History behind the Gift of the Waters
Members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe from the Wind River Reservation perform traditional dances in the downtown area of Thermopolis after the Pageant Days Parade, which begins at 10 a.m., Aug. 5, 2017.
The traditional Gift of the Waters Pageant is held in the Big Spring area of Hot Springs State Park, Aug. 5-6, 2017, 6-7 p.m.
On April 21, 1896, Chief Washakie of the Shoshone and Chief Sharp Nose of the Arapaho signed a treaty with the U.S. government at Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation. They sold a ten-mile-square tract of land surrounding the Big Horn Hot Springs (“Big Spring”). Washakie stipulated that some portion of the healing waters remain free to all people forever. In return the tribe was to receive $60,000 in cattle and food supplies.
The “Gift of the Waters” is not a re-enactment of the event but an annual celebration of the camaraderie of two nations. The drama was originally written in 1925 by Marie Montabe and has been performed in the park annually since 1950. It includes members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe singing and dancing, with “The Lord’s Prayer” in Native sign language.
The colorful costumes are prized possessions of their owners, and many hours go into their construction and preparation. They display many traditional elements, such as fine beadwork, leather & fur, shell, quill and feather detail as well as bright-colored cottons and ribbons.
Ed. note – Thanks to the Thermopolis Independent Record for use of photos of Gift of the Waters Pageant Days from their archives.