Wyoming Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

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.WyomingWyoming[cat]STATES;Wyoming

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.

The Coal industry;Wyomingrise of a coal-mining industry during the late nineteenth century created a need for labor. However, rather than risk bringing in cheap foreign workers who might organize unions that would demand higher wages and shorter hours, the mines around Hanna hired 200 African American workers in 1890. The mines then operated relatively efficiently until a general economic downturn struck them later in the decade.

During Japanese American internment;Wyomingthe early 1940’s, Wyoming became the host to 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry who had been living in West Coast states. These people, most of whom were American citizens, were interned for the duration of World War II because of government fears that some of them might support Japanese attempts to occupy the West Coast. The internees were housed at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, which was selected as the camp’s site because of its remoteness from major population centers and because Wyoming lacked a sizeable Japanese population of its own that might cause problems at the camp. Very few citizens of Wyoming protested the internment of the Japanese. However, several officials, including Wyoming governor Smith, NelsNels Smith, expressed concern that some of the internees might try to stay in Wyoming after they were released at the conclusion of the war. However, almost all the internees eventually returned to their home states.

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.Wyoming

Further Reading
  • 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

Economic opportunities


History of immigration after 1891

Japanese American internment

Japanese immigrants

Labor unions


Categories: History