.
In 1934 the US Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act, created in part to end the allotment process, encourage tribes to re-establish self-government and to keep their land bases. In 1936 the tribes reorganized, wrote a constitution and established their own elected government. They have managed to retain most of their lands. Today, the tribes employ nearly 1,000 Native and non-Native people in various trades: 575 in tribal government, 85 by the enterprises and more than 300 by gaming, with a combined payroll of more than $32 million. The tribal government is building the tribes’ economy and ensuring the protection and enhancement of the reservation landbase for generations to come.
The main agricultural crops are wheat and potatoes, with the value of crops produced on the reservation exceeding $75 million annually. The reservation is the site of the The Fort Hall Casino, and two smaller satellite casinos, all operated by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.