Thank you for visiting The Black Hawk War: Utah's Native American History, the first website to acknowledge the forgotten history of the Timpanogos Indian Tribe and their recollections of Utah's tragic Black Hawk War. On the internet since 2002, reporting 23 years of Utah's Native peoples hardship that began at Battle Creek and Fort Utah in the year 1849, and ended in 1872. The bloodiest Indian war ever recorded in American Indian history.
This page is Phillip Gottfredson's introduction to some 82 pages of Black Hawk War history included in this website. In this important narrative, Phillip is the first historian ever to have been given the honor to access the Timpanogos Tribal records, and learn firsthand their perspective on the Black Hawk War. "If we do not understand the sacred teachings and life-ways of the Native American Indian, then we cannot begin to understand their culture, motivations, actions, and reactions to the Black Hawk War... And who better is there to tell of the Native peoples perspective than Native Americans?" In Utah's one-sided version of the Black Hawk War, historians have mistakenly laid all blame on the Ute's and have omitted from the record the Timpanogos Nation and the following subjects discussed in this narrative: Spanish Explorers Juan Rivera 1765 and Dominguez-Escalante 1776; How the Black Hawk War began; The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles agree to exterminate the Timpanogos; Timpanogos Chief Antongua (Black Hawk); The Colorado Utes are not from Utah; Historians mistakenly identify the Timpanogos Nation as being Ute; Phillip living with the Timpanogos Nation as did his great-grandfather; The Ute and Timpanogos are two distinctly different Tribes in origin, language, and customs.
If you prefer to skip this informative introduction and go directly to the written histories of the War, please click on the following link:
The Mormon's Black Hawk War
by Phillip Gottfredson
The Timpanogos, Timpangotzis, or Lagunas Indians are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1765, and Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. They describe having come in contact with "the bearded ones" Eutahs, who were Snake-Shoshone and called themselves "Timpanogostzis," who lived by the lake of Nuestra Señora de la Merced de los Timpanogos (translation: Our Lady of Mercy of the Timpanogos), a description fitting for the majestic thirteen-thousand foot mountain that dominates the Utah Valley landscape. The lake is known today as Utah Lake. Then, Utah and the Great Salt lakes were one body of water.
"Turunianchi the Great" was the leader of the Timpanogostzis. Turunianchi had a son named Moonch. Moonch was the father of Chiefs Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen (father of Jake Arapeen), Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen were known as the "Royal Bloodline." Six of the seven brothers were the uncles of Antonga (Black Hawk) who was the son of Sanpitch.
The 'bearded ones' made quite an impression on Dominguez and Escalante, they named Mount Timpanogos, Timpanogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Utah Lake/Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley) in honor of the Timpanogostzis.
Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 descendents of the 'Royal Bloodline' living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah.
Black Hawk Memorial Spring Lake
Mary Meyer Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation
Descendent of Timpanogos Chief Arapeen Black Hawk's Uncle
"The Truth must be told, regardless of what happened." ~ Loya Arrum
Just 70 years following the Dominguez and Escalante expedition, trouble began for the Royal Bloods of the Timpanogos Nation on July 24, 1847, when Brigham Young along with a party of 143 Mormons, emerged from the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon on a hill overlooking the northern end of Timpanogos lake, now Salt Lake valley, thus concluding a thousand mile journey taking 111 days by horseback and covered wagons. Brigham seeing the valley said, “It's enough, this is the right place, drive on.”
In the following years to come, Mormons would continue to pour in on the land of the Timpanogos at the rate of 3000 a month, setting the stage for a major conflict with the Timpanogos Nation. This conflict, Mormons would later dub The Black Hawk War, a war that would span some 21 years. It was the Timpanogos Nation that LDS Church leader Brigham Young and his followers first encountered in 1847 and not the Colorado Utes as Utah historians would have us believe. The Colorado Utes weren't in Utah until 34 years later in 1881.
The Mormon's Black Hawk War was not a single incident. Researching the Black Hawk War for over 15 years, I was first to publish there being over 150 bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Nation and the Mormons during the years of 1849 - 1872. And 41 of those confrontations occurred before the year 1865, the date some scholars claim the War began... their claim is a fallacy.
