Tukudika – The First Inhabitants of Yellowstone Park

Tukudika, which translates to “eaters of meat,” were considered the only “permanent” native tribe living in the Yellowstone Park area, according to Anglo-Americans. Commonly referred to as “Sheep Eaters,” for their love of hunting sheep, or Mountain Shoshone, the Tukudika also were semi-nomadic and followed the changing of seasons and migration of the Bighorn Sheep.  Earning a demeaning stereotype as “lesser” Indians when compared to surrounding plains tribes, the Tukudika lived in wickiups (featured image), which consisted of fallen trees and branches, did not use horses rather dogs as pack carriers, and were considered timid and reclusive. This typical Eurocentric mindset is what led to the ultimate demise and relocation of the Tukudika. What is important to note is that the Sheep Eaters did reside within Yellowstone boundaries. After facing the white man’s diseases, significant losses to sheep and other fauna due to further expansion by settlers and the US government, along with forced relocation, the Tukudika tribe did not simply “vanish” but were forced to leave greater Yellowstone.  Their descendants now live with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe on the Wind River Reservation and Bannock Tribe at Fort Hall Reservation.

Several artifacts are housed at Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center (HRC), from steatite bowls, obsidian arrowheads, and photographs of Shoshone tribe members, most notably Chief Washakie. While we do not have any known photos of the Tukudika during the 1870s in Yellowstone National Park, we do have cultural objects associated with the Sheep Eaters found within the park’s boundaries.  Most notably is a steatite bowl, and obsidian arrowheads found at Obsidian Cliff (pictured below).  These objects tell a story and hold great significance to the Shoshone Tribe and American history.  The HRC takes great care in the preservation of such cultural property and understands its importance to keep the knowledge of the first inhabitants of Yellowstone alive.  I will be working with museum staff and other interns on creating an exhibit to showcase these artifacts and tell the history of the Tukudika in Yellowstone.


YELL 66613YELL 9963-1-jpg635145763667807030


“YELL 66613 and YELL 9963 housed at HRC.  Images taken from catalog database.”
“Peter Nabokov and Lawrence Loendorf.  American Indians and Yellowstone National Park: A Documentary Overview.  National Park Service: Yellowstone Center for Resources, 2002.”

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