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Willie LeClair

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Wyoming Arts Council
Harry Jackson Museum

State of Wyoming

National Interpretive Trails Center, WY

Indian National Finals Rodeo

Fremont County info.

Willie's Belief

“They have learned to respect all that makes up the elements of which we are a part – all gifts of the Great Spirit to whom we owe our prayers and our thanks.”








Eastern Shoshone

Professional Biography

In 1980 Willie started a career, which he continues today, as an presenter and rodeo announcer to share some of the Native American heritage and spirituality he has experienced. He is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming and makes his home on a small ranch near Riverton, Wyoming where he has raised Texas Longhorn cattle.

He walks both worlds as an American Indian and as an American Cowboy. Willie LeClair was born in Fort Washakie, Wyoming, the son of an Eastern Shoshone Indian rancher and of a white mother. He has both an college education and the traditional teachings from both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal elders.

Bud LBud LeClair-Eastern Shoshone Rancher

He sought the path of the Red Road at first as an traditional dancer. Then, he began to include studies with Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal elders on a spiritual path that led him to participate in one of the most sacred of ceremonies to the American Indian known as the Sun Dance ceremony. People often come from all over the world to gather at his sweat lodge at his ranch as invited guests to experience the cleansing effects and spiritual expression of prayer.

There has always been the belief that there are gaps of misunderstandings between the Indian and Non Indian communities. Through song, narration and dance, Willie Leclair educates audiences, giving them a greater insight into the Indigenous way of life both in the past and in modern society. He tries to encourage many as well as Indian youth to be proud of their heritage and show them that it is possible to achieve their potential without losing their cultural identity.

Willie is a Northern Traditional Dancer, carrying on the tradition of the warrior, wearing the eagle feathers of past days. He is also a cultural presenter, storyteller, educating and entertaining audiences of all ages. He has taught Native Culture and Philosophies with seminars on cultural aspects of living, substance abuse/prevention, and healing. He has used his cultural background as a foundation for his teachings of indigenous craft, dance, and music conducting workshops in these areas for both indigenous and non-indigenous cultures.

Willie has performed and lectured throughout the United States, including at well-known gatherings, as well as with other artists and musicians. Willie is one of the few that is knowledgeable in the traditional art of American Indian sign language. He remains as one of the few American Indian Cowboys of our time living in the west with American Indian tradtional knowledge passed onto him.

It is his goal to dispel existing stereotypes that encourage people to view American Indians as figures in the historical past, or even worse, as the characters that Hollywood has created. By exposing audiences to diverse dances, regalia and songs, he hopes to instill the idea that American Indians are not all the same.

PLEASE NOTE: Willie LeClair's life story in his own words is at the bottom of this page after his credentials if you want to read more.


Fremont Co. Vocational High School
Traditional teaching from Shoshone & Arapahoe tribal elders
San Jose (California) Jr. College


National Portrait Art Gallery
Washington D.C.

“The Life and Death of the American Indian”


Buffalo Bill Museum

“Conversational Sign Language”

Wyoming State Penitentiary

“Native American Spirituality”

Central Wyoming College

“Conversational Sign Language”

St. Stephen’s Indian School

“ Traditional & Fancy Dancing”

Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy

“ Native American Awareness”
Sudden Death Seminar
“Native American Spirituality”

Wyoming Fire Academy

Sudden Death Seminar

Wyoming Church Coalition

“Native American Spirituality”

Fremont Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

“Native American Traditions”

Hot Springs Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

“Native American Traditions”

Mountain States Kwanas

“Native American Spirituality”

Snake river Institute

“Native American Awareness”
“Native American Spirituality”
“Astride Two Cultures: The Indian in the Cowboy and the Cowboy in the Indian.”
“Conversational Sign Language”
“The Native American Sweat Lodge and its Significance”

Wyoming Arts council Directory

All Lecture Topics


Outstanding Outreach Teacher of the Year

Central Wyoming College

Distinguished Service Award

Riverton Chamber of Commerce

Sweepstakes Winner

Fremont County Fair / Parade

First in Class, Native American

Fremont County Fair / Parade

Second in Class, Native American

Lander Pioneer Days / Parade


Chairman of the Board

St. Stephen’s Indian Mission Foundation

Traditional Dancing


Northern Arapahoe Pow-wow



Cody, Wyoming; Crow Fair, Montana; Denver, Colorado March Regional; Ethete, Wyoming; Fort Duchesne, Utah; Fort Hall, Idaho Pow-wows

Dubois, Wyo (3)
Crowheart, Wyo
Lander, Wyo
Fossil Butte Museum, Kemmerer, Wyo. (10)
National Interpretive Trail Center, Casper, Wyo. (3)
Nicolaysen Museum, Casper, Wyo. (2)
Cheyenne Frontier Days Museum Cheyenne, Wyo. ( Powwow dancing) Rockpile Museum, Gillette, Wyo. (2)
Mt. Man Museum Pinedale, Wyo.
Uinta County./ Lincoln Highway Evanston, Wyo.( History of the Shoshone) Elderhostel, Gillette, Wyo.
Elderhostel Riverton, Wyo. CWC College
Good Sam's Riverton, Wyo.
Powell Library Powell, Wyo.
Hot Springs Co Museum Thermopolis, Wyo.
Converse County Library Douglas, Wyo