LDS Church Historians say the years leading up to the war were "complex circumstances." Whereas a knowing member of the Timpanogos Tribe put it succinctly when I asked if causes of the war were complex, "What choice were we given? To walk knee deep in the blood of our people, or give up our sacred land and culture and accept whiteman's ways... it was a matter of what's right... our honor... survival... why is that so complicated to understand?"
On January 31, 1850, Wells drafted orders for Captain George D. Grant to "exterminate the Timpanogos," known as "Special Order No. 2". Isaac Higbee was the bishop of Fort Utah and he met with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Fort when they agreed the only way to keep Fort Utah would be to exterminate the Timpanogos.
Source: Utah State Archives, State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah Territorial Militia Correspondence, 1849-1863, ST-27, Microfilm reel 1, Document No. 5. Eugene E. Campbell. Establishing Zion
“I say go [and] kill them…" said Brigham Young, "Tell Dimick Huntington to go and kill them—also Barney Ward—let the women and children live if they behave themselves… We have no peace until the men [are] killed off—never treat the Indian as your equal.” Source: BYC, Microfilm reel 80, box 47, folder 6. Farmer, Jared (2008). On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674027671
Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk didn't start the war as people typically lay all the blame on Utah's Native people. Leadership of the Timpanogos Nation had been passed from Moonch to his son Walkara long before the Mormons arrived. In 1849 Brigham Young falsely accuses a small group of 'Indians' of stealing his horses which led to the senseless killing of a peaceful group of unarmed Timpanogos at Pleasant Grove, known as the Battle Creek Massacre. Within months a second massacre occurs at Fort Utah, when the severed heads of 50 Tribal leaders and members are hung by their long hair from eves of buildings and stacked in boxes. That alone was enough to start a war. But Walkara was reluctant to do so until 1853.
Because, his elder brother Sowette argued against any violence.
Following Chief Walker's murder in 1855, Walkara's leadership was passed to his brother Arapeen. Arapeen faced many encounters with the Mormons and getting on in years by this time, his son Yene-wood, known to the Mormons as "Jake," led his fellow warriors into battle against the Mormons.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857 cannot be ignored and having no impact on the Native American population in Utah. Mormons masquerading as Indians savagely slaughter 150 whites and blame the bloody affair on the Native peoples. In view of what has already happened to Utah's Native population, this was yet another shock that caused the Timpanogos to take evasive action and scatter in every direction.
In 1865 Chief Arapeen died from smallpox. The Nation's leadership was then passed to his brother Tabby (Tabiona) who remained in leadership until his death circa 1898. Meanwhile, the Mormons botched an attempt at peace with the Timpanogos at Manti in 1865, when an argument ensued between a drunken John Lowry and Jake Arapeen. Lowry yanked Jake from his horse beating him severely. Jake dishonored before his warriors resigned his leadership as War Chief to Antongua Black Hawk.
Under the leadership of Tabby, Black Hawk, who at the tender age of 13 was severally traumatized having been present at both massacres of his kin at Battle Creek and Fort Utah as a prisoner of war. Add the loss of his uncle Walkara, then a series of bloody confrontations leading up to the Bear River Massacre where some 400 of Black Hawk's Shoshoni blood relations are brutally slaughtered in 1863, Howard R. Driggs commented, "He could never understand why the white men had shot down his people. It put bitterness in his heart; and though he lived for some time with the white people, his mind was ever set on avenging the wrong." For only 14 months beginning in 1865, Black Hawk, age 28, led a masterful attack against the Mormons and nearly drove them out of Utah. Within a year, Black Hawk was mortally wounded in battle while attempting to rescue a fallen warrior Shi-Nav-Egin (son of the sun), whites called him Whitehorse, as he always rode a white horse.
Mormons said that Whitehorse had a "superstitious power over his warriors" suggesting he was perhaps possessed. In reality, Shi-Nav-Egin had survived a near death experience, and having lived his people believed he had a great mission yet to accomplish. And being a deeply spiritual person, Shi-Nav-Egin was highly respected within the Tribe. Eventually, Black Hawk would die from his wound in 1870.
