Black Hawk Memorial
The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy
A History of the Timpanogos Nation and The Black Hawk War
By Phillip B Gottfredson
Welcome to The Black Hawk War: Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website, the only website dedicated to the study of the Utah Black Hawk War on the internet since 2002, exploring both sides of a tragic conflict between early Mormon pioneers and the Indian peoples of Utah.
Why is the Indians version of Utah's Black Hawk War being ignored? Descendants of Chiefs Black Hawk, Wakara, Tabby, Arropeen tell a very different story. The Black Hawk War in Utah is said to have lasted seven years from the winter of 1865 into the fall of 1872 when Daniel Miller was the last man to be killed. Daniel drew his final breath in the arms of my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson. When asked if Daniel wanted the men there to take vengeance on the Indians. He said, "No, they don't know any better." This tragic moment, on the morning of September 26, 1872, was the result of 21 long agonizing years of Mormon's relentless impingement upon the Timpanogos Nation's inherent sovereignty, that began in the winter of 1849 with the Battle Creek Massacre.
Why historians try to make the case that the 21 years leading up to the war were "complex circumstances" is both baffling and deceptive. A knowing member of the Timpanogos Tribe asked the question, "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 honor and survival...why is that so complicated to understand?"
Explore this website and you will see why the Black Hawk War was not a single incident. Researching the War for over 15 years, I documented over 150 bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Tribe and the Mormons between the years of 1849 and 1872. Within the years that followed Battle Creek, herein you will see that Brigham Young's militia, the Nauvoo Legion, in hand with U.S. Troops would commit some of the most hideous massacres in American history resulting in untold thousands of Timpanogos deaths, along with a few hundred Mormons. I am referring to 1849 Battle Creek Massacre, 1850 Fort Utah, 1857 MT. Meadows Massacre, 1863 Bear River Massacre, 1865 Grass Valley Massacre, 1866 Circleville Massacre, and this does not include deaths resulting from starvation, violence, small pox, and measles.
What began as a hobby researching the Black Hawk War, it wasn't long until I was donating all my time and resources to the subject, and for the better part of a decade I struggled to make sense of the many contradictions in the victors onesided accounts. Moreover, for years, and like most, I mistakenly assumed the War was between the Ute Tribe and the Mormons. Everyone I talked with agreed. All the books I had read said so. But, some things just didn't make sense, something was missing. That said, I went on to document that the Timpanogostzis is the Tribe Brigham Young and his followers first encountered, and not the Utes. And this contridicts mainstream history... but that doesn't make it wrong.
It should matter to everyone, especially historians... what the Timpanogos who are indigenous to Utah have to say. Are they not the other half of the story? Are they not the ones who lost 90% of their population, their land stolen and their graves robbed, and their decayed remains put on public display for amusement? The fact is, of the 20 or more books, and countless journals I have read on the Black Hawk War, it became obvious that scholars and those who write about the War never ask or care what the Indians they study have to say about their work, nor do they asked how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have their own version of the particular story they are writing about. It follows that virtually every account and half-baked documentaries about Utah's indigenous peoples are based on assumptions, replete with half truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. Now we see why it said "they don't want the truth to be told." The time has come when historians need to correct these inaccuracies in Utah history, and First Nations people need to tell their story and demand it be told accurately.
I was asked to make a documentry film about the Black Hawk War. At first I spent a lot time with the Utes. My experience with the Utes was interesting and I learned a great deal and made good friends, but they would often contradict themselves when it came to their history. Most were correct and agreed they came to Utah from Colorado. Others say the word 'Ute' is not in their language and prefer to call themselves 'Nuche.' It was when asked who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs Walker, Sanpitch, Tabby, Antonga, or Arropeen they didn't know. Perplexed, I knew I was talking to the wrong Tribe.
I attended a Ute powwow once. I was staying out the way watching the dancers, eating fry-bread. Some guy got on the PA system and asked, "Are there any white people in the audience, raise your hand?" I raised my hand. He then said, "Welcome, now pat yourself on your back for stealing our land."
The Deloris Dori Eccles Foundation along with Utah State Division of Indian Affairs generously donated funds to pay for professional filmmakers, when unforseen circumstances derailed the project. I abandon my documentary film the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs had asked me to do, after I had voluntarily invested years of research and tens-of-thousands-of-dollars as a novice researcher and filmmaker.
Ever more determined driven by my passion to learn everything I could about Native American Indians, in the years following I got acquainted with indigenous peoples from North America to South America, and virtually everywhere in between because I became fascinated, and intrigued and eventually embraced their cultural life-ways and teachings as my own.