St. Louis Jesuit High School, St. Louis, Mo.
Lusk High School Lusk, Wyo.
Regis University Denver, Colo.
Rialto Theater Loveland, Colo. (4th grade students of Larimer Co.) Demming Elementary Cheyenne, Wyo. (3)
Kemmerer Elementary Kemmerer, Wyo. (10)
Gillette High School Gillette, Wyo.
Laramie High School Laramie, Wyo.
University of Wyoming Laramie, Wyo.
Hanna Community Center Hanna, Wyo. (Boy Scouts of America)
Rocky Mt. High School
Thermopolis Elementary School Thermopolis, Wyo.
Carbon County Outreach Rawlins, Wyo. (History of the Shoshone)
Glenrock Chamber of Commerce and Senior Center Glenrock, Wyo.

Snake River Jackson Wyo. (History of the Shoshone)
Bismarck North Dakota (BLM) (History of the Shoshone)
Casper Wyoming (BLM) (2) (History of the Shoshone)
Ft. Washakie Wyoming (BLM)
Wyoming Dept of Corrections Rawlins, Wyoming (40)
Wyoming Police Academy Douglas, Wyoming (WHP)
Outlaw Trail Ride Lysite, Wyoming (3) (History of the Bates Battle)

The Life of Willie LeClair


I was born March 29,1937 at the military hospital at Fort Washakie, Wyoming in the heart of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the home of the Eastern Shoshone which I am an enrolled member. My father Edmo (Bud) LeClair was a rancher who was married to a white woman Esther Alice (Stephens) LeClair. We lived on a ranch west of Fort Washakie and I attended the first years of my schooling at a country school, called Countryman School. This was a one room school house with all 8 grades attending. The enrollment was mostly Shoshone tribe. We had one family that lived on the river that was non Indian but they fit in very well as some of the boys learned the language by the time they went on to higher education.

On the ranch the entire family worked together making this operation a success. The family was very close when my father was alive and in control of the main operation.  All of us children went into the ranching business. As with all families we all had our own ideas on how to run our own operation.

I attended and graduated from Fremont County Vocational High School in nearby town of 22 miles from the ranch. During high school I took part in football and track. I earned a letter in these two sports. My real love was horses, cattle and rodeo. I entered my first rodeo in Lander at the early age of 14, with my mother signing my release that was needed, my father had competed in rodeos in his younger years and he knew the risks of injury and didn't want me to follow in his foot steps. I still continued to compete in the bull riding event even when I went into the U.S. Navy, I served 4 years in the active service. I spent one year overseas on the island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. While I was in the Navy I got married and had two wonderful sons William Jr., and Marty along with their sister Leslie.

I returned to the reservation and continued in the cattle business and built my first home on North Fork of the Little Wind River just a mile from the home ranch where I was born and raised. With just having a very small herd of cattle that started from the day I was born, a calf was given to me by my father. With some of the money that I had saved in the Navy I was able to build my herd up to over a hundred head. I saw how the importance of cross breeding in the beef industry was so I made a change in my operation of getting away from all Hereford cattle to crossing these with the Shorthorn breed, which in turn the mother cows gave more milk, and this gave me a chance to have larger calves  at market time in the fall.

To help support my ranch and the cattle I started to find out side work and I went to work in the construction industry or any job to make money. Starting out as a laborer on a road job on the reservation I got a chance to operate heavy equipment. This gave me the skills to find other work on the reservation and landed me some employment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs building water reservoirs on the reservation and also working on some road building project, which led to a very good profession that I continued for my entire life.   I built a very good career and worked for some of the best companies in the intermountain west. I took great pride in my ability to be the best on every piece of equipment that I learned to operate. With this goal I worked my way up the ladder of success to be a supervisor with some of the major companies in our area.

During this time I also moved to Arizona after my first wife and I divorced and I gave her and the children the ranch and all of the cattle. I went back to rodeo and running heavy equipment in a copper mine. I remarried and had another beautiful daughter Tracy who was born in Kingman Arizona. I got tired of all the bright lights and crowds of people.

I moved to Colorado and went to work as a cowboy on a ranch in Kremmeling, Colorado, where I spent the longest and coldest year of my life. I looked for a better job and move to the Rugged Mt. Ranch in Colorado and really liked my job and the family I worked for. Their daughter got married and they needed a place for the new husband. I moved on and came back to Riverton, Wyoming and started working again for the BIA building roads on the reservation. I also got back to the old environment and the drinking, I ended up getting another divorce and losing everything that I had except my clothes and my saddle.

