The excellence fund was established through a $90,000 gift from the Chief Washakie Foundation and will be maintained in perpetuity by the University of Wyoming Foundation.
The Chief Washakie Foundation has established an endowment fund at the University of Wyoming that benefits the Wind River Indian Reservation community—the Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund.
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, community development activities, and other priorities.
The fund continues the commitment of the Chief Washakie Foundation and University of Wyoming to higher education and community development on the Wind River Reservation. Previously, in 2003, the Chief Washakie Foundation had established the Chief Washakie Memorial Endowment. To date the endowment has provided scholarships to over 200 students to attend the University of Wyoming.
The excellence fund was established through a $90,000 gift from the Chief Washakie Foundation and will be maintained in perpetuity by the University of Wyoming Foundation. It will be awarded annually under the direction of the Chief Washakie Memorial Awards Committee.
“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. Enos continues, “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.”
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’s brother.
The creation of the excellence fund was supported by Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho council members.
“As we witness the decline of revenue from energy state-wide and reservation-wide, this excellence fund comes at a critical time,” says Co-Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council Lee Spoonhunter. “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,” says John Washakie.
Washakie continues, “It’s not unusual that a person of his stature is also recognized by the State of Wyoming with a statue in our nation’s capitol and our states 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.
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,” says Enos.
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 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 Building. She worked for the Wyoming Travel Commission, giving tours of the Wyoming 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 ed degrees.
After entering the workforce, Enos worked numerous jobs for the State of Wyoming, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, and public education. Zedora founded three successful businesses. In 1986, she founded Unique Optique with a store front on Main Street in Lander, selling and fitting eyeglasses.
In order to do more lab work, Enos started Wind River Optical. Wind River Optical 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 Zedora 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 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 Culture 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 on April 23, 2021, at the McMurry Legacy Hall in the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center in Laramie.
Members of the Zedora Enos and Washakie families attended the event, along with members of the board of the Chief Washakie Foundation, members the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Business Councils, and University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel.
To support this fund, visit www.uwyo.edu/giveonline and designate the Zedora Teton Enos Excellence Fund or you can call the UW Foundation at (307) 766-6300.
Carmen Davis - Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor of Native Business Magazine
Mrs. Davis is the founder, publisher and executive editor of the only Native American owned and operated national tribal business publication, Native Business Magazine, and the producer of the annual and nationally attended Native Business Summit.
Mrs. Davis is also president of Davis Strategy Group has over 23 years of service to Indian Country and as an entrepreneur she has successfully established, operated, managed and grown several businesses in multiple sectors. She is equal parts a strategic visionary and behind-the-scenes implementor, essential in guiding and overseeing every process of brand development, business expansion, nation-to-nation relationship building and more.
She was named in 2009 as one of the first recipients of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s, “40 Under 40” award which recognizes up and coming community and business leaders from across Indian Country.