Fort Hall Reservation
Backstory and Context
In 1867, an Executive Order set apart 1.8 million acres in Southeastern Idaho for the numerous bands of Shoshone and Bannock people. On July 3, 1868, the Fort Bridger Treaty affirmed the Fort Hall Indian Reservation as a “permanent home” for the Shoshone and Bannock people for their “absolute and undeterred use and occupation.”
The Treaty reserved off-reservation rights including hunting, fishing, and gathering to tribal members on “unoccupied lands of the United States.”
The federal government shortly thereafter restricted the tribes’ off-reservation rights for a time in an attempt to turn tribal members into farmers and ranchers. The experiment might have been a success had it not been for the failure of crops during drought years. During those years, families lived close to starvation due to inadequate rations from the government and restrictions on traveling off the reservation to hunt and fish. Many tribal members, however, have continued the ranching traditions to the present day.
The Fort Hall Reservation once consisted of 1.8 million acres but due to government acts and encroachment, it was ceded twice and now consists of 544,000 acres (804,270 sq. mi.), reducing the total original size to less than half.
The Indian Allotment Act of 1887 (Dawes Act) authorized the government to divide Indian land into allotments for individual Indian ownership in efforts to assimilate Indians into western society and to provide the government the opportunity to purchase Indian land for non-Indian settlements.
The Dawes Act had a negative impact on American Indian land holdings by decreasing millions of acres to a third of its original size, i.e. Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Not only did much of the Indians lose their lands but they were inadequately compensated and inexperienced with American currency.
The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, was passed to reverse the Dawes Act and return self-governing powers to the Native American tribes. Today, the Tribes are considered a Federally Recognized Tribe with all the powers and duties granted under the IRA to manage their own assets and economic development for the inhabitants of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.