The History Behind Yellowstone

Long before herds of tourists and automobiles crisscrossed Yellowstone’s rare landscape, the unique features comprising the region lured in the West’s early inhabitants, explorers, pioneers, and entrepreneurs. Their stories helped fashion Yellowstone into what it is today and initiated the birth of America’s National Park System.

Native Americans

As early as 10,000 years ago, ancient inhabitants dwelled in northwest Wyoming. These small bands of nomadic hunters wandered the countryside, hunting the massive herds of bison and gathering seeds and berries. During their seasonal travels, these predecessors of today’s Native American tribes stumbled upon Yellowstone and its abundant wildlife. Archaeologists have discovered domestic utensils, stone tools, and arrowheads indicating that these ancient peoples were the first humans to discover Yellowstone and its many wonders.

As the region’s climate warmed and horses were introduced to American Indian tribes in the 1600s, Native American visits to Yellowstone became more frequent. The Absaroka (Crow) and Blackfeet tribes settled in the territory surrounding Yellowstone and occasionally dispatched hunting parties into Yellowstone’s vast terrain. Possessing no horses and maintaining an isolated nature, the Shoshone-Bannock Indians are the only Native American tribe to have inhabited Yellowstone year-round. Called Sheepeaters, these peaceful Indians relied on the park’s abundant bighorn sheep population for subsistence. Evidence of these Indians’ area travels and presence is apparent to this day on the Bannock Trail gouged into the land near Tower Junction.

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