Pahvant Chief Kanosh
Mormon's Million Dollar Black Hawk War
"It was the frontier at it's very worst..."
A Synopsis by Phillip B Gottfredson
Whiterocks, Utah circa 1878
Over the past decade I have felt it a great honor and privilege to learn firsthand and write about Native American peoples of Utah, the White River Ute, Uintah-Ouray Ute, Paiute, Goshute, Uncompahgre, Pahvant, and Shoshoni who have shared with me their version of the Black Hawk War. Don't think this to be a small matter reader. "No one has ever asked us," was their reply when I asked why their side of the story is missing? To ignore their side of the story is to falsify history. And that is exactly what happened.
I am not a spokesman for Native Americans. Never the less I am stunned and disgusted by the injustices and discrimination that they face each and every day not only from the general populace of Utah also state and federal governments. I am sickened every time I have heard people say "we have given the Indians every chance to succeed, yet they choose to live off the government, and live in poverty. It's their own damn fault." What kind of choice have they been given? To conform to white man's beliefs or walk knee deep in the blood of their people? To give up their land, children, culture, traditions, or more importantly their freedom or die? Clearly our schools have failed miserably in teaching us the truth about American Indian history.
If you still believe Native Americans have been treated fairly, consider that scholars and writers have over the past 150 years published one-sided accounts of the Black Hawk war. What they wrote of the Native peoples specifically 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. It begs the question just how reliable can these accounts be?
Your school most likely gave you a glossed over account of the Black Hawk War, if any at all, its as though Native peoples do not matter - which is absurd. And that's why a tiny percentage of people know, or care to know, about the Mormon's million dollar war and the man they called Black Hawk.
The war brought an end to a sacred time for its Native Peoples. It is, however, a time that must be remembered, honored, and never forgotten regardless of what happened. Native peoples never asked for or wanted any war, they only stood for what was rightfully theirs long before the arrival of Mormon pioneers.
Regarding the Black Hawk War in Utah specifically, it was not a single event. There were some 150 bloody confrontations between the Mormons, U.S. Government and all five tribes of the Shoshoni/Ute Nation between the years 1849-70. It was the frontier at it's very worst.
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." Records from the Black Hawk War show Brigham spent over a million and half dollars of church funds equipping his private malitia with 'guns and powder' to rid the land of Native peoples.
The facts are clear that untold thousands of Native Indian peoples of Utah died from starvation and disease as Mormon settlers forced them to give up their prime hunting grounds and ancestral Land.
Scholars agree that Native population was between 50,000 or 70,000 when the settlers arrived in 1847. Following the Black Hawk War in Utah, United States government census of 1909 revealed just 2300 Natives remained alive after they were forced onto reservations where 500 more died in the first year from starvation, because food supplies Brigham promised them - never arrived. Today the Ute Indian population is about 3500.
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, if
you will, asking Congress for reimbursement of 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.
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 Utes refused to assimilate into Mormon
culture, the Mormons’ response was to 'get rid' of them. The Utes were
not given a choice. No one asked them if they wanted to give up
their culture and embrace the ways of the white man. Indeed, if they
had been given a choice, I am certain they would have chosen to keep their
traditional life ways.
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 smoke 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 Uinta Ute Indian Nation.
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)
his men met up with a Ute Indian by the name of Little Chief on the
Provo River. Little Chief regretfully led Scott to an encampment of 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, but highly unlikely since several took shelter and were trapped in a nearby ravine, standing in freezing water, and they had only one gun. The surrounding army pelted them with rocks, and as they immerged from cover unarmed, they were shot repeatedly. Chief 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 in the face of terror 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 Chief 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." (Timpanogos Town, Story of Old Battle Creek and Pleasant Grove, Utah, Howard R. Driggs, 1948)
In 1853 Uintah Ute 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
Peter Gottfredson's book Indian Depredations In Utah has been a great inspiration to me, and is regarded by noted historians as being a reliable account; to the honor of Peter Gottfredson authors, historians, scholars and academia's have cited his work in countless publications, articles, and books for decades; underscoring the importance of his time-honored account. Most recent is historian John Alton Peterson's award winning book titled Utah's Black Hawk War wherein Gottfredson's account is cited numerous times. While several knockoffs have been made, I republished Peter's original version in 2002, you can purchase it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore.
The Man Mormons Called "Black Hawk"
Born Into A Family of Legendary Leaders
According to his living descendants, they told me in the first interview I had with them Black Hawk's Indian name was Nuch. They asked that when speaking with them I not use the name Black Hawk. The name "Black Hawk" is not in the language of any of Utah's Indian tribes. So who was Black Hawk? The answer is definitive, there never was a man Native peoples of Utah called "Black Hawk" or "Antonga" period.
