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.
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 leaders would arrogantly choose an individual from a tribe and declare them "Chief." 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 these one-sided accounts can be very confusing and misleading. (See American Indian Protocols)
There were some three or more Indians the whites referred to as Black Hawk in Utah history. 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, name is not in the Apache language.
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 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 Camawick 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 lead his warriors in battle.
In 1866 Congress voted in the Civil Rights bill overturning President Andrew Johnson's veto. Utah's population was approaching 200,000 people when Black Hawk began his 15 month champaign against Mormon settlement on his peoples ancestral land.
Black Hawk, under 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.
1866 July-August, Bishop Canute Peterson of Ephraim, Utah paid a visit to the ailing Timpanogos leader Black Hawk, taking gifts of sugar, hams, bread, beads, molasses, tea, coffee, tobacco, flour, medicines and clothing. The Chief was grateful for the presents and a friendship developed, which put a partial end to the hostilities. Five important Timpanogos leaders, among them Black Hawk, called upon Canute Peterson's home and established peace pacts. As they talked, Sarah Peterson prepared a meal of the good things that could be brought from the cellar and pantry. After the meal, Black Hawk and Canute went across the road and smoked the pipe of peace under the old juniper tree, now referred to as the "peace treaty tree." The old juniper tree still stands on the west bank of the creek. They agreed that they would not fight as long as water continued to run in the creek. A Black Hawk Peace Treaty marker was erected there in 1987. (See thePeace Treaty Tree)
During the same month Black Hawk received word that a warrior 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 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, asked him to cut off his long hair demonstrating his commitment to end the bloodshed. Black Hawk didn't surrender, 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.