Updated April, 2016
Timpanogos Chief Tabby
The Black Hawk War: Utah's Forgotten Tragedy
A History of the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Tribe
By Phillip B Gottfredson
The Black Hawk War in Utah was a hideous mosaic of injustice, a tragic consequence of Mormon pioneers settling on land belonging to the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Indian Tribe in the year 1847. The Timpanogos Tribe had inhabited Utah territory for centuries and were in sharp disagreement with settlers colonizing their ancestral home. The Timpanogos Tribe soon regretted they had extended their hospitality to Brigham Young and the Mormons. Timpanogos Leader Walkara told interpreter M. S. Martenas "The Mormons 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."
The Mormon's so-named "Black Hawk War" that followed spanned some 21 years under the banner of Christianity but, in defiance of Christian teachings. And it is both disturbing and suspicious that this human tragedy has been been deliberately ignored and forgotten. I have documented over 150 bloody confrontations that resulted in the deaths of tens-of-thousands of Native peoples from violence, starvation and disease, which destroyed the entire Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Nation and culture. (See Timeline)
When Mormon settlers arrived in Utah in 1847 the Timpanogos population was between 50,000 and 70,000. By 1870 Timpanogos population had decreased by at least 90%. Just 2300 Timpanogos Indians remained alive when they were forced onto the Uinta Valley Reservation making them dependent upon the Church for food, and in the first winter 500 more died in the first winter from starvation because food supplies LDS Church leader Brigham promised them - never arrived. As victims of genocide Native peoples of Utah territory were subjected to deceit, torture, mass butchery, rape, and death, death to others, and death to animals and plants, to the waters and the land; men, women and children were left to wonder demoralized and dehumanized in a land they believed belonged to them for eternity, a people who in their final agony cried out "we are human too."
Being a great-grandson of Peter Gottfredson, author of one of the oldest and highly cited firsthand accounts of the Black Hawk war... the book Indian Depredations in Utah, I respectfully honor and admire the friendship that he had with Black Hawk and the Timpanogos during and following the War. It was grandpa's book that ignited my interest in the War and the need to know what his experience was living among the Indian peoples. I am not a spokesman for Native American Indians, any group or organization. That said, the further I delve into Utah's history the more I have become aware of the huge disconnect between Native Utah Indians and non-Indians, and of the corruption, injustices and discrimination Native Indian peoples in Utah have endured, and continue to endure, at the hands of its dominate culture. The lack of transparency regarding the thousands of Indian lives that were lost in the Black Hawk War demonstrates contempt for true Indian history which has been Utah's record over the past century and half. The result of decades of true Indian history being deliberately ignored, misrepresented and left out of school curriculum, has created a legacy of mistrust, resentment, confusion and despair for Indian and non-Indian alike who want to know the truth regardless of what happened.
My extraordinary journey into the indigenous world began in Washington DC at the Grand Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. It followed that the past decade would be a time of great honor and privilege for me to experience. As I learned firsthand from Native American Indian peoples across the western United States and South America, I achieved a unique and rich insight into their spiritual lifeways and interrelated history over a broad geographic area. My primary focus however, has always been on the history of the Black Hawk War in Utah which is the purpose of this website I began in 2002.
I'm grateful to the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe, Paiute, Goshute, Pahvant, Colorado Utes, and Dine' Navajo, for sharing with me their version and interpretation of the Utah Black Hawk War. Don't think this to be a small matter reader. "No one has ever asked us," was their reply when I inquired "why have you never told your side of the story?" And I will bear witness to the fact that Native Indian peoples of Utah many live in absolute fear of Mormon vengeance to this day should they tell their side of the story.
