Statue of Chief Washokie at the Battle of Two Hearts Sculpture, University of Wyoming
Backstory and Context
The Wind River Valley was one of the last areas producing quantities of game to
be hunted. The increasing scarcity of animals and the approaching winter,
tribes were forced to consolidate near what is now known as Crowheart Butte.
The dispute erupted when the tribes of the Shoshone/Bannocks and the Crows,
both made claims to the hunting grounds. The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty gave the
land to the Crow Indians. Twelve years later, the Fort Bridger Treaty
granted the land to the Shoshone and Bannocks.
Chief Washakie of the Shoshone sent his best warrior and the warrior's wife to ask Crow Chief Big Robber to leave their land and to move east. Chief Big Robber responded by killing the warrior and sending the warrior's wife back to the Shoshone to relay what happened. Washakie quickly gathered a war party of men from the Shoshone and the Bannock and rode to the Crows seeking revenge. The battle ensued and lasted about a week without any resolution. Noticing that both sides had endured many casualties, Washakie proposed that the two chiefs would fight to the death for the land. Both tribes agreed to respect the outcome and the losing tribe would leave the hunting grounds for good. The exact location of the duel is not documented, but memories passed down through the ages suggest that the fight happened on the top of the butte. Both chiefs were riding their horses and taunting the other before the fight. Washakie allegedly taunted his rival by promising to cut out his heart after defeating him.
The duel ended when Washakie cut out the heart of Chief Big Robber and placed it on his spear. He kept the heart on his spear throughout the Shoshone victory dance which occurred that night. The Crows respected the decision and the result of the duel ended the violence. The name Crowheart Butte came from the story of Washakie removing the heart of the Crow Chief during the battle. The butte is now considered sacred grounds and is illegal for any non-Native American to climb to the top. The butte is used for spiritual ceremonies for the Shoshone people.
Keefer, William R..
"Geologic History of Wind River Basin, Central Wyoming." The AAPG,
vol. 49, no. 11, 1878-1892. Published November 1965.
Stamm, Henry Edwin (1999). People of the Wind River: The Eastern Shoshones, 1825-1900. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 25.
Swackhamer, Barry. The Battle of Crowheart Butte. The Historical Marker Database. June 21, 2016. Accessed April 28, 2018. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=95342.