"I Hope We be a Prosperous People" : Shoshone and Bannock Incorporation, Ethnic Reorganization, and the "Indian Way of Living Through"
Newark, New Jersey
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey
Indigenous cultures have never been static. Aboriginal people were inspired or forced to modify their cultures by internal innovations and external environmental and human forces long before the modern world-system entered their midst and they retained their dynamism in the face of incorporation. Indigenous people did not simply accept the labor roles, ethnic identities, gender assignments, religious beliefs, political realignments, material values or technological systems which accompanied their homelands' re-designations as core, semiperiphery, periphery or external regions within the modern world-system, they continued to sculpt their own lives as much as possible. The following work contrasts and compares the survival strategies of the bands of Shoshone and Bannock who settled on a federally-controlled reservation called Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho with the survival strategies of a group of Northwestern Shoshone who converted to Mormonism and established a cooperative farming colony called Washakie in northwestern Utah. Employing a series of survival tactics which have been termed "ethnic reorganization" by sociologist Joane Nagel and C. Matthew Snipp, the Northwestern Shoshone and the Shoshone and Bannock skilfully blended introduced social, economic, political and cultural systems with their own long-standing practices. This allowed them to makes necessary changes to their lifeways while maintaining discrete and unique ethnic identities. This study also explores the ways in which Euro-Americans, Indian agents, private corporations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the United States government all expropriated Shoshone and Bannock and Northwestern Shoshone resources, even when they claimed to be offering these groups of people aid. These actions fit the world-systems-derived model of "hidden transfers of value" developed by dependency theorist Samir Amin. Hidden transfers of value is the core entity practice of offering development monies and advice to periphery entities while simultaneously draining the area of resources which are far more valuable and lucrative than the aid proffered. I assert that federal reservations, and, in the end, even the Washakie townsite, functioned as storehouses of land, minerals, water and lumber, which Euro-American settlers, business people, and federal and state governments pillaged for their own enrichment while claiming to aid Native Americans.