He was born into a family of legendary leaders going back centuries in time, and was known among the Shoshoni/Ute as Nuch. he was so named in honor of his people the Nuchu, a sacred name they call themselves. He was a nephew of Chief Walkara, and a brother of Chief Tabby. Tabby was the head Chief of the Uinta Ute Nation who was the son of Chief Old Uinta. They, the Shoshoni, were first called
the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there was two divisions, the
Chickimec became the Nokoni; the Aztec, and Hopi (Moki). The Nokoni
became the Shoshoni Nation which split into five bands, the Snake,
Bannock, Ute, Comanche and Paiute.
According to records found in both state and LDS church archives, "Black Hawk" was a name that Brigham Young, in jest, called the Ute's leader. So it became that Brigham Young's supercilious term, 'Black Hawk,' is the name by which he is now most commonly known. In fact there were some three or more Indians the whites referred to as Black Hawk in Utah history. It was a sarcastic joke, a mockery referring to the Sauk and Fox Indian tribes (Mesquaki) under the leadership of the real Chief Black Hawk and the tragic Black Hawk War of 1832 in Illinois, where the Mormons migrated from. The photo to the right here is not Utah's Black Hawk, it originates from the Smithsonian, it is a drawing of a Kiowa Apache the whites also called "Black Hawk", but, here we are again, the name is not in the Apache language either.
Nuch 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 put on public display, and reburied again. What was his perspective on life, spiritual beliefs, and background?
Born at Spring Lake, Utah circa 1838, Nuch 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 ancestors. His charismatic personality and natural leadership ability made him likeable among both his own people and the whites. In his childhood he was educated in Jesse Williams Fox's school in Manti which implies he spoke english, could read and write and learned mathematics.
Nuch became a skilled horseman which is not surprising since the Uintah Ute were the first in North America to obtain the horse from Spanish explorer Desoto around 1530.
Then in his mid teens Nuch (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. Years later, following botched peace efforts in 1865 at Manti between Chief Arropeen and John Lowry, he was honorably chosen by his tribe to be a sub-Chief of his brother Chief Tabby. Arropeen who had taken Chief Walkara's place following his death in 1855, resigned his decade long leadership to Nuch who accepted the challenge.
In 1866 Utah's population was approaching 200,000 people when Nuch began his champaign against Mormon settlement on his peoples ancestral land.
After leadership was passed from Chief Arropeen to Nuch, he courageously led his fellow warriors and communal tribe, with support from neighboring allies, in war against Mormon intrusion. In just 15 months, he demonstrated incredible skill as he and his warriors commanded a formidable counter-attack that effectively held back Mormon expansion into their most valued homeland in central and southern Utah territory for nearly a year. Because Nuch 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. They nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of Utah.
Then in June of 1866, Chief Nuch was shot during battle at Gravely Ford near Richfield while rescuing a friend and fellow warrior White Horse. In the month following Nuch (Black Hawk) was shown kindness when he received assistance from his long time friend Bishop Canute Peterson. When Nuch was well enough to travel, he visited his brother Chief Tabby camped north of Heber, and convinced him to end the war. Nuch and other Ute leaders had to make tough decisions as they came to grips with a heartbreaking reality - they were just out numbered.
It is well documented that Nuch was a seasoned warrior. He also was a compassionate man. He was resistant to killing, and only then in self-defense. 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 Nuch 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. They were subjected to deceit, dishonesty, torture, mass butchery, rape, and death, death to others, to animals, plants, to the waters, and the land. Indigenous men, women, and children were left to wonder alone in a land they believed belonged to them for eternity. A people who in their final agony cried out 'we are human too.
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, asked him to cut off his long hair demonstrating his commitment to end the bloodshed. The Chief didn't surrender, the following three years the Chief 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/Member of the Ute Tribe
Three years passed, and days prior to his death in 1870, Nuch, now deathly ill from his wound, he still continued his peace efforts, my great-grandfather called it "Black Hawk's mission of peace." Chief Nuch contributed significantly to ending the war. Consistent in character, as in his childhood, once again he tried to get along with the white man. Peter Gottfredson, my great grandfather, saw the suffering of his friend Nuch 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 Chief Nuch 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 - Nuch 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 honor the treaty and 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 'friendly' Mormon ancestors stole over 250 thousand square miles of occupied Native land and never gave them a red cent for any of it. Five million acres was set aside by executive order in 1863 as Uinta reservation land, and three million acres of that land was again stolen by crooked lawyers and politicians.
The first, and only treaty, was signed between the Uinta Utes and the federal government on March 2, 1868. It was then ratified on July 25, 1868.
The so called "treaties" made prior to 1868 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. (Source Dr. Floyd O'Neil University of Utah)
"Bones of Black Hawk on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum"
Did the Black Hawk war begin in 1865 as scholars say? Was it over in 1870? What happened next boggles the mind.
