After years of collecting their history, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation announced that they are in the process of converting and cataloging their historical documents into an online archive hosted by Utah State University.
“The goal has been to create a tribal archive through digital scans and uploads that can be found in one database,” said Clint Pumphreys, a manuscript curator for USU’s Special Collections and Archives staff. “We’ve been working on the oral histories of the 21st century and collecting them so that these files are accessible to anyone online.”
The Shoshone Nation’s historical collection will be retained at the Brigham City and Pocatello offices, but Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, the Shoshone cultural research expert, said that they needed a large server to host their expansive catalog.
“The changing technology has helped us better document the stories of our elders,” Timbimboo-Madsen said. “But even since we started doing this over 15 years ago, the technology has changed so much that we have to even update the videos we recorded back then.”
Timbimboo-Madsen said that a lot of the elders are getting older and don’t want to remember the past, so she tries to be respectful of their wishes.
“It all comes down to the children for me,” Timbimboo-Madsen said. “We want to give the tribe members themselves a better understanding of who these people are. I’ve seen so many of them pass away, and I just think about their stories that they take with them.”
Timbimboo-Madsen said that as she has been gathering interviews and stories, she remembers the elders that she knew growing up and their families who know their stories and are now sharing them with her.
“I think this will give the public a better understanding of who these people are,” Timbimboo-Madsen said. "We realize now that this will be a fuller process than we thought, but when it’s done there will be a link on the tribal website that will take people to the university’s page. Right now, though, it’s a lot of gathering and cataloging.”
Northwest Band Tribal Council Chairman Darren Parry said that he is grateful for the opportunity to work with USU and that he is excited to work with the university.
“It just felt like a natural fit,” Parry said. “We received a grant from the LDS Church to gather these stories and when it came time to find server space, USU was ready.”
Parry said that the work to gather almost 150 years of history has been hard but said Timbimboo-Madsen has done a lot of it.
“A lot of the tribal elders didn’t write anything down,’ Parry said. “The Shoshone history has been primarily an oral history. There’s a proverb, ‘When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground,’ and that’s what has happened with our history.”
Parry recounted a book report that he had to write when he was younger.
“As a kid, I could only find whatever was written in the history books,” Parry said. “But those history books are not accurate and come largely from a colonialism perspective. With this archive, all perspectives are able to be looked at and we can get our view out there.”
Parry used the Bear River Massacre near Preston as an example and said that for a long time the history of the massacre had been largely one-sided.
“This is really just so important because it allows everyone the access to history,” Parry said. “We were the people who lived in Cache Valley way before the Mormon settlers. We welcomed the pioneers and helped them survive that first year, even after the massacre. We were here, and our history tells that story from the other side.”
The history of the Shoshone Nation stretches from centuries before the fur trappers in the early 19th century to the conservation of the Bear River Massacre site in 2003 and the stories of the tribe in the 21st century.