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Emigrant/Indian Relations

Relations between emigrants using the trails and the Indians were inconsistent during the migration period. While hostile acts and violent confrontation did occur, they have been overemphasized in trail history. During the early migration period of the 1840s, there is documentation of the Indians helping emigrants with treacherous river crossings, giving directions, conducting peaceful trading, and providing food. It appeared that the native populations did not view the small numbers of emigrants as a threat, even though they were trespassing on tribal lands. Chief Washakie and his Shoshones were well-known for their kindness and…

The California Gold Rush period, with its large increase in emigrant numbers, seems to mark the beginning of ill feelings and openly hostile acts. The large emigrant numbers disturbed the game herds upon which the Indians heavily depended. The emigrants’ cut all the available wood and their livestock overgrazed the trail corridor. Confrontations increased and the paying of a tribute to cross tribal lands became a common practice.

Indians suffered heavier losses than did the emigrants. In the 20-year period from 1840 to 1860, only 362 emigrants were killed by Indians. Large groups of emigrants were seldom attacked, and most deaths resulted when individuals were out hunting or exploring. An emigrant was much more likely to die from disease, be run over by a wagon, trampled in a stampede, accidentally shot, or drowned while crossing a river.

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This historic marker is located on a walking path loop on Highway 28 just west of Farson, stopping here you can see all these markers: