We recognize Boise as a good place to live today for many of the same reasons the indigenous people did. It has mild winters and mostly moderate summers. There are hot springs to keep sweat lodges steaming or the capitol heated. The river provides a good fishery.
In those days, the Boise River provided an outstanding fishery that was essential to the subsistence of the Shoshoni. When the first white settlers came into the valley, they wrote of raking salmon out of the river with forked willow branches the fish were so plentiful.
Prior to pioneer settlement the Shoshoni hunted bison on the Snake River Plain, especially after 1700 when they acquired horses, the first Northwest Tribe to do so.
Compare this life of plenty the Northern Shoshoni led with their miserable last few years in the Boise Valley.
In 1864 the Boise Shoshoni signed a treaty with Idaho Territorial Governor Caleb Lyon, whom it is always pointed out hailed from Lyonsdale, New York, largely because he never failed to mention it. The treaty gave the natives a never-defined amount of money and a not described place to live in the indistinct future in exchange for their homeland of hundreds of years. Though their land was gobbled up, the exchange went only that far. Lyon disappeared along with $50,000 meant for the Indians. Lyon insisted thieves had stolen the money from him while he was en route to Washington, D.C. Why he had the money with him in the first place was never explained. Possibly for safe keeping.
What followed, for the Shoshoni, were several years of waiting on the outskirts of Boise for the promises of the treaty to be kept. It was never ratified by the U.S. Senate, though that would probably not have made much difference.
This encampment of Indians is seldom mentioned in Boise history. Carol Lynn MacGregor brought it to light in her excellent book, Boise, Idaho, 1882-1910 from which much of the information for this post was taken.
Over 1,000 Shoshoni and 150 Bannock awaited promises just outside of town. They did what they could to make a living, fishing and hunting as they always had, but with much reduced opportunity. Some took odd jobs in town to earn money for food. Disease in the Shoshoni camp was rampant, with many of the natives suffering from measles and consumption (tuberculosis).
Finally, in 1869, after five years of being homeless in their traditional homeland, the Indians were moved to the reservation at Fort Hall. Today, few but the willows and cottonwoods remember the people who first gave a name to the valley.
Castle Rock, near the old Idaho Penitentiary, held special significance to the Boise Shoshoni.