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Eastern Shoshone teens try a night in a teepee
Members of the Eastern Shoshone Boys and Girls Club participated in a Winter Camp in November where they slept in teepees near the Little Wind River, went fishing by the Washakie Reservoir and were part of a culture talk with local Jake Hill. The event was created by the club's teen coordinator Mike Chingman. Photos provided

Eastern Shoshone teens try a night in a teepee

Dec 9, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Times have changed and today, people can go home to a warm bed, a blanket, a closet full of clothes, a home cooked meal and a vehicle in the driveway. But what was it like when people didn't have that, especially during the winter?

Eastern Shoshone Boys and Girls Club teen program coordinator Mike Chingman set out to provide that experience to his club members. A group of teens braved frigid temperatures on the weekend of Nov. 23 during the group's first winter camp along the Little Wind River in Fort Washakie.

Preparations began Nov. 22 when Eastern Shoshone tribal members helped clear snow at the campsite. STEP UP program members, Delaine Tidzump of the Shoshone Recovery program and Jake Hill helped set up the teepees. Jimmy Coulston donated the wood for fires the group would need to keep warm Nov. 23.

Selena Jarvis, Whitney Wesaw, Cheyenne Hebah, Sharnae Noseep, Michael Benally and Solana Griego bundled up and helped split and stack the logs.On Saturday, the teens took a trip to the Washakie Reservoir to catch their dinner before returning to their teepees and to participate in a talk about culture and traditions with Hill.

Teepees typically were made of animal skins and wooden poles, Hill said. They kept those inside warm during the winter, cool during the summer and dry when it rained. The teepee's portable function allowed it to be disassembled and moved easily.

Chingman applauded the extra effort the teens exerted.

"I saw the change they went through over the weekend," he said. "It was a humbling experience for all of us."

On Nov. 23, Chingman woke to see a negative 10 degree reading on his thermometer. Knowing that the temperature was probably unbearable for the teens, Chingman woke up the group and had everyone return to the club. The next day they met back at the teepees to cook the fish they caught and close their experience at the winter camp.

Club member Jarvis had great things to say about the trip despite the cold night.

"My experience at the camp was so much fun, and I had some good laughs with everyone," she said. "We cooked some great food. I was pretty cold, I froze. We went fishing at the dam, watched the sun rise and slept by the fire."

She suggested extra blankets and layers of clothing if the club does another cold event.

"These teens took it up in themselves to cook, cut and stack wood, and help me clean up the camp, and the Boys and Girls Club after it was all over," Chingman said. "These teens made my weekend go by with smiles and laughter, and I felt safe in what I was doing with the winter camp."

The teens also showed exceptional leadership skills, he added.

"I truly believe our community is strong as we let our youth be strong, and I think the teens who came and toughed it out in this winter weather are going to be the backbone for their friends and family in the future," Chingman said.

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Wind River Indian Reservation