Chief Washakie

Tim Hulsen, Flickr Creative Commons

Let’s go back--way back--to 1868. The Northern Arapaho tribe has survived not only the Sand Creek Massacre but decades of war with the US Army. They’re an exhausted people. In the middle of winter, the US Army decides to move them across Shoshone territory to Oklahoma.

“Well, you know Wyoming winters,” says John Washakie, great grandson of Chief Washakie and longtime Shoshone Councilman. He’s also a tribal storyteller. “They’re very cold. The horses were not in the best of shape. Some of the children and women were ill.”

Paintings of Chief Washakie that have spent more than 40 years in storage are now on display in the Capitol Rotunda in Cheyenne. The 24 pieces by western artist J.K. Ralston were originally commissioned for the dining room of the Noble Hotel in Lander in 1945.

They depict scenes from the life of the Eastern Shoshone chief, including battles, encounters with white settlers, and treaty signings that are part of Chief Washakie’s legacy of diplomacy and peace.

Wyoming State Museum Education Curator Nathan Doerr says the collection tells a sweeping story of the American West.