Mountain Spirit

The Sheep Eater Indians of Yellowstone

There is still a pervasive notion that Indians did not inhabit the Yellowstone area. Drawing on the results of ongoing archaeological excavations and extensive ethnographic work among descendant native peoples, Mountain Spirit discusses the many groups that have in fact visited or lived in the area in prehistoric and historic times. In particular, the Shoshone group known as Tukudika, or Sheep Eaters, maintained a rich and abundant way of life closely related to their primary source of protein, the mountain sheep of the high-altitude Yellowstone area.

These robust people were talented artisans, making well-constructed shelters, powerful horn bows, and expertly tailored clothing that was highly sought by their trading partners. They moved in small, kin-based bands, accompanied by large dogs that were indispensable hunting and trekking companions. Moving seasonally through portions of the Beartooth, Absaroka, and Wind River ranges, the Sheep Eaters made skillful use of their environment.

Written for general readers, Mountain Spirit includes photographs, lithographs, and a number of color drawings and sketches of Sheep Eater life ways by Davíd Joaquin. It presents a vivid picture of the vanished way of life of a people whose accomplishments have been largely ignored in histories of Native peoples. 

Lawrence Loendorf is an archaeologist at New Mexico State University. He is the coauthor of Ancient Visions: Petroglyphs and Pictographs of the Wind River and Bighorn Country: Wyoming and Montana (University of Utah Press, 2001) and Restoring a Presence: American Indians and Yellowstone National Park.

Nancy Medaris Stone is a writer and editor with a background in archaeology.

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations
Prologue: What's in a Name?

1. Objects of Pity
2. "We Are All the Same People, All the Way Back": Looking for Sheep Eaters in the Historic and Archaeological Records
3. Purple Mountain Majesties: The Landscape and Habitats of Sheep Eater Territory
4. Living among the Powerful Spirits
5. Weaving the Social Fabric: Sheep Eater Relationships with One Another and the Outside World
6. Sheltering Sheep Eaters: A House for Each Season
7. Chip and Chisel verus Make and Bake: Steatite and Ceramic Vessels in Sheep Eater Country
8. Fleeced and Greased: Sheep Eater Clothing and Presentation of Self
9. Barkeology, or, What We Know about Sheep Eater Dogs
10. The Call of the Bow: Sheep Eater Bow Making and Its Superior Result
11. The Thing Belonging to the Bow: Sheep Eater Arrows and the Raw Material They Transport
12. Hunting Bighorn Sheep for Food and "Hornware"
13. Cutthroats, Bitterroots, and Whistle Pigs: Seasonal Variety in the Sheep Eater Diet
14. The Sheep Eater Path to the Contemporary World

Epilogue: "By Diligent Discovery": Learning More about the Sheep Eaters

About the Authors


Praise and Reviews:

"Contains a surprising amount of detail. This is a book that will probably influence our thinking about the Mountain Shoshone for years to come."—Montana, The Magazine of Western History