American Indian Culture in Wyoming: Past, Present & Future

American Indian heritage in the West dates back thousands of years, with countless generations of Native American tribes calling the diverse landscape that is now Wyoming home.

Wind River Indian Reservation

Once occupied by a number of nomadic Plains Indian tribes, today Wyoming is home to the Wind River Indian Reservation and two American Indian tribes: the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone. While the Wind River Indian Reservation, which spans 2.2 million acres and is the seventh largest reservation in the U.S., is a sovereign nation and has significant tribal history, American Indian history, sacred sites and cultural experiences are found throughout much of Wyoming. 

Fort Washakie Pow Wow, Wind River Indian Reservation.

The Wind River Indian Reservation was established 150 years ago in 1868 with the Treaty of Fort Bridger. Another monumental treaty, the Treaty of Fort Laramie, was also signed in the Wyoming Territory in 1868. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was signed after seven months of negotiations and had very harsh effects on tribes across the United States.While all American Indian tribes were badly impacted by the treaties of 1868, the traditions, culture, and their sovereign nations survived and are once again common practices of daily life.

In Wyoming, the culture and heritage of American Indian tribes can be felt and experienced statewide, from public events on the Wind River Indian Reservation to the First Peoples’ Pow Wow in Sheridan, Wyoming is home to many celebrations of tribal cultures.

Cheyenne Frontier Days

Each summer visitors to Cheyenne Frontier Days can experience the Indian Village, a portion of Frontier Park dedicated to dancing, music, storytelling and exhibits about American Indian culture.

Yellowstone National Park

Oral histories, trails and archeological sites show that the Yellowstone National Park area was occupied by people for more than 11,000 years. Long before Yellowstone became the nation’s first national park, the area was a place that many nearby tribes hunted and traveled through, while also using the region’s thermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes. 

Medicine Wheel

Just east of Lovell in the Bighorn National Forest rests the Medicine Wheel, also known as Medicine Mountain National History Landmark. Visitors can hike to this piece of tribal history and see the medicine wheel made of rocks that spans 75 feet in diameter. The medicine wheel (and surrounding areas) has been identified as one of the most well-preserved sacred sites in North America. 

Additional Wyoming American Indian Landmarks

Additional points of interest include petroglyphs (found in Thermopolis, southwest Wyoming, Hyattville and central Wyoming), Devils Tower National Monument and battlefields near Sheridan. 

When traveling to or visiting Wyoming’s sacred sites and historical sites, be sure to show respect and reverance to the places you visit.