Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2012


Great Plains Research 22.1 (Spring 2012)


© 2012 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Thomas H. Johnson, one of the co-authors of Two Toms: Lessons from a Shoshone Doctor, was a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when he first met Tom Wesaw in 1966 at a Sun Dance on the Wind River Reservation. Johnson returned to live with Wesaw during 1969-1970, in order to learn about Shoshone language and culture. Two Toms is based on his field notes from that stay. Tom Wesaw (1886-1973) was a traditional Shoshone doctor, Sun Dance leader, and member of the Native American (Peyote) Church. He had left Wind River Reservation when only fifteen to live with relatives among the Shoshones on the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho. Returning to Wyoming, he married Helen Hill and raised a family. When Johnson came to stay with him in 1969, Wesaw's wife had been dead for a few years, and the old man was living by himself. He welcomed Johnson, who cooked for him, drove him around, pumped water, and tended the fire at sweat lodge ceremonies, in exchange for being taught the ways of a traditional Shoshone medicine man. The name of this delightful book comes from the nickname the two of them received on the reservation, since they were always seen together.