Ignoring Utah's Native Indian people's version of the Black Hawk War is to distort and falsify history. History of the Native peoples of Utah does not end with the conquest. Native peoples are not simply the degenerate descendants of a fabulous civilization, as we are often led to believe. The truth regarding the history of the Black Hawk War has been cloaked in brilliantly managed rhetoric to exonerate the victors and discredit Native Indian peoples in every conceivable way to justify the atrocities they have committed. Wouldn't it better for all to speak the truth? (See Legacy Of The Black Hawk War)
In my quest for the truth regarding the Black Hawk War I have grown wary of scholars and writers who have published one-sided accounts for over a century and half. I am suspicious of what they wrote of the Native Indian peoples which is often scant, brief and disingenuous. They did not ask or care what the Indians they studied had to say about their work, nor did they ask how they would analyze, interpret, or if they had their own version of the particular story they were writing about. The 'truths' they profess exists within the confines of their own biased accounts, which in the end benefit only those who wrote them and for reasons that become very convoluted and dark. It begs the question why the hell do we put up with the lies, accounts filled with omissions, ambiguities and half-truths? And worse this crap ends up in our schools and libraries and are passed off as being truthful when in fact create an environment for stereotyping, racism, and secrete combinations to flourish. When Native American's challenge these inaccuracies they are silenced and/or ignored for doing such. (See Source Material)
If indeed there is a deliberate attempt to ignore the facts what could be the reasons or motives for doing so? The obvious answer is to cover up their guilt. However, the Uinta Valley reservation is rich with oil and natural gas deposits worth billions. Yet Native peoples of the Uinta Valley Reservation most are living in poverty midst thousands of oil and gas wells. Wouldn't it better to hear both sides of the story? The time has come when the Native Indian peoples of Utah need to tell their story, and demand it be told accurately. "Until the lion tells it's story, the glory will always go to the hunter." The reality is that we need each other. Our differences create balance.
History of the Utah Black Hawk War as it is written is confusing for both Native and non-Native people, for example historians mistakenly identify Timpanogos peoples as "Ute." For some 150 years the Ute peoples have been blamed for the War when in fact as a Tribe they were entangled in their own problems of White encroachment on their home-land in Colorado. The definitive answer is Timpanogos leaders Walkara, Sowiette, Arropeen, Sanpitch, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), and Grospeen were brothers, Black Hawk being the son of Sanpitch. The seven brothers were direct descendents of the Snake-Shoshone peoples and were not "Ute" nor what some incorrectly say "Timpanogos Ute." The Timpanogos Tribe and Ute Tribe were and are two distinct individual Tribes in language and traditions. And as I will point out the Ute were living on their own ancestral land in Colorado during the Black Hawk War in Utah. But, this mistaken identity passes by unnoticed, which is not unique to modern times, reading firsthand accounts of those involved in the war we see writers often confused with Tribal affiliation and at times by their own admission. It becomes clear to the reader that Indian lives and history doesn't matter.
The Tribe known today in Utah as "Ute" descend from the Aztec-Shoshone, and in 1847 when Mormon pioneers arrived, the Ute occupied Colorado and were comprised of seven bands the Uinta, Yampah, Grandriver, Tabeguache, Muache, Kapote, and Weminuche. It was not until 1879, more than a decade after the Black Hawk War had ended, when the Yampa, Grandriver, and Uinta bands of the Colorado Utes assigned to the Whiteriver Agency killed an unprincipled Indian agent Nathan Meeker under the briliant leadership of Ute war Chief Nacagaht, or Captain Jack as he was known. This motivated U.S. Congress to impose upon all Colorado Utes the Relocation Act of 1880. And of course Ute land was rich with gold, so the Whiteriver Utes were forced to relocate from Colorado to Utah as "prisoners of war" and were stripped of their land and riches which was ceded to the Government without compensation; they were forced into cohabitation with the Timpanogos Tribe on the Uinta Valley Reservation and assigned to the newly formed, but short-lived, Thornburgh Agency in Vernal.
When the Thornburgh Agency was closed the Whiteriver Utes were assigned to the Uintah Agency in Whiterocks. The Tabeguache Band, also known as the Uncompahgre, was promised a reservation but were never given one, instead they were assigned their own separate agency called the Ouray Agency. Then in 1898 the Uinta and Ouray Agencies were combined forming the Uinta & Ouray Agency. The remaining three Colorado bands the Kapote, Weminuche, and Moache remained in the southern region of Colorado and are known today as the Southern Utes. Now if I have confused anyone thus far add to this explanation that Indian bands assigned to agencies were identified by the agencies name, an example would be "Whiteriver Utes" were those bands belonging to the Whiteriver Agency.
