Wyoming was one of the last states to be settled by peoples other than Native Americans. Always one of the smallest states in the union, it has experienced far less foreign immigration than most states. Moreover, many of the immigrants who did come to Wyoming did not stay. Consequently, by the early twenty-first century, the state still had a relatively homogenous population.
The history of immigration into Wyoming is peppered with numerous immigrant groups and communities that made their home in the vast state, but did not establish a permanent presence. The region that is now Wyoming was settled originally by the Crow, Arapaho, Lakota, and Shoshone peoples. Europeans first entered the area during the early nineteenth century, but they did not establish significant population centers until after the Union Pacific Railroad reached them during the 1860’s. This major transportation link to the rest of the country hastened Wyoming’s development, and the state’s first major European town, Cheyenne, was established in 1867.
The railroad helped to bring in new settlers, including foreign immigrants, but the their numbers were never large. In 1894, Wyoming had slightly fewer than 15,000 foreign-born residents. English, German, and Irish immigrants made up almost one-half of this group. In contrast to other Rocky Mountain states, Wyoming never attracted a significant number of Chinese. As late as the early twenty-first century, the state’s Chinese population has remained very small.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Wyoming continued to have a relatively small population, with slightly more than 500,000 residents. This population includes few sizeable ethnic communities. In the 2000 U.S. Census, 92 percent of the state’s residents identified themselves as “white Americans.” Fewer than 1 percent called themselves either African American or Asian American. The state’s Native American residents constituted another 4 percent. The Wind River Indian Reservation in the west-central region of the state is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho nations, who together numbered about 7,500.
As in most other states, Wyoming’s Hispanic population was its fastest growing. In 2000, Hispanics accounted for about 4 percent of the state’s residents. Most of them have settled in the southern portion of Wyoming that include the cities of Cheyenne and Laramie.
Larson, T. A. History of Wyoming. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965. _______. Wyoming: A Bicentennial History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977. Wolff, David A. Industrializing the Rockies: Growth, Competition and Turmoil in the Coalfields of Colorado and Wyoming, 1868-1914. Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2003.
African Americans and immigrants
History of immigration after 1891
Japanese American internment