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The Sheepeater Myth of Northwestern Wyoming

Susan S. Hughes
Plains Anthropologist
Vol. 45, No. 171 (February 2000), pp. 63-83
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25669639
Page Count: 21
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The Sheepeater Myth of Northwestern Wyoming
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Abstract

A tribe of diminutive and timid Sheepeater Indians thought to be the only permanent residents of Yellowstone National Park are embedded in the local history and folklore of western Wyoming. Considerable mystery shrouds these people because historical and ethnographic information is scarce. Most problematic is that Sheepeaters vanished by the time Yellowstone Park was established in 1872. According to most accounts, the only traces of this vanished tribe are abandoned conical timber lodges, drive lines, and other wood structures encountered at high elevations. This paper is a critical review of the Sheepeater phenomenon in northwestern Wyoming. Through a detailed examination of nineteenth century literature and Shoshone ethnography, this paper explores two ideas. First, the Sheepeaters as depicted in northwestern Wyoming folklore are predominantly a myth derived from the medieval wild man and an Indian stereotype passed down through colonial history, and second, a permanent band of Sheepeaters in Yellowstone National Park may never have existed.

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