The Uinta Valley Reservation comprised of five million acres was regulated by several different agencies. This reservation was set aside by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 expressly for the "Indians of Utah," namely the Timpanogos Tribe who were the only Indians occupying Utah Territory at the time. By Executive Order President Lincoln established "the Valley of the Uinta River in the Territory of Utah, extending on both sides of the River to the crest of the first contiguous mountains on each side as Indian Reservation," a huge reservation that the Colorado 10th District Court ruled in a recent case (2015), UTE INDIAN TRIBE OF THE UINTA OURAY RESERVATION vs STATE OF UTAH... "remains intact." The 10th District Court ruled that the Uinta Valley Reservation is a Sovereign Nation that the State of Utah has no legal jurisdiction over what-so-ever. "They don't listen." Tribal members told me, "They continue to arrest our people. They take children, property, whatever they deem they want."
According to The Dominguez Escalante Journal: Their Expedition Through Colorado Utah Arizona and New Mexico in 1776 , Escalante describes having come in contact with aboriginal peoples who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," an Aztecan word meaning People of the Rock, whose leader was Turunianchi, who occupied what is now known as Utah. Dominguez named Mount Timpanogos, Timpanogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley) in honor of these people, an honor that remains to this day.
The Snake Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe once ruled the entire territory of Utah long before the Colorado Utes were relocated to Utah. Seven brothers Walkara, Sowiette, Arropeen, Sanpitch, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), and Grospeen were grandsons of Turunianchi, and were the leaders of the Timpanogos Tribe whom Spanish Explorers Dominguez and Escalante wrote about, referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every Eutah clan and village along the Wasatch. They were neither "savage" nor "heathens" rather a prosperous, and deeply spiritual civilization. To this I further say if you must judge them, do so by their own standards. (For a detailed history of the Timpanogos Tribe visit their website)
In 1824 explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with a Snake-Shoshone tribe (Timpanogos) living along the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake. Provo City derives it's name from this early explorer.
The exact origins of the Shoshone has been lost to time. However, Oregon scholars have documented the Shoshone have occupied Oregon territory for some 20,000 years. The Shoshone eventually spread into areas we know today as Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. They continued to explore areas as far south as Mexico and Guatemala having come in contact with the Mayan. According to Maya and North American Indian scholars I interviewed, these ancient explorers returned to North America bringing with them spiritual wisdom, dialects, and traditions of the southern regions. I am witness to the fact today the most sacred ceremonies of the the North American Indians are similar to the Maya, and a prominent tribe in Arizona, I am told, actually speak Mayan in one of their ceremonies. Symbols found in pictographs in North America are recognized and regarded sacred by Mayan peoples.
The Shoshone were first called the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there was three divisions, the Chickimec became the Nokoni, the Aztec, and Hopi (Moki). The Nokoni became the Shoshoni Nation which split into four bands, the Snake, Bannock, Comanche and Paiute. The Timpanogos descend from the Snake. Early explorers referred to the Timpanogos as the Eutahs. The term "Eutah" derives from an Arapaho word E-wu-ha-wu-si meaning "people who use grass or bark for their lodges." All Indians living in grass lodges or bark structures would fall into this category. The shortened version Ewuha or Eutah are terms used by early trappers and explorers who traveled the Utah area when referring to the Native peoples they encountered who spoke the Snake-Shoshone language.
Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. There were no "Chiefs." No one person was above all others. Every individual was respected equally. Even animals and all things Creator created were seen by Native peoples as having a purpose, and each possessing special gifts and talents. When decisions were made within Native communities everyone had to be in agreement before action was taken. Within the communities each family took on particular roles, for example medicine people, warriors, weavers, hunters and gatherers etc. were the responsibility of individual families respectfully. Elders, who were the old and wise, they had the greatest influence in the community. They were the spokespersons, teachers and keepers of wisdom. And so it was that for non-Indians, as the whiteman encountered Indian peoples they were often confused by Indian ways. At times white's would assume an individual who spoke on behalf of a tribe was the "Chief." Leadership in Native communities was situational. Individuals were asked by the tribe to lead them according to the situation and the persons experience and ability. To this day Indian tribes do not have "Chiefs", they have Councils and Committees. And so it follows that as we read the histories we see large numbers of "chiefs" and "sub-Chiefs", and so it is that one-sided accounts can be very confusing and misleading. (See American Indian Protocols)
When the Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young arrived in Utah territory in 1847, the Native peoples they first encountered were the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe led by the seven grandsons of Turunianchi. Tabby, Wakara, Arropeen, Sanpitch, Grospean, Ammon, Sowiette and later on the legendary leader Black Hawk (Chief Wakara's nephew), would cause the evacuation of some 27 Mormon villages, and the collapse of cattle markets. With support from neighboring Tribes, some Colorado Utes among them, they nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of Utah. (See Black Hawk War Facts)
One final note worthy of mention, in a failed attempt to bring an end to the Black Hawk War that was raging in all directions, Congress authorized Treaty Negotiations for the Indians of Utah Territory, and on June 8, 1865 the Spanish Fork Treaty was negotiated exclusively with the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe. However, the treaty would fail ratification as it bore the signature of Brigham Young, thus leaving intact the Uinta Valley Reservation. Congress declared "rather than associate with Brigham Young on such an occasion, they would have the negotiations fail; they would rather the Indians, than the Mormons, would have the land." The significance of this treaty is that it names only the Timpanogos Tribe. Not one of the seven Bands of the Colorado Indians are named in the treaty for the obvious reason they were in Colorado. - Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish (Source: Department of the Interior) (See Time line of the Black Hawk War) (Comments or questions visit us on Facebook)
The Black Hawk War Story
The Black Hawk War in Utah it was not a single event. There are some 150 bloody confrontations on record between the Mormons, U.S. Government and the Timpanogos Indian Nation between the years 1849-70. It is described by historians as "the frontier at it's very worst." (See Black Hawk War Time line)
"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." - Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah
"Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals."
"...it's very difficult to deal with what is truly a series of small atrocities. A border war. A war between neighbors and people who'd lived with each other and knew each other very well. A war between young men who'd grown up with a lot of Indian friends or a lot of Mormon friends, and that's what makes this history so painful that's why the Black Hawk war is so difficult for both Indians and Mormons to remember." - Historian Will Bagley
Mormon leader Brigham Young famously said "It's CHEAPER to feed them than to fight them." He also told the Denver Rocky Mountain News paper "you can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder." He repeatedly admonished his followers to "Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals." (See Brigham Young Discourses)
How much Brigham Young spent on 'flour' for Indians is anyone's guess, but the costs of doing war is clearly spelled out in a 250 page document titled "Memorial of the Legislative Assembly of Utah" which was prepared by the Legislature of
Utah in 1873 and sent to the United States Congress. It is a bill which Congress awarded reimbursement of one and a half million dollars for expenses incurred by
Brigham Young's private militia, the Nauvoo Legion, for removal of the
Indian population in Utah territory between the years 1865 and 1873.
"Now, Brigham Young officially proclaimed a policy of helping the Indians. But at the same time the Mormons are aggressively seizing every water hole, using up the game and the timber resources." - Historian Will Bagley
Complicating matters more, the Mormon church
believed they had a divine obligation to convert Utah's American
Indians to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing
the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people" and would be forgiven of the sins of
their forefathers. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) According
to church doctrine, the nature of the dark skin was a curse, the
cause was the Lord, the reason was because the Lamanites (Indians) "had
hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was
to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
Meanwhile, during the 1850-60's when the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon
culture, the Mormons’ response was to 'get rid' of them. What choice were the Timpanogos given when confronted with a Book of Mormon in one hand, and a gun in the other? (See Doctrine of Discovery)
The underlying cause of the Christian mind-set begins before Columbus arrived in the Americas, Christian Monarchs decreed that anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible, or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, were deemed "heathens," "infidels" and "savages". Christians were then entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them. Indeed America was founded upon Christian principals; there was no separation of church and state by those who drew their power from Old Testament-inspired Manifest Destiny, saying: "This is the land promised by the Eternal Father to the Faithful, since we are commanded by God in the Holy Scriptures to take it from them, being idolaters, by reason of their idolatry and sin, to put them all to the knife, leaving no living thing save maidens and children, their cities robbed and sacked, their walls and houses leveled to the earth." - Pagans in the promised Land by Steven T. Newcomb Indigenous Law Institute and author of "Pagans in the Promised Land."