Utah historian John Alton Peterson describes Black Hawk as "having remarkable vision and capacity. Given the circumstances under which he operated, he put together an imposing war machine and masterminded a sophisticated strategy that suggest he had a keen grasp of the economic, political, and geographic contexts in which he operated. Comparable to Cochise, Sitting Bull and Geronimo, Black Hawk fostered an extraordinary pan-regional movement that enabled him to operate in an enormous section of country and establish a three-face war. Black Hawk worked to establish a barrier to white expansion and actually succeeded in collapsing the line of Mormon settlement, causing scores of villages in over a half dozen counties to be abandoned. For almost a decade the tide of white expansion in Utah came to a dead stop and in most of the territory actually receded. Like other defenders of Indian rights, though, Black Hawk found he could not hold his position, and his efforts eventually crumbled."
Timpanogos Chief Tabby
Clearly Brigham Young started the war, and it was Black Hawk who ended the war through peaceful means as you shall see. Account after account shows that Black Hawk and his entire family of renowned leaders were against bloodshed from the beginning. One only needs to look at my timeline of the War to see that 1865 was the year the war was at its highest point following 16 years of Mormon's ruthless cruelty resulting in thousands of Indian deaths and loss of land that continued on 7 years after 1865.
Brigham Young famously said, "you can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder."
Add that notorious Mormon leader Brigham Young spent a staggering 1.5 million dollars in Church funds (equivalent to $28 million today) to "get rid of the Indians" and bills Congress for reimbursement. No wonder Brigham also said, "It's cheaper to feed them than to fight them." A mere drop in the bucket when compared to the untold collateral losses suffered by the Native peoples of Utah. And who is there to reimburse them?
Timpanogos Chief Walkara Speaks
It's rare that we get to hear the Native peoples version of the story, and this is just one of many I will be sharing with you. I want to thank Historian Will Bagley for giving me this document:
Timpanogos Chief Walkara told interpreter Martenas in 1853, "That he had always been opposed to the whites
set[t]ling on the Indian lands, particularly that portion
which he claims; and on which his band resides and on which
they have resided since his childhood, when they first commenced the
settlement of Salt Lake Valley, was friendly, and promised
them many comforts, and lasting friendship—that they
continued friendly for a short time, until they became
strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards
the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly, but
many were much abused and this course has been pursued up to
the present—sometimes they have been treated with much
severity—they have been driven by this population from place
to place—settlements have been made on all their hunting
grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have
been torn up by the whites. He said he wished to keep the
valley of the San Pete, and desired to leave the valley of
Salt Lake, as he could not live in peace with the whites—but
that the Whites had taken possession of this valley also—and
the Indians were forced to leave their homes, or submit to
the constant abuse of the whites. He said the Gosoke
who formerly lived in the Salt Lake valley had been killed
and driven away, and that now they wished to drive him and
his band away also—he said he had always wished to be
friendly with the whites—but they seemed never to be
satisfied—the Indians had moved time after time, and yet
they could have no peace—that his heart was sick—that his
heart felt very bad. He desired me very earnestly to
communicate the situation of the Indians in this
neighborhood to the Great Father, and ask his protection and friendship—that whatever the great father wished he would do. He said he has always been opposed to the whites
settling on his lands, but the whites were strong and he was
weak, and he could not help it—that if his great father did
not do something to relieve them, he could not tell what
they would do."
Professor Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah summed it up succinctly: "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom. And what is so amazing about this whole story is that we failed. We failed after hundreds of years of trying to take everything from American Indians. We failed to do that. They're still here and there's survival; that great saga of survival is one of the great stories of all mankind."
"In those early days it was at times imperative that harsh measures should be used. We had to do these things, or be run over by them," wrote John Lowry a Black Hawk War veteran. "It was a question of supremacy between the whiteman and the Indian."
