What became southeastern Wyoming was part of the French Colony of Louisiana between 1699 and 1764, when jurisdiction passed to the Spanish. Slavery was legal in Louisiana, under both the French and the Spanish at this time.
What became southeastern Wyoming was part of the French Colony of Louisiana between 1699 and 1764, when jurisdiction passed to the Spanish. Slavery was legal in Louisiana, under both the French and the Spanish at this time. However, the fact that slavery existed in Louisiana doesn't necessarily mean that the institution took root in Wyoming. Louisiana was a big place, so conditions that existed in St. Louis and New Orleans did not necessarily translate to Wyoming.
The purchase of Louisiana by the U.S. in 1803 did not change these conditions materially. Louisiana Territory was open to slavery, and, as we know, Lewis and Clark brought at least one slave—York—with them on their journey up the Missouri. The Territory of Missouri, established in 1812 and encompassing what came to be Wyoming east of the Continental Divide, also permitted slavery.
However, the Missouri Compromise of 1821 outlawed slavery north of 36 degrees, 30 minutes latitude in remaining portions of the former Louisiana Territory. That settled the issue temporarily. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 erased the Missouri Compromise line and made slavery possible via the instrument of popular sovereignty. Later, the Civil War and 13th Amendment rendered that a moot point.
Slavery of and Among Native Americans
We need to remember that while the institution of slavery ultimately focused on African Americans, largely working on plantations (though certainly not entirely, particularly in the west), Native Americans were also enslaved. However, by the time the Spanish took over parts of present-day Wyoming in 1764, they had outlawed slavery of Native American peoples.
In addition, there was also the capture and enslavement of conquered tribal communities among the Native Americans themselves. As an example, the Comanches certainly took Native American captives and engaged in a slave trade that linked the plains with Santa Fe, among other places in the Southwest. Some of those captives sold into slavery were Shoshone and Paiute peoples, who could have called southeastern Wyoming 'home.'
Source: Dr. Brian Hosmer is the H.G. Barnard Associate Professor of Western American History at the University of Tulsa. He received his PhD from the University of Texas, Austin in 1993. His research interests focus on intersections between economic change and cultural identity in 20th-century Native communities. He is currently completing a manuscript on work and attitudes toward working on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
Slave Records By State
See: Slave Records By State
Freedmen's Bureau Records
See: Freedmen's Bureau Online
American Slavery Records
See: American Slavery Records
American Slavery: Slave Narratives
See: Slave Narratives
American Slavery: Slave Owners
See: Slave Owners
American Slavery: Slave Records By County
See: Slave Records By County
American Slavery: Underground Railroad
See: American Slavery: Underground Railroad