So it follows that the Black Hawk War began in earnest on February 28, 1849 with the first of six massacres at Battle Creek in the foothills above Pleasant Grove, Utah. In the crisp morning air, on that cold February morning, shots echoed off the canyon walls. There lingered a thick gray cloud of gun powder; the frozen snow was now crimson red with fresh innocent Native blood. This day would mark the beginning of a 21 year battle with Mormons, the US Government, and the Timpanogos Indian Nation. (See How The Black Hawk War Began)
A company of 35 Mormon militia,
under the leadership of Captain John Scott, left Salt Lake City in
pursuit of a so called “renegade band of Indians” who were falsely accused of taking horses belonging to Mormon leader Brigham Young.
According to reliable accounts, Brigham gave the order for Capt. Scott "to take such measures as would put a final end to their depredations in future." But, before morning they received orders from Salt Lake City stating that "the horses were not stolen..." Three times the company had received word the Indian's had not stolen Brigham Young's horses, they had only been moved to a different location to pasture. Still, not one of the thirty-five men turned back. (Stout Diary)
Scott, under orders from Brigham Young, he and
his men met up with a Shoshoni Indian they referred to as Little Chief on the
Provo River. Little Chief regretfully led Scott to an encampment of Timpanogos Indians who
allegedly had been doing some stealing. Though it seems unlikely Little Chief would have betrayed his people in this way, more likely threatened, he gave in. The trail took the company
of soldiers to the mouth of a canyon above Pleasant Grove. Scott and his men split into four groups and
surrounded the camp, and opened fire on the unsuspecting people
sleeping there in their teepees.
It is said that the "battle" continued for a couple hours, perhaps, highly unlikely since most took shelter and were trapped in a nearby ravine, standing in freezing water, and they had only one gun, while the surrounding army pelted their victims with rocks. As they immerged from cover unarmed, troops shot them repeatedly. A Timpanogos man named Kone, unarmed, was shot in the back as he came out of his teepee. A brave girl about the age of 16 emerged from cover and pleaded with Capt. Scott not to harm her brother. Scott ordered her to bring her brother to him. Terrified of Scott she brought from the thicket her younger brother who bravely stood face to face with Scott and said, "Go away, what are you here for? Go away... you kill my father, my brother... for what? Go away, let us alone."
"Joshua Terry, a pioneer of 1847, and a mountain man who married into an Indian tribe, once told the writer (Howard R. Driggs) that this Indian boy became the warring leader Black Hawk. When peace came, after the Black Hawk War of the later eighteen sixties, this Chief, Terry declared, told him that he was this same boy taken after the fight on Battle Creek. 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. That is why he later made war against them." (Story of Old Battle Creek and Pleasant Grove, Utah, Howard R. Driggs, 1948)
In 1853 Timpanogos leader Walkara (Black Hawk's uncle) told interpreter M. S. Martenas, "He (Walkara) said 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, and his parents before him—that the Mormons 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." - STATEMENT, M. S. MARTENAS, INTERPRETER Great Salt Lake City, July 6 1853 Brigham Young Papers, MS 1234, Box 58, Folder 14 LDS Archives - Will Bagley Transcription
1855, January 29th.-----Walkara, a patriot, who had long defended his people and land, died at Meadow Creek, in Millard County. He was succeeded by his brother leader "Jake" Arropeen. Among his final words he admonished his his tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them. Scholars told me there is proof he was poisoned to death. (See Walkara's history)
Within the twelve years that followed Brigham's militia in hand with U.S. Troops would commit the most hideous massacres in American history at Bear River, Circleville, Grass Valley, and Fort Utah. (See Videos)
The Man Mormons Called "Black Hawk"
Utah's famous 'Black Hawk' was born into a royal bloodline, a family of legendary Timpanogos leaders going back centuries in time. Whether that being his Indian name or not is currently disputed. He was a nephew of both Walkara and Tabby. Black Hawk was a War Chief and led under the direction of his uncle Tabby.