The consequence of the war resulted in a staggering 90% decrease in Utah's Native population that was noted by Brigham Young, and recorded in Indian agency reports, and government census records. Deaths from violence, starvation, and disease over a 23 year period was in the thousands. "I do not suppose there is one in ten, perhaps not one in a hundred, now alive of those who were here when we came. Did we kill them? No, we fed them," quoting Brigham Young.
Supreme domination was the staff to which the banner of Christianity was tied that brought total destruction to a vibrant and, thriving Native civilization. And is today celebrated without conscience or regret as... 'The Days of '47 celebration.'
Black Hawk deserves a lot of praise for his two-year "mission of peace." And for being true to the his ancestors teachings. In the Indian way, being a true warrior wasn't about killing the enemy, or being physically superior. A fighter will kill, or be killed. A warrior will always try to preserve life. That's why Black Hawk always offered up prayers before going into battle, with ceremony and dance. And as survivor, he made offerings to the enemy's family and was cleansed in holy ceremony. As a warrior he preferred 'taking coup' to taking a life. Black Hawk put family and tribe above all else. It was not about him, he followed his people's codes and traditions, and helped his people who were starving, often going without, himself. He was humble, kind, gentle, honest, fair and patient in all affairs. Antongua was a teacher, as were his ancestors before him, he forged the way for others to follow.
Antongua Black Hawk spent his last days on earth campaigning for peace. Deathly ill from a gunshot wound received a year earlier at Gravely Ford that never healed, he rode by horseback a hundred and eighty miles from Cedar City to Payson visiting every Mormon village along the way. Black Hawk apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused and pleaded for an end to the bloodshed. You don't see Mormon's apologizing for anything. So it took a greater man to do such a thing. And that's what gets left out of Utah's history. So if you must judge the Timpanogos, do so by their own standards.
And Chief Walkara, Black Hawk's uncle, who helped Brigham and his followers survive the first winter of '47 with food and provisions. Or that Walkara's brothers Chiefs Tabby, Sanpitch, Sowette, Arapeen, Grospean, Ammon, Kanosh and others made every effort to avoid bloodshed. Instead, praises are lavished on cricket eating seagulls. But it gets written differently, that they were 'loathsome savages' and deserved to die because they were different, they were 'Indians' who have dark skin.
According to church doctrine (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) the nature of their dark skin was a curse, the cause was the Lord, the reason was because the Lamanites (Native Americans) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
Many fallacious stories are told and retold, such as children being buried alive with Timpanogos Chief Wakara when there is no credible evidence to support such an atrocious claim when living descendants of Wakara vigorously dispute this story. Saying it is a fabrication of the truth and grossly contradicts the traditional core values of the Timpanogos Nation. Its white man who writes these stories, never asking the Native People their opinion. Which brings me to make this point...
What began as a hobby in 1989 researching the Black Hawk War, it wasn't long until I was investing all my time and resources to the project. I struggled to make sense of the Mormons' convoluted view of history, and many books I read over and over again numerous times. The LDS Church has a monopoly on Utah's history. I would dare say damn-near all of it has been written by Mormon authors. It followed that in 2003 I turned to the Native peoples of Utah for answers. And what I found is that celebrated scholars and award-winning authors who write about the Black Hawk War never asked or cared what the Native Americans they study have to say about their work. Nor did they asked how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have their own version of the particular story they are writing about. Consequently, virtually every account about Utah's indigenous peoples are biased and based on assumptions, replete with half-truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. This according to the OAH ( Organization of American Historians) is a "violation of the principle of truth on which the historical profession is based." One exception is Utah historian John Alton Peterson, author of Utah's Black Hawk War, Mr. Peterson did make a modest attempt consulting with the Late Richard Mountain and his Ute family, found on page 47 of his book.
Site of the Little Diamond Battle
"Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth." This is how propagandist creates the illusion of truth. These histories get passed from generation to generation repeating the same mistakes and/or lies that earlier authors and historians have written, whether intentional or unintentional, still they never ask the Native people for their side of the story. The time has come when Native Americans need to tell their stories and demand they are told accurately.
