Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Book Review: Among the Shoshones

Among the Shoshones, by Elijah Nicholas Wilson, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1969.
This is a remarkable autobiographical story told by an oldtimer about things that happened to him when he was young.  He starts when he was 12, and he decided to run away with a group of Indians rather than herd sheep.  He was gone for two years.
He was taken in by Chief Washakie of the Shoshone, and was cared for by Chief Washakie's mother who had just lost two of her sons in an avalanche.  Wilson gives some very interesting descriptions of Chief Washakie, who was the head chief among the Shoshone.  He often had power struggles with Chief Pocatello, who was described as a more violent chief, who was responsible for murder and plunder along the Oregon Trail.  The terrain Chief Washakie's band of Shoshone covered is incredible.  The would cross the Continental Divide, hunting buffalo in the summer on the east side of the divide.  In one series is told the struggle they had with the Crows in order to keep their favorite hunting ground for buffalo.  There is a very good description of the buffalo hunt, and hobbling the buffalo with a long spear which was used to cut the tendons of the buffalo, and then they couldn't get away.
Wilson had some personal struggles, being the only white skinned boy in camp.  Many times he had fights with other children.  Sometimes his temper would get him into trouble.  At one point a kidnapping blunt was unfolded.  Some of Chief Pocatello's men wanted to sell him as a slave.  Another time the medicine man treating him after he had been bitten by a dog, deliberately mistreated the wound in an effort to make it worse.  He suggested amputation.  However Wilson knew something was wrong with the treatment, so stopped it and his wound healed.  These events happened in the 1850s.  There was talk amongst the whites of Wilson's having been kidnapped, and as a result it was determined he should go back home.  He intended to return to his Indian mother, but he never did.  Shortly after arriving home, the events of the Utah War took place, and he and his family removed to Utah Valley for a time.  After that Wilson was a Pony Express Rider, and then a stage coach driver.
An interesting story Wilson tells is of being a scout for General Albert Sidney Johnson in an attack against a combination of Indians who intended to kill the stage coach operators and cause trouble generally.  He said there were Paiute, Parowan and Shoshone.  The timing of this battle was shortly before the U.S. forces left Utah to fight in the Civil War.  He describes a lake, and the battle was fought not by a lake but by the Truckee River.  However there were marshes along the river.  This was the second Battle of Pyramid Lake and took place a short distance from Pyramid Lake.  The White forces routed the Indians, after the Indians had routed the Whites in the First Battle of Pyramid Lake (in real life not in the book.)  This is the only engagement I could find as large as the one described by Wilson.  Johnson wasn't there, but a commander from California who brought troops.  Also there were many local militia.
Wilson eventually settled in Rich  County, and became a bishop.

No comments:

Post a Comment