It is well documented that Black Hawk was a compassionate man. He was resistant to killing, and only then in self-defense, that being consistent with traditional beliefs of the Timpanogos. Conditioned by his own personal torment, having witnessed his people becoming increasingly ill from smallpox and measles, and the slow agonizing death from starvation - was unbearable. Mormons had taken all their game, making it ever more difficult traveling greater distances to find food to support their large population. Often Black Hawk went without food himself to help his people. Often he called upon Great Spirit for guidance, and to make peace with the spirit world. But, the hellish terror of his people's suffering was overwhelming as he saw their hearts fill with hopelessness and despair.
There were some three or more Indians the whites referred to as Black Hawk in Utah history. There does not exist any known photo of Black Hawk. The photo to the right here is not Utah's Black Hawk, it originates from the Smithsonian, it is a photo of a drawing of a Kiowa Apache the whites also called "Black Hawk", the name is not in the Apache language. In the 1929 Indian Census Roll conducted by H. N. Tidwell there appears a Black Hawk born in 1851, and reported as being a member of the Ute Tribe of Colorado, again not Utah's Black Hawk.
Black Hawk, of the Black Hawk War of Utah, became a courageous warrior and brilliant leader who gave his very life for his people. A humble man tormented by meaningless deaths of his family and kin - fought for peace to his dieing day. A man who's bones were dug up and disgracefully put on public display by the Mormon Church for amusement. I remember as a child, accompanied by my parents, I saw the mortal remains of Black Hawk and a Indian woman with a child at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. (See Looting of Black Hawk's Grave)
Born at Spring Lake, Utah circa 1825, Black Hawk was bright and intelligent with a good sense of humor. He was from his childhood groomed to become a leader honoring the traditions of his Shoshoni ancestors. His charismatic personality and natural leadership ability made him likeable among both his own people and the whites. As young man, he was educated in Jesse Williams Fox's school in Manti which implies he learned to speak English, could read and write and learned mathematics.
Then in his twenties Black Hawk witnessed with extreme agony the senseless murders of his family at Battle Creek, and the gruesome beheadings of his kin at Fort Utah by Mormon militia. In 1863, 593 Shoshone men women and children were brutally massacred at Bear River. As the Indians tried desperate measures to fight off the U.S. Army, the soldiers seemed to lose all sense of control and discipline. After most of the men were killed, and many of the children were also shot and killed. In some cases, soldiers held the feet of infants by the heel and "beat their brains out on any hard substance they could find." Those women who refused to submit to the soldiers were shot and killed. After the slaughter ended, soldiers went through the Indian village raping women and using axes to bash in the heads of women and children who were already dying of wounds. Leaders Bear Hunter (Indian name Camwick brother of SACAJAWEA) and Lemhi both were killed. Two years later, following botched peace efforts in 1865 at Manti between leader Arropeen and John Lowry, Arropeen who had taken Walkara's place following his death in 1855, resigned his decade long leadership to his brother Tabby who accepted the challenge. Tabby, the youngest of the five brothers, was honorably chosen by his tribe as chief leader of the Timpanogos. Black Hawk was chosen by Tabby and led his warriors in battle.
In 1866 Utah's population was approaching 200,000 people when Black Hawk began his champaign against the atrocities and seemingly endless encroachment of Mormon settlers on his peoples aboriginal land.