In my studies of the Black Hawk War, I wanted to believe that the people committing the atrocities on Utah's Native peoples were wretched people, loathsome people. People who lived out on the fringes of society. People who had gone astray of any moral conscience or human decency. But, they were people who, after committing senseless murders would go home after and tend to their farms, and sing hymns in church the next day. They were the bishops, councilors, business men, and exemplary folks in their communities.
Forgotten are the thousands of Native American men, women, and innocent children who bled to death on the battlefields of Bear River, Mt. Pleasant, Provo, Manti, or on the shores of Utah Lake. Or those who starved to death for want of food, run off their hunting grounds. Or those who died from measles and smallpox, or poisoned to death their sources of water contaminated with cyanide. Or those brutally murdered. 'Old Bishop', a beloved old Indian, was eviscerated, his stomach cavity filled with rocks and thrown in the river, accused of stealing a shirt off a clothesline.
After the war, we see ongoing cultural genocide as relentless attempts made to assimilate Native Americans into the white man's culture and take away their reservations. The Dawes Allotment Act, the Reorganization Act, the Termination Act, the Self Determination Act, and the Religious Freedom Act. Then the boarding house schools, or the LDS Church Indian placement program are few of many examples of cultural genocide as native children are taken away, torn from the arms their families and relatives, their languages and traditions stripped away, to be assimilated, but not integrated, into the white man's world. Inspired by the racist slogan of Manifest Destiny "Save the man, kill the Indian." If those children were among the fortunate, who survived after years and years of unimaginable brutality in all its many forms, living in complete isolation from their moms and dads, cousins, uncles, and grandparents, they returned home where they were now strangers among their own people. One elderly Navajo woman showed me the scars in her mouth, she said happened when they washed her tender mouth out with lye soap for speaking her Native language.
We have much to learn from the Native Americans who have occupied Utah's landscape since time and memorial if only we would listen. Some Native American concepts and values differ greatly from mainstream culture. The landscapes of Utah are as sacred today as when the Great Spirit created them. Burial sites, massacre sites, battlefields such as Battle Creek, Bear River, or Circleville where the cries of the wounded and dying can still be heard following the horrors that took place there. And for native peoples of Utah the Timpanogos, Paiute, and Goshute, respect for the dead is as important as respect for the elderly and reverence for life.
Since time and memorial Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect have always been the core beliefs of the Timpanogos and all Native American Tribes I have had the honor to speak with from Washington and the Makaw to Guatemala and the Mayan. For the Utah's Timpanogos, they were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. They were deeply connected and stood in awe of the beauty that surrounded them, the majestic Wasatch mountains, Utah Lake, Timpanogos Mountain, and Provo River. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms for food or medicinal uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship among themselves and their environment, the elk, deer, buffalo, and all living things. Even the rocks were sacred to them. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from their Creator. They were a deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos peoples, the war was never about riches or possessions, the land is their home, their mother, nourishing all her children, it is sacred, and being sacred belonged to everyone. They fought to protect the sacred, and their honor as a peaceful people on a land they believed belonged to them for eternity.
If we do not understand the sacred teachings and life-ways of the Native American Indian, then we cannot begin to understand their culture, motivations, actions, and reactions to the Black Hawk War, any more than we can understand the Mormons without understanding their religious beliefs and life-ways. And who better is there to tell of the Native peoples perspective than Native Americans? And who better is there to tell of the Mormons perspective than the Mormons? Yet, all we know about the Black Hawk War is a biased one-sided view written by Mormon scholars.
Native peoples teach us, "We need each other, diversity is what creates balance and harmony. Creator knows not the color of our skin. That it does not matter the path we choose to walk. What truly matters is how we walk our paths. That we walk our paths in a good way, for the good of all. To be fully aware that we are all related, and that whatever we chose to do has a direct effect on all life in some way."
The Snake Shoshone Timpanogos Nation:
In 2015 I was contacted by a Tribe in Utah no one has ever talked about... the Timpanogos, who have lived in Utah long before President Lincoln created the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1861, a Tribe that has been completely ignored and left out of history, marginalized and believed by many to be nonexistent. Yet Utahan's all know Mount Timpanogos and countless entities that bear the Tribe's name throughout the state. It doesn't matter the Timpanogos are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they are the original inhabitants of this land called Utah, and their aboriginal rights, vested treaty rights, and sovereignty rights remain intact as being the supreme law-of-the-land.