Years later, I met a little known Tribe no one ever talked about... the Timpanogos, who also live on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah, same as the Utes do, and their story blew me away. Why? It doesn't matter they are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they provided me with definitive proof they are the living descendants of Sanpitch, Wakara, Arropeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and Antonga 'Black Hawk' who was the son of Sanpitch, and other legendary leaders in the Black Hawk War. Their lineage documented by birth and marriage records, death certificates, Indian Agency records, treaties, and more historical records going back to 1765. Finally! Finally after years of research I found the truth! Everything fell into place.
The Timpanogos are the people my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson lived among and wrote about during those troubled times. Peter helped them gather food. He played with their children. "He was invited into Black Hawk's camp on numerous occasions" my father told me. That's what I wanted to find out "what it was like for grandpa Pete to live among the Timpanogos and know the great Antonga, or as Brigham Young called him Black Hawk?" And now I know. From great-grandfather, to great grandson, in my mind things had come full circle.
Until you make this distinction... nothing about Utah's history will make sense. There are Ute Indians and Timpanogos Indians, there are no "Timpanogos Ute Indians." "Timpanogos Utes" is an oxymoron. It is important to know that originally the Ute Tribe was comprised of seven bands none being Shoshoni, that they are from Colorado and were not in Utah until 1881, eleven years after the Black Hawk War ended. Following the 1878 Meeker Massacre in Colorado the United States Government declared "the Utes must go" and created the Ute Removal Act that forced the Utes to leave Colorado and they were relocated on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as prisoners of war. And we need to know the Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshoni and are distinctly different from the Utes in language, customs, and origin. For more information on the Timpanogos and Ute see Origins of of the Timpanogos and Ute Tribes.
The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshoni and are indigenous to Utah territory. Over the past two years I have been living with the Timpanogos pouring over documents and listening to their amazing stories and teachings. And so it is with their permission I have updated this website to a much truer and balanced version of the Black Hawk War than before, adding valuable information from the Timpanogos peoples, whom I have come to love and respect as my own because of their compassion, integrity and honesty. (Visit the Timpanogos Nation website)
The Timpanogos tell me "You're the first white man ever to take the time to understand our story" since those troubled times in Utah's history over a century and a half ago. I think that's sad. Here is a Nation of nearly a thousand people, indigenous to Utah territory, going back time-in-memorial and no one has ever asked them their story? Why?
To answer that question we have to go back to the end of the War in 1873. We see the Timpanogos so badly traumatized, and demoralized, that life for the Timpanogos had become all about survival in the decades that followed. It meant to "tell no one that you are Timpanogos" to avoid persecution and worse... death. And I can tell you that fear is still pervasive among the Timpanogos to this day. And from their oral and written histories, and by my own observations it becomes clear that it also involves white-man's bigotry. And greed over billions of dollars of oil revenues, illegal land grabs, a plethora of human atrocities; the 'third rail' about the Uinta Valley Reservation no one wants to talk about right now. I was warned years ago "don't go there." And Native people have asked that I not speak of these things, "now is not the time." Just saying, white man's depredations of the Timpanogos of Utah didn't end with the Black Hawk War as some historians would like us to believe.
I will always respect and honor those bonds of trust between myself and the Native peoples of Utah and beyond. I consult with the Native people I write about, and I care what they have to say about my work. I ask how they would analyze, interpret, and if they have their own version of the particular story I'm writing about. I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else, it's not about me. It's about all of us. We need to speak the truth regardless of what happened.
One final note: There has never been any act of Congress that has abrogated or amended the Executive Order of 1861 that established the Uintah Valley Reservation for the "Indians of Utah" and, according to the Tenth District Court ruling in 2016 "remains intact." And can you guess who "the Indians of Utah" in 1861 were? Answer: The Timpanogos Nation.
Moreover, professor Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah put it 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."
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 Black Hawk war in Utah was brutal and
bloody. So severe was the tragedy for a people innocent of any wrong doing, it can only be described as genocide driven by white-man's bigotry, fanaticism and greed. And this is why Mormons and the indigenous people of Utah alike find it so difficult to talk about the Black Hawk War. For the Timpanogos Nation it was the end of a peaceful and sacred time, a time that shall be remembered and never forgotten.
Learn more about the Black Hawk War in Utah...
>If you're a first-time visitor may I recommend you begin here... The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk
>Because there are over 70 pages of documented material in The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website it is best navigated from the Timeline Page. All of the important events have been organized chronologically by date, and linked to all the stories of the War.