Instead of sending their children to boarding schools off the reservation, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone had the option to keep their children closer to home to receive an English education. Many of our early leaders, such as Chief Black Coal and Sherman Sage, believed learning English and other such skills were vital to our tribes’ success in this new world.
In 1871, the first known school was opened for the Arapaho and Shoshone children on the Wind River Indian Reservation. In 1884, a one and one half story adobe building was built on Trout Creek, southwest of Fort Washakie with Father John Roberts as the first superintendent.
The following are the student’s own words recorded in 1897 about their futures after they graduate with school. It speaks of their homesickness but also of their determination to succeed. Keep in mind, this is the unaltered text from 1897 told by the students and editor of the paper using terms acceptable during that time.
Excerpted from The Indian Guide no. 4, September 1, 1897, page 3, Shoshone Agency
Expression by Language
The pupils of Fourth Grade, Mr. Betz teacher, were asked to give a short answer to the Question, “What I will be when I am a man or woman?” and following are the uncorrected answers:
Margaret Friday, Arapahoe, aged 13
I will go to help my mother when I go away from this school. I will be at work hard. I guess when I am through work in my home I will go way to my other mother and help work in the garden and I will stay with her all the time. – Editor’s Note, Margaret’s father has more than one squaw and Margaret calls two of them her mother.
Winnie Iron, Arapahoe, 15
I like to go home I like to help my mother at her work. When I get through at school. If I am a woman I won’t like school any more. I will try hard at every thing this year. I like sewing and cooking. When I go home I like to keep my mother’s room clean.
Rosella Washington, Arapahoe, aged 18.
I like to stay home. I think I will not come back to school. When I am a woman I will like sewing.
Delfinio Hurtado, Shoshone, aged 12
I like to go home and stay down home. All I am going to do is work on my house when I get a big man and never leave my papa and my mamma to live by themselves and I will never get married to go away.
Fred White, Arapahoe, age 14
I will work in my house and I will work on the farm. I will cut my grass and I want to ride on my horse. I will work every day.
Charlie Shot Gun, age 15
I like to work with my father. I will work at my father house.
Michael Goggles, Arapaho, age 16
Whenever I quit school I won’t be running all over country on horseback like some of the Indians do. I will always keep on working but I won’t work on Sundays. I will build a house myself and live in it. And I will built a stable too and I will have a plow, and harrow and spades and shovels and a wheelbarrow etc. I won’t quit school until I learn how talk English well.
Peter Iron Man, Arapaho, aged 15
I will go to work with my father and work in the morning and afternoon not work hard work afternoon in my house in the morning work. My good horses and afternoon riding my horses sometimes. I will go home and stay home. I will work on my house.
Sequiel Hurtado, Shoshone, aged 16
I will go to work for my father, when school is out I want to stay with my papa and work while I am 21 years old want to.
(Sequiel married Lucy Enos and they had 9 daughters and five sons.)
James Eagle Chief, Arapaho, aged 16
I want work with my father. I will plow and drive horses and make a fence and work at any thing.
Josiah Old Man, Arapahoe, aged 18
When I am a man I will try to work hard to build a house and a stable to keep my horses in. I will try to get all work with wagon and plow etc. Then I will try to plow a large garden try to raise every thing. I will try to live good in my own place.
Chas Havis, Arapahoe, aged 18
I will work in my house myself I will work every day. On Sunday I will ride my horse. I want to something new every Sunday take a good time.
The first school on Trout Creek was named Wind River Industrial School for Indian Children and about fifty girls and boys were enrolled in 1884. In 1887, Father John Roberts of the Episcopal Diocese and Superintendent of the Trout Creek school established the Episcopal Mission Boarding Schools for Girls. He allowed the children to speak their native language and to continue practicing their native songs and dances on school grounds.