Chief Executive Mary Meyer of the Snake Shoshone Timpanogos Nation, who is a direct descendant of Chief Arapeen (aka Arrapeen), generously provided me with definitive proof that the Timpanogos are the living descendants of the 'Royal Bloodline' of Chiefs Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and Antongua 'Black Hawk' who was the son of Sanpitch, and other acclaimed leaders in the Black Hawk War! Their lineage documented by birth and marriage records, death certificates, Indian Agency records, treaties, and boast of having filed some 13000 pages of historical records with the United States Government going back to 1765. This is Information you won't find in mainstream Mormon accounts. I am genuinely humbled by Mary's help, one of the greatest honors in my life to work with Mary Meyer and the Timpanogos Nation.
Phillip with June, Mary Meyer's Mother
The Timpanogos are a band of the Snake-Shoshoni and are distinctly different from the Utes of Utah and Colorado in language, customs, and origin. The Snake are prominent in early Oregon history and are seen to have occupied a vast area of not only Oregon, but Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Kansas. Of all the Shoshoni bands, the Snake were most respected and feared by early trappers.
Spanish Explorers Dominguez and Escalante 1776:
The earliest record I have found, so far, that refers to the Timpanogos in Utah begins with the Spanish explorer Juan Rivera in 1765. Rivera preceded explorers Dominguez and Escalante's expedition into Utah, and describes having come in contact with Native Americans "the bearded ones" who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," an Aztecan Shoshonian word meaning People of the Rock water carriers (referring to rock salt), whose leader was Turunianchi.
Then in 1824, explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with Mauvis Guache a Timpanogos man living along the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake. Provo City derives it's name from this early explorer. No mention of there being any Utes.
Honored that my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857, and lived among the Timpanogos and was invited to the camp of Chief Antongua (Black Hawk) on numerous occasions. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah published in 1919, that the Timpanogos Nation ruled the entire territory of the Wasatch in Utah. (Utes mentioned only three times)
The Colorado Utes:
What Utah historians mistakenly assert about the war is that the Mormon's Black Hawk War was with the Ute Tribe - which is simply incorrect. All seven bands of the Confederated Utes were in Colorado during the time of the Black Hawk War which was between the years 1849 and 1872. "But, Mr. Gottfredson, all the histories say it was the Utes." Correct! Histories written during the 1900's all say so, and that's my point. The Confederated Ute Tribes were not living in Utah until 1881. That said, it's well known that in 1865-66 at the peak of the War, Black Hawk asks for solidarity and support from surrounding Tribes such as the Colorado Utes, Navajo, Apache, and Comanche to name some, all then agreed to assist in pushing back on the Mormons under the leadership of Chief Black Hawk. This is the only time members of the Colorado Utes were involved in the Black Hawk War as volunteer warriors subordinate to Black Hawk. Utah's history of the Black Hawk War needs to be cleaned up and corrected.
The Northern Ute Nation:
In the beginning, I spent a lot of time with the Northern Utes who are a federally recognized Tribe. My experience with the Northern Utes was interesting and I learned a great deal and made good friends, and not to be disrespectful... they would often contradict themselves when it came to their history. Not surprising though, I was warned by the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs and respected historians early on "that their history has been deliberately kept from them" which proved to be true for the most part, but then one has to ask... why? However, most Northern Utes I spoke with were correct to say they came to Utah from Colorado. They say the word 'Ute' is not in their language and prefer to call themselves Nuche'. The word "UTE" is a white man's name, which doesn't appear in historical accounts until the 1900's when the histories were written. Just as the "FREMONT" is white man's name for a Tribe that never existed. Then, when I asked the Ute people who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs of the Black Hawk War, Walker, Sanpitch, Tabby... puzzled they didn't know. But they knew they were not Ute leaders. Instead, they correctly referred to Ouray and Colorow as being their Chiefs.