Black Hawk, under the leadership of Tabby, unleashed a fury upon the Mormons they hadn't seen nor anticipated. Black Hawk assembled a thousand or more warriors from his communal tribe with support from neighboring allies, among them the Utes, Lakota, Dine' and Apache. Over the coarse of just 15 months they demonstrated incredible skill as they commanded a formidable counter-attack that effectively held back Mormon expansion into their most valued homeland in central and southern Utah territory. Because Black Hawk understood Mormon economics, he managed to undermine their economy by flooding the market with stolen Mormon beef and horses causing cattle markets to collapse, and the abandonment of some 70 Mormon villages. Some say he nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of Utah.
Then in June of 1866, Black Hawk was shot during battle at Gravely Ford near Richfield while rescuing a fellow warrior White Horse. In the month following Black Hawk was shown kindness when he received food and medicine from his long time friend Mormon Bishop Canute Peterson. During the same month Black Hawk received word that brother named Mountain had been wounded during an ambush at Little Diamond above Spanish Fork. Saddened by Mountains' near death experience, when Black Hawk was well enough to travel he visited his uncle Tabby camped north of Heber, and convinced him to end the war. Black Hawk and other Timpanogos leaders had to make tough decisions as they came to grips with a heartbreaking reality - they were just simply out numbered.
In the month of August, 1867, Black Hawk with humility and resolve made an extraordinary gesture of good faith. Saying he and his people were tired of war, he handed Indian agent Franklin Head his knife and asked him to cut off his long hair demonstrating his commitment to end the bloodshed. Black Hawk didn't surrender as historians would have us believe, the following three years the leader dedicated his efforts to total peace with the white man.
"It was white history that wrote it -- that he (Black Hawk) surrendered. And no, a man like that don't surrender. He'll come to terms with reality. I'm done, we're done, we, we did what we could, we're done. But it gets written differently... And like any of us, I think you get to a point where it's like any war, you get in and you do what you've got to do. And maybe there's a family there, and you killed, killed their kids -- you, as a human, that thing we all are, is going to at least make you say I'm sorry." - Larry Cesspooch
Three years passed, and days prior to his death in 1870, Black Hawk, now deathly ill from his wound, he still continued his peace efforts, my great-grandfather called it "Black Hawk's mission of peace." Black Hawk contributed significantly to ending the war. Consistent in character with Timpanogos teachings, once again he tried to get along with the white man. Peter Gottfredson, my great grandfather, saw the suffering of his friend Black Hawk and was deeply disturbed as he witnessed the consequences of man's inhumanity to man. A people Peter had grown up with and had shared moments of joy and companionship.
He had fought the good fight, and he knew he was about to die, before Black Hawk passed over in 1870, described as gaunt and skeleton like, he chose to travel 180 agonizing miles by horse, and he visited every Mormon village to apologize, taking responsibility for the pain and suffering he and his warriors had caused. Thinking not of himself, putting the well-being of his people first - Black Hawk made one last appeal. He spoke to the settlers saying, "you broke your promises, stolen our land, killed our children, men and women, and spread disease among my people." He then made a plea to the settlers to end the bloodshed. "You didn't see that happening on the part of the settlers. So it took a greater man to do such a thing. And that's what is overlooked in the victors’ accounts," said Forrest Cuch.
Yes it's true, Black Hawk stole Mormon cattle and horses by the thousands. And here's the flip side to that coin, our Mormon ancestors stole over 250 thousand square miles of occupied Timpanogos land and never gave them a red cent for any of it.
Five million acres was set aside by executive order in 1861. On May 5th 1864 congress establishes the Uinta Valley Reservation "for the exclusive use and occupancy of the Indians of Utah territory."
The so called "treaties" made between the Mormons and Utah's Native Tribes had no legal basis, only the Federal Government had the power to negotiate treaties, therefore they were only agreements, divisive at best, of which Church leader Brigham Young failed to honor even one. (See Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk)
"Bones of Black Hawk on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum"
"Without conscience or remorse church leaders without a lick of civility made no apologies"
Did the Black Hawk war begin in 1865 as scholars say? I can assure reader, for the Native peoples of Utah the fight for equality and justice has continued to this very day. What happened next boggles the mind.
