By Phillip B Gottfredson
INTRODUCTION: As Americans, and citizens of Utah, when we look back at our history we want to find the heroes and stories of our ancestors that are inspiring. But the story of the Black Hawk war in Utah was brutal and bloody, one of the most inhumane wars in American history. The Black Hawk War in Utah is a hideous mosaic of injustice, a tragic consequence of Mormon pioneers settling on land belonging to the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe beginning in the year 1847.
The Timpanogos Tribe had inhabited Utah territory for many centuries and were in sharp disagreement with settlers colonizing their ancestral homeland. Timpanogos leader Wakara 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."
Before Mormon settlers arrived in Utah in 1847 the Timpanogos population was thriving between 50,000 and 70,000. They were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. Native peoples were deeply connected to the beauty that surrounded them, majestic mountains, lakes and streams. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms and uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the animals and all living things. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from a greater power. They were neither "savage" nor "heathens" rather a prosperous, and deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos the war was never about possessions, the land was their mother, nourishing all her children, it belonged to everyone. It was about honor, honoring the sacred. To this I further say if you must judge them, do so by their own standards.
The Timpanogos were all one people before the Mormons came, but as Mormon's began killing them under the leadership of Brigham Young the Timapanogos scattered in all directions for protection.
Depredations of Utah's Native peoples spanned some 21 years. It was not a single event, I have documented over 150 bloody confrontations with Mormon settlers between 1849 and 1870. Regarding the so-called Black Hawk War historians focus on the years 1865-68, and some emphasize that the events leading up to the war are complex. "What choice were we given?" asked a member of the Timpanogos Tribe. "Walk knee deep in the blood of our people, or give up our land and culture and accept whiteman's ways... why is that so complicated to understand?"
War Chief Black Hawk's campaign only lasted just 14 months, he passed over in 1870 from being shot with a rifle while in battle and attempting to rescue a fellow warrior earlier at Gravely Ford June 10th, 1866. Complications developed from his wound causing his death. By 1870 the Timpanogos population had decreased by a staggering 90% and more from violence, disease, and starvation. Just 2300 Timpanogos Indians remained alive when they were forced onto the Uinta Valley Reservation making them dependent upon the Church and United States government for food and shelter, and in the first winter 500 more died 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."
AUTHOR PHILLIP B GOTTFREDSON: It has never been my intention to reiterate what historians have already written about the Black Hawk War in Utah. While those accounts are written from the Mormon perspective, none give us the Native peoples perspective of the war, which has been my objective for over a decade now.
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 for me to know what his experience was like living among the Indian peoples. That led me on a life changing journey, and today, like my great-grandfather, I too live among the Timpanogos Tribe, learning firsthand of their life-ways and history.
I am not a spokesperson for Native American Indians, group or organization. My research of the Utah Black Hawk War I began in 1990. 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 life-ways 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, and the Colorado Utes, and Dine' Navajo, for sharing with me their version and interpretation of the 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. Whether their perception is true or not it is a testament to the severity of the trauma Native peoples experienced which is generational.
INACCURACIES IN UTAH'S HISTORY: Tribal identity is absolutely crucial in our understanding of the Black Hawk War in Utah, yet it remains the least explored topic resulting in inaccuracies in our histories leading to baseless conclusions and false assumptions. Historians mistakenly identify the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Tribe as being Ute. This is a common mistake most every historian has made because Utah's history, as it is written, confuses the Utes with the Timpanogos as being the Tribe the Mormons first encountered when they arrived in Utah territory in 1847. It was not until the Removal Act of 1881, eleven years after the Black Hawk War ended, when the Colorado Utes were forced on to the Uinta Valley Reservation set aside by President Abraham Lincoln for the Indians of Utah, namely the Timpanogos, on October 3, 1861. The term "Ute" does not appear in history until about 1865, and was then a pseudonym used when referring the Indians of Utah who belonged to the Unita Valley Reservation. The Timpanogos were also referred to as the "Uintahs," "Uintah-ats," and the "Utahs," and in all cases are in fact the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos. The Ute Tribe itself was not formed until 1938 comprised of the seven bands of the Colorado Ute Tribes. A subject I will detail in future publications. - (Source: Timpanogos Tribe, Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish and Department of the Interior.)
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 various bands of 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." Thus the Uinta Valley Reservation remained intact.