April 18, 2006, I spoke with the late Michael Appah following a sweat lodge ceremony at Neola. Michael was Ute, and while driving Michael home he told me many things. I noted in my journal him saying, "The Ute's didn't get along with the Navajo, Appache, Shoshone, or Goshute. They were friends with the Timpanogos."
The "NORTHERN UTE TRIBE" wasn't created until 1937, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation". The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is only a constitutional name of the Ute Tribe. The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is a constitutional name NOT A RESERVATION and NEVER WAS A RESERVATION. There has never been a Congressional Act the created a 'Uintah & Ouray Reservation'. The reason I emphasize this fact is that today we see the media, even the courts, and others using the constitutional name of the Ute Nation when referring to the Uintah Valley Reservation adding even more confusion, making my point how inaccurate and confusing Utah's history has become. The Northern Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as does the Timpanogos Nation. President Abraham Lincoln created the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1861.
FACT: Following the 1878 Meeker Massacre in Colorado when the Utes killed an unprincipled Indian Agent Nathan Meeker, the United States Government declared "the Utes must go" and enacted the Ute Removal Act of 1880, and in 1881 four of the seven bands of the Colorado Utes were forced on to the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war", and are known today as the Northern Utes.
The Ute Mountain Ute Nation:
The Ute Mountain Utes, or Southern Utes as they are also called, are federally recognized and have their reservation in Ignacio, Colorado. The three bands of the Southern Utes were allowed to remain on their homeland of Colorado following the Meeker Massacre. I will also add they are among the more prosperous Indian Nations having benefitted from their oil and gas enterprises as do their cousins the Northern Ute. As a people they are well organized and have a clearer understanding of their history. And though the Northern and Southern Utes are blood relatives, they function as separate Tribes.
Colorado Ute Chiefs were Chief Ouray who died Aug 24, 1880, Chief Colorow died 1888, and Chief Ignacio died December 9, 1913.
Phillip with Kenny Frost - Ute Mountain Ute
Perhaps the writers of Utah's sanitized history their intentions were never meant for Native Americans of Utah to read, who know better their own history. Perhaps writers are too much in the habit of entertaining readers with flowery rhetoric and folklore, glossing over the savage and barbarian behavior of Bill Hickman or Dr. James Blake cutting off the heads of Indian corpses at Fort Utah, then selling them to make a few extra bucks. Or making heroes of those who cut the throats of 26 innocent Paiutes at Circleville. Or William E. Croft looting Chief Black Hawk's grave and placing his remains on public display in the window of a hardware store my father remembered so well, and later at Temple Square for amusement. The image of seeing Black Hawk's remains on display at the age of 12 are still vivid in my mind. Or glorifying unprincipled leaders like John Scott, or James A. Allred, or Colonel George D. Grant. Or exonerating questionable heroics of soldiers in Brigham Young's illegal militia like John Lowry, Niels O. Anderson, Dimmick Huntington, or Brigham's bodyguard and serial killer Porter Rockwell. Or perhaps their intentions are to dehumanize Utah's native inhabitants. To justify the genocide of Utah's Native Americans and glorify 'man's inhumanity to man' calling it the "Black Hawk War." Unrighteously placing all the blame on the Native peoples of Utah, whose only crime was they being Indian.
The questions that keeps haunting me is why all the inaccuracies and fallacious stories surrounding the Black Hawk War? Who is benefiting by covering up the truth?
This kind of mendacity only alienates and divides people who are seeking truth regardless of what happened, and want to heal from the wounds of the past be they Native American or Mormon. Yes Mormon! Those whose ancestors carried out these atrocities are seeking answers too. I know, for I have spoken with many who have broken down in tears shamed by their ancestors cruelty.
In closing, I am reminded of what great-grandfather Pete wrote in the preface of his book Indian Depredations in Utah:
"It is a half century and more since the raids and assaults recorded in this book took place, most of the persons who took active parts in the same have responded to the last earthly call, and what information we get first handed must of necessity be obtained now or never. I have often quarried; why should those conditions be forgotten, and why has so little interest been taken in keeping memorandas and records of events and conditions of those early and trying times.