Eagle Eye, Last Chief of the Tukudika

Eagle Eye's Band

By Sheila Reddy
Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Regions 1 and 4, Heritage Program, August 1996

Eagle Eye, the last chief of the Tukudika (Sheepeater band) of Northern Shoshone, was not among the Indians captured during Idaho's last Indian war, the 1879 Sheepeater Campaign. He and his family had retreated to a small secluded valley in Dry Buck basin west of Banks, Idaho, where they lived quiet lives trying to attract as little attention as possible. Only on a few occasions were they seen.

In 1881, Norman B. Willey sent the following article about an Indian sighting to The Nez Perce News, Lewiston, Idaho Territory:

"May 24, 1881: Thos. Clay, mail carrier on the Indian Valley route from here (Warren), brought us news yesterday of a ripple of Indian excitement in Little Salmon and Long Valley last week. A man named Wilson, who traps in that region, while making his daily rounds in the lower end of Long Valley, saw a couple of Indian boys nearby. He himself was not observed, and he watched their motions; they were endeavoring to catch birds along the river, and when out of sight, he made a bee-line for the settlement in Little Salmon (New Meadows), some 25 miles distant. The famil(ies) were gathered in the most central place, and the next day the able bodied men of the neighborhood who had sufficient arms, returned to the scene. They found the camp, but the Indians had left, taking the Indian trail across the divide that separates Long Valley and Indian Valley. . . The party apparently consists of three bucks, two squaws, the two boys, and a child. A visit to their camp indicated that they are entirely destitute of ammunition. They had peeled bark from a great many trees and had been scraping and apparently living on the soft portions of it, but there was not a bone or feather to be found, although game was plenty thereabouts. They are supposed to be (with) a well known Indian named Andy Johnson" (June 9, 1881 issue).

The editor of The Nez Perce News, Aaron Parker, added this postscript to Willey's article, "Andy Johnson is, or was, a sub-chief of the Weiser Indians, and a brother-in-law of Eagle Eye, chief of the same band. . ."

In the June 23, 1881 issue, The Nez Perce News, Willey added: "Nothing has been heard of the Indians seen lately in Long Valley. There is a large section of unoccupied hills and mountains between Long Valley and Indian Creek, Crane's Creek, and Willow Creek where they could range all summer. No one can say what farm or house they will burn or what farmer or stock herder they will first pounce upon and massacre."

But, Eagle Eye and his band continued living quietly at Dry Buck, building log homes, planting gardens and orchards. Anthropologist Sven Liljeblad (1972) wrote of Eagle Eye's band:

"As far back in time as their memories reached, the valley from the bend of the (Payette) river to Payette Lake had been their summer range where they had gathered food, fished and hunted deer. . . As long as their old headman (Eagle Eye) had lived, highly esteemed by both settlers and officials, the Indians had stubbornly refused to leave their village. After his death (in 1896), the intimidated Indians, rather to be safe than sorry, decided to move to Fort Lemhi where they had relatives. One day in early summer sometime about the turn of the century, they left their little farmsteads where the apple trees had just shed their blossoms, never to see them again. As they wanted to avoid traveling over public roads and much frequented trails, it took them the whole summer to cross the mountains. Although the loss these emigrants had suffered in having to give up their native ground. . . must have been appalling to them all, some of them and their children in time became citizens with great prestige in their new community."

Idaho historian Merle Wells told of visiting Eagle Eye's farm in Dry Buck basin in 1963 with Dr. Liljeblad and members of Eagle Eye's family. The trip was taken in response to a request to visit the area by Josephine Thorpe, Eagle Eye's granddaughter:

". . .this group (on the expedition) included a number of Eagle Eye's descendants: his great grandson (and Mrs. Thorpe's son) Frank, as well as some great-great-grandchildren. Mrs. Thorpe who had attended Eagle Eye's funeral on top of Timber Butte, wished to return to her grandfather's grave, and I promised to find them a practical route to the site. On the way, we toured Dry Buck basin, where Eagle Eye and his people had worked in a sawmill when Mrs. Thorpe was a child. There we found some of Eagle Eye's apple trees (or their descendants) that Mrs. Thorpe remembered.

"An interesting basin west of Banks, Dry Buck had provided a secluded home for the last of Idaho's non-reservation Indian bands. Eagle Eye had led a prominent group of mountain Northern Shoshoni-known to the whites as Sheepeaters - from at least the time of the Snake war of 1866-1868 through the rest of the nineteenth century. . . After his funeral, his band retired to Fort Hall, where his granddaughter (Josephine Thorpe) became a successful rancher on Lincoln Creek."



Further reading

Tukudika, Forest Service Heritage Program

Sven Liljebad. The Idaho Indians in Transition 1805-1906. Idaho State University Museum, Pocatello, Idaho, 1972.

Julian Steward. Basin-Plateau Aboriginal Sociopolitical Groups. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 120. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1938. Reprinted 1970, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Hank Corless. The Weiser Indians/Shoshoni Peacemakers. Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1996.




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