On September 20, 1919, an article appeared on the front page of the Deseret Evening News paper with the headline, "Bones of Black Hawk on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum." Within the article, the writer explains that first, the remains of Black Hawk had been on public display in the window of a hardware store in downtown Spanish Fork, Utah. Then Benjamin Guarded, the man in charge of the L.D.S. Museum, acquired the remains for public display on Temple Square. For decades, the remains of Black Hawk, and those of an Indian woman and a child, were on display in the Mormon church museum on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.
They say there are no known photos of Black Hawk, there's one. and disrespectfully it appeared on the front page of the Deseret News Paper for amusement. Just 49 years had passed since Black Hawk had been laid to rest in 1870 at Spring Lake, Utah, when members of the Mormon Church looted of his grave. Accompanying the article is a photo of William E. Croft standing in the open grave, grinning ear to ear, while holding the skull of Black Hawk. While the living descendants of Black Hawk were outraged and heartbroken, their voices fell on deaf ears. Seemingly without conscience or remorse church leaders without a lick of civility made no apologies, in spite of a federal law passed in 1906 called the Graves Protection Act. Descendents of Black Hawk had no real legal recourse until the enactment of the National American Graves Protection Reparation Act, or NAGPRA, passed in 1994.
The news article read: "To Whom It May Concern: At my leisure moments I would hunt for the spot where Black Hawk was buried and one day one of the miners, William E. Croft reported what he supposed to be Black Hawk's grave. This started an investigation and Mr. Croft along with Lars L. Olsen and myself uncovered the remains of Black Hawk, which were buried in a large quartzite slide. The first article we saw was a china pipe, which, was laying upon the top of his head. Then we discovered the saddle, the remains of the skeleton, portion's of his horses bridle that had been buried with him; sleigh bells, ax, bucket, beads, part of an old soldier coat with the brass buttons still intact. All of these were removed very carefully, and for safety deposited them with the Spanish Fork Co-op where they were exhibited for several days. Subsequently at the suggestion of Commander J. M. Westwood I secured these remains and conveyed them to the L.D.S. Church Museum on temple block, suggesting that they should be placed on exhibition there and preserved. – Ben H. Bullock." ( See Deseret Evening News Paper 1919)
Black Hawk's remains were again reburied in the year 1996. It took an act of Congress, the help of National Forest Service archeologist Charmain Thompson, and the humanitarian efforts of a Boy Scout Shane Armstrong to find and rebury the remains of Timpanogos leader Black Hawk at Spring Lake, the place of his birth. Shane Armstrong, he told me in an interview that he felt it in his heart he should find Black Hawk's remains, at the age of 14. Inspired at the age of 14, Shane on his own makes contact with Thompson. Together they locate the lost remains of Black Hawk in a basement storage room, in a box, on Brigham Young University campus. (See EXAMINATION OF CHIEF BLACK HAWKS PHYSICAL REMAINS by NAGPRA)
Burial arrangements, coffin, and headstone were donated by citizens of Spring Lake, many who's ancestors fought against Black Hawk during the war. Ironically the grave site is on property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the Mormons.
Black Hawk's Headstone - Spring Lake, Utah
Credits: My thanks to Mary Meyer Timpanogos Tribe (above photo), Historian Will Bagley, Historian Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah, Forrest Cuch (Ute), Historian Dr. Floyd O'Neil, Loya Arrum (Ute), Lacee Harris, Vanita Taveapont (Ute), "Lakota Ann" Cutler, Larry Cesspooch (Ute), Historian Robert Carter, Educator Bryon Richardson, Charmain Thompson (Archeologist National Forest Service), Shane Armstrong (Eagle Scout), and Marva Loy Eggett. Steven T. Newcomb Indigenous Law Institute, Peter d'Errico, Legal Studies Department, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, the George S. Deloris Dori Eccles Foundation, and the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs. Marriott Special Collections Brigham Young University. The Living Descendents of Black Hawk, Walkara, Sowiette, Arropeen, Sanpitch, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), and Grospeen. And last but not least, humble gratitude to Ron Hill Imagery, and my many friends, good people and organizations for their kindness and generosity. (See also Source Material).
*Historic Photographs by Permission From: University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections and The Utah State Historical Society*
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