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Published April 29, 2021
The Chief Washakie Foundation has established an endowment fund -- the Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund -- at the University of Wyoming that benefits the Wind River Indian Reservation community.
“I wanted to see this endowment created because of a passion for education and being an entrepreneur, and to help others know that they can get out and do something,” says Shoshone elder and entrepreneur Zedora Teton Enos, the fund’s namesake and great-granddaughter of Chief Washakie. “At the beginning, I wanted to set an example -- and set a good example -- and let others know what we can do. I want our people to know that they can roll up their sleeves and do something for themselves.”
Enos, like legendary Chief Washakie, is a lifelong champion of education, business development and service for the Wind River Indian Reservation community. She is a trustee of the Chief Washakie Foundation.
“The Chief Washakie Foundation has been an amazing philanthropic partner for the University of Wyoming, and today’s gift is another milestone in meeting critical needs of the Wind River reservation,” says UW President Ed Seidel. “UW is committed to helping grow this fund as well as our relationship with the Wind River reservation community.”
The Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund will support university outreach, service and programming to address critical needs and priorities of the Wind River reservation community, and will reward demonstrated excellence in addressing those needs. Focus areas include entrepreneurship, cultural and language preservation, and community development activities.
The fund continues the commitment of the Chief Washakie Foundation and UW to higher education and community development on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Previously, in 2003, the Chief Washakie Foundation established the Chief Washakie Memorial Endowment. To date, the endowment has provided scholarships to over 200 students to attend UW.
The excellence fund was established through a $90,000 gift from the Chief Washakie Foundation and will be maintained in perpetuity by the UW Foundation. It will be awarded annually under the direction of the Chief Washakie Memorial Awards Committee.
Quoting Chief Washakie, Eastern Shoshone Business Council Co-Chair John Washakie says, “I fought to keep our land, our water and our hunting grounds. Today, education is the weapon my people need to protect them.” John Washakie is the great-grandson of Chief Washakie and Enos’ brother.
The creation of the excellence fund was supported by Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho business council members.
“As we witness the decline of revenue from energy statewide and reservationwide, this excellence fund comes at a critical time,” says Lee Spoonhunter, co-chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council. “It encourages entrepreneurship that will allow us to diversify our economy.”
“Chief Washakie has been honored in many ways: There is a county here in Wyoming named after him, a town, military post, military ship, national forest, wilderness area, ranger district, a mountain range and several mountains,” John Washakie says. “It’s not unusual that a person of his stature also is recognized by the state of Wyoming with a statue in our nation’s Capitol and our state’s Capitol, but the lasting legacy that will have influence far into the future is the work the Chief Washakie Foundation is doing through educating our people and, now, through the Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund.”
Zedora Teton was born in 1941 to Marie Washakie and Charlie Teton. Shoshone is her first language. She was raised by her maternal grandmother, Josie Trehero Washakie, a daughter-in-law of Chief Washakie as the wife of Washakie’s son, George Washakie.
Through her Grandma Josie, Zedora inherited the family passion for education, a foundation of moral teachings and cultural traditions, and family stories going back to the early 1800s. These are passed down from the “Old Man,” Chief Washakie, through Josie and other family members to each new generation of the Washakie family.
“We need to consider what molds a person’s character and makes them who they are,” says John Washakie. “My sister Zedora -- she was raised by our grandmother Josie Washakie, who took care of Chief Washakie the last years of his life.”
“The hands that fed the ‘Old Man Washakie’ are the same hands that fed me,” Enos says.
As a teenager, Enos lived at the Jane Ivinson Memorial Hall at the Cathedral School for Girls and attended University Prep in Laramie. She went on to graduate from high school at Flandreau Indian Boarding School in eastern South Dakota.
She entered the Miss Indian America pageant in Sheridan in 1960. Through the pageant, she won a scholarship to attend Sheridan College. The pageant also provided a job at the Wyoming State Capitol. She worked for the Wyoming Travel Commission, giving tours of the state Capitol.
Enos earned a degree in optical technology from the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and New Mexico State University. Because education is important to Enos, she focused her energy and made sure her children got a good education. All seven of her children have graduated with higher education degrees.
After entering the workforce, Enos worked numerous jobs for the state of Wyoming, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and public education. She founded three successful businesses. In 1986, she founded Unique Optique with a storefront on Main Street in Lander, selling and fitting eyeglasses.
In order to do more lab work, Enos started Wind River Optical. The company invested in lab equipment and received contracts from stores throughout the western United States to make lenses. In addition to the lab, Wind River Optical had an eyeglass dispensary in Fort Washakie.
For 18 years, Enos traveled to many reservations, helping tribes train opticians and set up their own optical centers. After deciding to retire, she sold the business. She later was asked to come out of retirement to work for the state of Wyoming to implement the 55 Plus Employment Network on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
In 2013, Enos began working for the Eastern Shoshone Cultural Center at Fort Washakie School. Currently, she is the director of the Eastern Shoshone Cultural Center, where she has championed Shoshone culture, language revitalization and the preservation of the traditions that have sustained Shoshone people for centuries.
Chief Washakie championed education and forged a way for his people through great challenges. Zedora Teton Enos has humbly followed in his footsteps.
The night before Chief Washakie passed away, he called his family together. He told them, “It is my earnest prayer that you will follow the footsteps, which I have made for you, and you will always be highly respected both by our people and the white people.”
The UW Foundation marked the creation of the Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund with a ceremony April 23 at the McMurry Legacy Hall in the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center in Laramie.
Members of the Zedora Teton Enos and Washakie families attended the event, along with members of the board of the Chief Washakie Foundation; members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho business councils; and Seidel.
To support this fund, visit www.uwyo.edu/giveonline and designate the Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund, or call the UW Foundation at (307) 766-6300.