The significance of this treaty is that it was intended for the Timpanogos Tribe living on the Uinta Valley Reservation, whereas none of the seven Tribes of Colorado known today as "Ute" were named. One exception was the Yampa who were named but any claim they may have had was relinquished by them in the treaty of 1868.
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.
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 know the truth, and speak the truth?
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. (See Legacy Of The Black Hawk War)
In my quest for the truth regarding the 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. This in spite of the fact Tribal leaders have invited historians to discuss their version of story to no avail. And so it is that the 'truths' they profess exist within the confines of their own biased accounts, which in the end benefit only those who wrote them, and for reasons, I have learned, 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 these incredulous accounts end up in our schools and libraries and are passed off as being truthful. Native peoples of Utah need to tell their story and demand it be told accurately.
LEGACY OF THE BLACK HAWK WAR: To further our understanding of the war we must not ignore it's legacy. Native peoples of Utah today will argue that the war has never ended, as depredations of Indians peoples continue while they struggle for justice, and equality. The federal government has a fiducial responsibility bound by treaty to provide protection to the Native peoples from the State, and is a trustee of Indian property, yet our government has yet to honor fully the 370 ratified treaties made in good faith. And Utah's treatment of it's Indian peoples has been absolutely shameful.
For Mormons the war was about taking possession of the land for the riches therein. They ignore the fact that the Native peoples are a sovereign entity, and that inherent sovereignty is the cornerstone of Indian law. Inherent sovereignty predates New World discovery. The inherent authority of indigenous tribes to govern themselves within the borders of the United States of America has never been overturned. This and the fact the 10th District Court recently ruled in favor of the Uinta Valley Reservation saying the State of Utah has no jurisdiction over what-so-ever and warned the State with sanctions if they didn't comply.
The Legacy of the Black Hawk War in Utah begins with no reconciliation with Utah's Native peoples. This remains an issue for both sides, as people continue to struggle with the harsh realities of a war that took place over 150 years ago. For generations many live in fear of the Mormons should they speak the the truth of the atrocities of the past and present. For many generations Native peoples were afraid to say what tribe they belong to.
The Black Hawk War all but destroyed the Timpanogos Tribe, followed by extreme poverty, poor education, corrupt lawyers and politicians, decades of time and tens-of-thousands of dollars spent on Federal Recognition as a Tribe; it's a miracle they have survived at all. People say, "We have given the Indians every opportunity to succeed..." I have been living with Native people, I can tell you we have given them every opportunity to fail.
Native American Indians don't get payments from the government. According to the Bureau Of Indian Affairs (BIA) "No individual is automatically paid for being Indian. The Federal Government may pay a Tribe or individual for damages for losses resulting from treaty violations, for encroachments on Indian lands, for past or present wrongs, income from their lands and resources, as their resources are held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior."
THE TIMPANOGOS TRIBE: Who are the Timpanogos? The answer to that question we find in The Dominguez Escalante Journal: Their Expedition Through Colorado Utah Arizona and New Mexico in 1776 , wherein 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 a land that 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.
Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857 and lived among the Timpanogos during the war. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the Snake Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe ruled the entire territory of Utah. There were seven brothers Walkara, Sowiette, Arropeen, Sanpitch, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), and Grospeen. The war Chief Black Hawk was the son of Sanpitch I will discuss further on. Numerous accounts agree that the seven brothers were sons of Moonch, who was the son of Turunianchi, and were the leaders of the Timpanogos Tribe who are referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every Eutah clan and village along the Wasatch. (See Black Hawk War Facts)
Then 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 many 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 Maya peoples.
The Shoshone were first called the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there were 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.
NATIVE PROTOCOLS AND LIFE-WAYS: Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. There were no "Chiefs." No one person was above all others. Every individual was respected equally. Family and community were inseparable and cohesively bound together in an environment of Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. 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. Today most Indian tribes are governed by elected Councils and Committees. (See American Indian Protocols)
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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 historian Will Bagley as "the frontier at it's very worst."
"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." One can only imagine the cost of feeding some 70,000 people. 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. Putting that into perspective, a million and half dollars in 1873 would be somewhere around $32 million today.
"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, by now peoples of the Timpanogos Tribe had scattered in every direction no longer centrally located in Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley). Walkara, a patriot, who had long defended his people and land, died at Meadow Creek, in Millard County. He was succeeded by his brother "Jake" Arropeen. Among his final words he admonished his tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them. Scholars told me there is proof Wakara was poisoned to death. (See Wakara'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"