Chief Pocatello painting unveiled

MICHAEL O’DONNELL/ IDAHO STATE JOURNAL   Shoshone-Bannock War Bonnet Leader Gifford Osborn speaks about the significance of Chief Pocatello during the presentation of a painting of the historic tribal leader. The painting will be displayed in the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center.

MICHAEL O’DONNELL/ IDAHO STATE JOURNAL
Shoshone-Bannock War Bonnet Leader Gifford Osborn speaks about the significance of Chief Pocatello during the presentation of a painting of the historic tribal leader. The painting will be displayed in the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center.

BY MICHAEL H. O’DONNELL
modonnell@journalnet.com

FORT HALL — Chief Pocatello’s image has come home to the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center and the conference room that bears his name, but his spirit has never left.

“To us as Indian people, we will never forget the traditions, customs and language,” said Darrell Shay, the director of Language and Cultural Preservation for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. “He passed on those values and principles.”

A crowd gathered inside the event center just outside the Chief Pocatello Room Friday evening as tribute was given to the family of Chief Pocatello and the contributions of the tribal leader. Family speakers were Jason Walker and Nancy Nacki.

Historians believe Chief Pocatello lived from 1815 to 1884 and was born in Northwest Utah as part of the Northwest Shoshone tribe which ranged from Utah and Nevada to the Snake River in Idaho. His given name was Tiazania, which meant Buffalo Robe. His status among his people grew as he became an adult and he became a chief who led attacks against wagon trains at Massacre Rocks in what is now Power County in 1862.

Those actions led to increased military presence in Southeast Idaho and helped set the stage for the Jan. 29, 1863 Bear Lake Massacre where 350 Shoshone men, women and children were murdered at their winter encampment by Col. Patrick O’Connor and the Third California Infantry. Chief Pocatello was captured and sentenced to be hanged, but was pardoned by President Abraham Lincoln.

Pocatello went on to lead his people in struggles with the federal government over land and Indian rights until his death. Chief Pocatello was buried in a traditional ceremony with his full ceremonial dress and prized personal belongings including 18 horses in a 20-foot spring along the Snake River.

The spirit of his leadership was alive and well at Friday’s event.

“We have a lot to offer,” Shay said. “We have a lot to offer in saving the planet. This man was one who took care of the land.”

As Shay and others spoke, the portrait of Chief Pocatello — painted by Tal Sampson of Pocatello — looked out on the crowd.

Sampson looked proud and exhausted.

Commissioned by the family of Chief Pocatello years ago to paint images of their ancestor, Sampson had to rely on input from the family because no photographs of Chief Pocatello exist. He also spent a lot of time talking to tribal members and researching Shoshone-Bannock history. The painting presented to the event center on behalf of the family was first done in 2007, but Sampson spent the previous three days straight making adjustments to the original.

Changes to the chief’s hair and the addition of two quivers for his bow and arrows needed to be done.

Sampson also painted a portrait of an older Chief Pocatello that graces the inside of council chambers at Pocatello City Hall.

“They were happiest with this one,” Sampson said about the family’s reaction to the younger Chief Pocatello presented Friday at Fort Hall.

“He’s about 35 to 40 years old and in this painting,” Sampson said. “His rise to power was about age 40 so this is what he would have looked like.”

The chief’s family contacted Sampson about doing the painting and he said he feels honored.

“To work with the family is awesome,” Sampson said.

Shay told the crowd it is important for Shoshone-Bannock tribal members to always remember their history and the people who have walked the land of Idaho for generations.

“This land still belongs to us,” Shay said. “We may not hold title to it, but we still care about it.”

Shay said the footsteps and bones of native people are scattered all over the West.

“Their spirits are still out there,” he said.

Sampson said he could feel something spiritual as he drove the painting of Chief Pocatello to the event center Friday night.

“I said, ‘Chief you’re going home, only this time you’re going to stay,’” Sampson said.