I met the most wonderful woman Connie in the world at this time who I married in 1968. She had four children and I had four. This grew into a very wonderful family. I got a call from one of my old Navy buddies and he wanted me to move to Colorado and go to work for the Federal-Aviation Agency-as-an Air Traffic Controller, this was what I got my military rating in the Navy. Connie, my wife, and two of her children loaded up and moved to Colorado. There was some training that I had to go through to get recertified to work in the Control Ccenter in Longmont, Colorado. We went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for this training and once this training was completed, we move to Platteville, Colorado. We moved the other
two of her children to Platteville. We bought a beautiful brick home with my GI money and lived there for ten year. Again I had to change jobs and get away from the air traffic control because I couldn't work with the type of people that they were hiring off the streets to be Air Traffic Controllers. I was too professional, I quit.

Thanksgiving morning of 1970 I awoke to make the most important decision of my life I made the move to never drink or smoke again in my life.  Going back to what I was the best at I went back to rodeo and work in the construction industry again, working with some of the best companies in Colorado building highways all over the state.

In 1976 the Indian National Finals held its first rodeo in Salt Lake City, Utah and I was hired as the rodeo manager to put on this first ever rodeo in the Salt Palace, it ended up being a great success with the help of a lot of great people in Salt Lake City.

In 1977 we decided to make a move and come back home to the reservation. I found a very good job and went to work also competing in rodeo's when I had time. It took us a year to get our home sold in Colorado as we wanted to get fair value for this property. We needed this start up money to buy land and get a house.  During this time I was elected president of the Rocky Mountain Indian Rodeo Association and this took up a lot of my time.

In the Fall of 1977 I won the regional finals rodeo in the team roping event down in Ft. Duchesne, Utah. This gave me a spot to go to the Indian National Final in Salt Lake City, Utah that year but due to some Indian politics me and my partner Guy Given weren't able to compete. I still went down as president of our region.

Our move to Wyoming came during the winter of 1978-79 which was a very long and cold winter and our daughter-in-law was living with us at the time as my step son was in the Navy and overseas. We found a small place east of Riverton which we put a house and has become the most wonderful home in the world. This gave me time to spend with my father and mother in their last years. They were able to come down and spend time at our place and we were able to go back to the home ranch and help out from time to time.

I started getting involved with getting a traditional American Indian outfit so I could take part in the native powwows and this is something I wanted to do for a long time. My father was able to come and watch on and this made me feel very happy. I got to travel to a lot of powwows in our area and was placing at some of them and this was even better as it helped with some of the expenses on the road.  When the money became more important to most of the participants in these competitive powwows, I decided this was not what I wanted to dance for and winning was not always important to me. I stopped competing in the contests and just dance for the fun of it now.

Before my father passed away he and my mother had a home in Arizona that they went down to during the winters. He asked me to take care of a few cows that he kept after he sold his large herd. I never asked for anything in return because he had helped me all of my life and this is a small return for him from me. One spring when he came down to my place we were branding and he asked where my branding irons were. I asked why and he said he wanted to give me a heifer calf, I told him he didn't need to but he said this is the way it-is-going to be.  One heifer was another start to a story of success, and we took that one calf and developed a herd of longhorn cattle that we took great pride in getting built up. Another herd from one calf and this herd when we sold them several years later grew to over a hundred and fifty. What a beautiful herd of animals and there was never any money owed on them to a bank or anyone else this operation was free of any debt.

In March of 1984, my father passed away while he was down in Arizona. When the funeral was held at Ft. Washakie and we left the church to go to the LeClair cemetery the line of cars were many miles long in the procession. This was a great loss to me and I needed something special to help me through this rough time. The next day after the funeral I attended my first sweat lodge and this changed my life forever. I wanted to dance in the Sun Dance when I was 14 years old but my father said that he forbid this as I was raised in the Catholic way and was the way that I should live. After he passed I started looking for my real spiritual path and I found it in the Sun Dance and the sweat lodges. This was the greatest change in my life, and my wonderful wife has given me 100% support in everything that I do on this walk.  With this way of life after I have been in the Sun Dance, I have come to be able to conduct the sweat lodge ceremony and this had led me to where I am now. 

I have been going to the prisons in the state of Wyoming for the last several years and I take great pride in what I am doing for the inmates at all four of the facilities.  During this time using the skills that the Creator gave to me, we have been traveling all over and putting on information presentations to schools, museums, libraries, and many other places that need or want the information on the Native Americans of this country.  I have been to many places such as the Smithsonian in Washington DC, Devils Tower in Wyoming, National Interpretive Center in Casper, Wyoming, and the Rialto Theater in Loveland Colorado just to name a few.

The list goes on and on I will continue to do these presentations as long as I can and with the help of everyone that keeps asking us to come back.  Who knows how long because this will is my goal to live to be 100 years old and this is as long as I have my beautiful wife by my side as support.


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