Chief Pocatello

Tonaioza Buffalo Robe

Copyright © All rights reserved. Made by Bernadette Holliday-Gillies

Chief Pocatello (1815–October 1884) was a leader of the Shoshoni, a Native American people in western North America. He led attacks against early settlers during a time of increasing strife between emigrants and Native Americans. After making peace with the United States, he moved his people to their present reservation in Idaho and led the Shoshoni during their struggle to survive following their relocation. The city of Pocatello, Idaho is named in his honor.


“Pocatello” (as he is known by white people) was born around 1815 in the Grouse Creek area of Northwestern Utah, southwest of present Oakley, Idaho. Several references say that his name (as a member of the Hukandeka tribe of Shoshones) was Tonaioza (buffalo robe). “The name Pocatello is most likely made up by white people because there is no “L” in the Shoshone language. Some literature suggests that Pocatello means “he who does not follow the road.” This is supported by the thought that “Po” is a Shoshone word meaning “Trail.” This, however it is not supported. In Shoshone he who does not follow the path (or road) is pronounced “boy-gay-da-o-dah”. Others write that his name was pronounced “Po-ca-ta-ro” meaning “White Plume.” This is discounted because it is known that Col. Frederick Lander, who met Pocatello and admired him, said that Pocatello was like another headstrong and courageous leader, Henry of Navarre, of whom a poem had been written which referred to his plume on his helmet, which the military could always safely follow.

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Video from the Chief Pocatello room dedication. July 12, 2013

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