"We took from them almost all of 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 are still here..." - Professor Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah
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 church museum on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.
They say there are no known photos of Chief 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 Chief Nuch had been laid to rest in 1870 at Spring Lake, Utah, when members of the LDS Church looted of his grave. Accompanying the article is a photo of William E. Croff standing in the open grave, grinning ear to ear, while holding the skull of Nuch (Black Hawk). While the living descendants of Nuch 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 Nuch had no real legal recourse until the enactment of the National American Graves Protection Reparation Act, or NAGPRA, passed in 1994.
"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)
Chief Nuch was 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 Nuch (Black Hawk) at Spring Lake, the place of his birth. Shane Armstrong, he told me in an interview, 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 Nuch (Black Hawk) in a basement storage room, in a box, on Brigham Young University campus.
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.
Black Hawk's Headstone - Spring Lake, Utah
CHIEF BEAR HUNTER • CHIEF NUCH
(BLACK HAWK) • CHIEF KANOSH • CHIEF KONE • CHIEF LEHI • CHIEF PETEETNEET • CHIEF POCATELLO • CHIEF SAGWITCH • CHIEF SANPITCH • CHIEF TABBY • CHIEF TINTIC • CHIEF WALKARA
• CHIEF WANSHIP • CHIEF TABIONA • CHIEF YENE-WOODS (Jake Arropeen) • SOW-E-ETT (nearly starved) • TABBY (the sun) • TO-QUO-NE (black mountain lion) • SOW-OK-SOO-BET (arrow feather) • AN-KAR-TEW-ETS (red boy) • SAN-PITCH (bull rush) • KIBETS (mountain) • AM-OOSH AN-KAR-AW-KEG (red rifle) • NAUP-PEADES (foot mother) • PAN-SOOK (otter) • PEAN-UP (big foot) • EAH-LAND (shot to pieces) • NAR-I-ENT (powerful) • QUE-O-LAND (bear) • LITTLE CHIEF • LITTLE WOLF • LITTLE FEREMOTZ • OLD BATTISTE • OLD BILL • OLD DOCTOR BILL • OLD ELK • OLD MAREER • OLD PENNICH • CHIEF SAU-E-ETT • OLD SAWIET • OPECARRY (Stick In The Head) • PAH-VANTS • PANACARA • PANTS • SAM (Toady) • SANTICK • SHEGUMP • SKIPOKE • TOMWANTS • TACKWITCH • SEE-GO-ETT • TOW-ICH • NAR-A-COOTS • TO-A-BITCH • PE-DO • TO-NE-OO • OBER-ICH • SO-NEEP • WILLIAM • KID-IP • KUB-ER-UUP • CHARLEY • OLD JOHN •
KAR AN KEG • PEAN UP • EBAH SAND • BNARIENT • KAR TEW ITS • PAMSOOKQUOGAND - Signers of the 1968 Treaty: U-re,
Pa-bu-sat, Pah-ah-pitch, Tab-y-ou-souck-en, Shou-wach-a-wicket, Pe-ah, Ah-ump, An-tro, Pah, Quir-nauch, Yah-mah-na, Pa-ant, Su-ri-ap, Nick-a-a-gah, Red (Spanish.), Green Leaf, Yampas, Ou-ray, Sha-wa-na, Guero, Tah-be-wah-che-kah, Ah-kan-ash, Ka-ni-ache, An-ka-tosh, Sap-po-wan-e-ri, Tu-sa-sa-ri-be, Na-ca-get, Ya-ma-aj, Son to Tu-sa-sa-ri-be. or George, So-bo-ta, I-si-dro, Sow-wa-ch-wiche, Ba-bu-zat, Sab-ou-ichie, Chu-i-wish, I-ta-li-uh, E-ri-at-ow-up, Aa-ca-wa, Ac-i-apo-co-ego, Martine, Ou-a-chee, Tap-ap-o-watie, Su-vi-ath, Wi-ar-ow, Pa-ja-cho-pe, Pa-no-ar, Su-bi-to-au, Te-sa-ga-ra-pou-it, Sa-po-eu-a-wa, Qu-er-a-ta,
(Many were taken from Peter Gottfredsons' Indian Depredations in Utah) (More names here)
Credits: My thanks to Will Bagley, Dr. Daniel McCool, Forrest Cuch (Ute), Dr. Floyd O'Neil, the Living Descendents of Nuch (Black Hawk), Loya Arrum (Ute), Lacee Harris, Vanita Taveapont (Ute), "Lakota Ann" Cutler, Larry Cesspooch (Ute), Forrest Cuch (Ute) Robert Carter, Bryon Richardson, Charmain Thompson (Archeologist National Forest Service), and Shane Armstrong (Eagle Scout). 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. 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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