Exhibits > The Sheep Eaters
The Sheep Eaters
by David Dominick
For the most part the historical literature is not kind to the
mountain-dwelling Sheep Eater Indians of western Wyoming and northern
Idaho. The Sheep Eaters are identified in history books as miserably
poor, wretched souls who lived like brutes, without even dogs
as companions. Among these inaccurate depictions there is one
work that stands out, through its outright deceit, as the most
dreadful. This book, titled The Sheep Eaters was written
by W.A. Doc Allen and published in 1913 by the Shakespeare
Press. In the book Allen describes an interview of Woman
Under the Ground whom he claimed was the last of the Sheep
Eaters because all the others died of smallpox.
The book was totally discredited, more than 30 years ago, by
the highly respected Swedish anthropologist Ake Hultkrantz and,
more recently, I have learned that the heroine in the Allen book
is not even a Sheep Eater. Rather she is a Crow woman whose photograph
was taken in the late 1800s by O.S. Goff, the post photographer
at Fort Custer, Montana. Furthermore, there are Sheep Eater Shoshone
on the Wind River and Fort Hall reservations today, constituting
living proof that not all the Sheep Eaters died from smallpox.
Nonetheless, the book continues to influence peoples attitudes
about the Sheep Eaters, especially those who do not do other background
research and, unfortunately, it is also now readily available.
Reprinted in 1989 by Ye Galleon Press, without any updating or
critical commentary, the book is for sale in many western bookshops.
I fear that unless they are exposed, the fabricated tales about
the Sheep Eaters will become even more ingrained into the fictitious
literature about the Sheep Eaters.
Curiously the new edition did includewithout the authors
permissiona reprint of The Sheep Eaters, a fine
article written by David Dominick that was published in the Annals
of Wyoming in October 1964. Dominick did his original research
on the Sheep Eaters as a senior honors thesis at Yale University
in 1960. The well-researched article remains the best, published
information available on many aspects of Sheep Eater lifeways.
It is presented here in its entirety with Dominicks permission
so that students and educators will have an accurate and reliable
account of the Sheep Eaters.
New Mexico State University
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Sheep Eaters by David Dominick
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