The First Tribal Indian People of Wyoming
Only the rocks and the mountains really know, only the rocks and the mountains have been here long enough to know and they are not saying anything. No one knows when the first tribal type American Indians first settled in Wyoming. We know for sure they were here before John Colter and the trappers came to Wyoming in the early 1800s. It is probable the introduction of the horse was responsible for bringing most of the Indian settlement to Wyoming and populating the state with several language groups of Indians. Most historians would agree only the ancient Sheep Eater tribe lived in Wyoming before the horse became a part of everyday live for the tribes of Wyoming.
Because the horse brought the Indian to Wyoming the Spanish were most responsible for the settlement of Wyoming. The Spanish and their flamboyant leader Francisco Vasquez Coronado, in 1540 explored much of present day Arizona and the American southwest, looking for the famed but mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. They failed to find the magnificent golden riches of the Seven Cites and Coronado turned northeast leading his 300 men to the fabulous area of Quivira in search of riches. After a long and fruitless search they turned back but not until they had reached southeast Nebraska near the present day city of Fairbury. On the way they left behind dozens of horses that would be the beginning of the famous Indian ponies of the plains. Coronado found no riches, instead found poor tribes leading a day to day agriculture existence, often living in crude stick and mud shelters, some tribes, of better hunters seemed a little better off, but no gold, not then and not today.
If all this makes sense then the Indian tribes of Wyoming were not here until much after Coronado introduced horses in the 1540s, best guess, the early 1700s. Indians of early Wyoming had already domesticated the dog and with the horse there were two animals to help with their day to day chores.
For more than a century (early 1700s to early 1800s) these, now indigenous, people roamed free on the plains and in the mountains of Wyoming. They may have experienced the freest existence in the history of the North American continent. Living a nomadic, buffalo hunting life fit these people well and they thrived, until the white men came, forever changing the life of Indians in Wyoming.
More than any group of people since, they respected nature and the powers of nature. Living a simple existence in the world’s first camper, the very mobile teepee, following the vast herds of bison and adding to their diet with antelope, rabbits other game animals and various wild roots, berries and other nourishing plants.
Life among these people could best be described as harsh and often short—but a better life may not exist. Who was first, the Sheep Eaters, as mentioned above, are thought by many historians to have been the first permanent residents of Wyoming and the one group to predate the horse in this area.