The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk
The Building of Fort Utah
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson wrote, "It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River..."
Within a few days following the Battle Creek Massacre, a second party was sent to Utah Valley. The Higbee brothers and Dimmick Huntington were made presidency of the soon-to-be Provo Branch of the LDS Church and led a party of 30 saints to Provo River to erect Fort Utah. Apostle George A. Smith gave the command to "remove the Indian people from their land," and said Indian people have "no rights to their land."
When they were within a few miles north of the Provo River they were stopped by An-kar-tewets, a warrior of the Timpanogos, who stood before the men telling them to go back where they came from, that they were not going to make any settlement on their land. Allegedly they argued for sometime, until Dimmick pleaded with An-kar-tewets that they wanted to live in peace with the Timpanogos and made promises of gifts. According to the victors’ accounts following a long discussion, An-kar-tewets made Dimmick raise his hand to swear to the sun that no harm would come to the Timpanogos, that they would never take away their lands or rights, and Dimmick and the others swore.
Members of the Timpanogos Tribe dispute this account saying it would be highly unlikely that a warrior such as An-kar-tewets would have made any copromise to accommodate Dimmick and his party. First of all, he would not have the authority to speak on behalf of the Timpanogos community and make a decision that potentially put the entire tribe and its most precious resources at risk, they told me. They said it would be more in character of An-kar-tewets to have firmly denied Dimmick and his party any access; that they simply bullied their way into Timpanogos territory. That and "we don't swear to the sun," they added.
Dimmick and the rest of the party then immediately began building of the fort, for they knew they were in danger. Little did Dimmick and the others know that the land they built the fort on was a traditional and sacred meeting place for the Shoshone Timpanogos, and many other tribes for hundreds of miles around during the spring and summer months. The tribes would gather in sacred ceremonies to honor the Creator. Or, if they did know it was sacred land, they didn't care, they didn't honor their sworn oath made with An-kar-tewets earlier either.
It has also been stated that soon after Fort Utah was founded, Walker, according to Colonel Bridger and Mr. Vasquez, began stirring up the Indians against the "Mormon" settlers. In this movement Walker was aided by another chief named Pareyarts , variously styled Elk, Big Elk, Old Elk, etc., like himself a hater of the whites, and apparently quite as fond of fighting. It was with Big Elk and his band that the Provo settlers, in their first regular battle with the savages, had immediately to deal." - Peter Gottfredson
The loathsome acts to unfold at Fort Utah would haunt the Mormons for many decades to follow, even to the present day. Following the massacre of some 70 Indians at the fort, Hickman hung the head of Old Elk from the eves of his cabin. A witness at Fort Utah told reporters, "...it was hung pendant by its long hair from the willows of the roof of one of the houses. I well remember how horrible was the sight." - Robert Carter author Fort Utah.
Dr. James Blake, a surgeon among the Stansbury company, was greatly influenced by Hickman's trophy of Old Elk's head. Dr. Blake then ordered troops Abner Blackburn and James Orr to go out and behead each of the frozen corpses lying about in the snow, following the two-day battle that resulted in the deaths of 70 Indian people. Dr. Blake told the men he "wanted to have the heads shipped to Washington to a medical institution" for scientific examination.
What this account doesn't tell us is that there was a market for Indian body parts. Jim Bridger offered Hickman a hundred dollars for Old Elk's head. The men hacked from the frozen corpses as many as 50 heads. They piled them in open boxes, along with a dozen or so Mallard ducks Blake had shot while his men performed their chore. The heads and ducks were taken to the fort and placed in view of Black Hawk who was barely in his twenties, and his traumatized kin who had been taken captive at Battle Creek. Innocent of any wrongdoing, the captives were thus tortured as they were forced to view the grizzly remains placed before them for a period of two long and excruciating weeks.
Mary Meyer is the Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation and related the following story of her great-great-grandfather Joseph Stacey Murdock who was the first Bishop of Heber city. Joseph raised two Timpanogos Indian children, one by the name of Pernetta who he had taken from Fort Utah following the battle there. Pernetta was about 5 or 6 years of age, when Joseph took her away with him to Heber and raised her to adulthood. At the sametime a Timpanogos boy of the same age lay clinging to bloody remains of his mother. His name was Pick He was taken and put in a wagon with his sister. He was raised with Pernetta and was told that Pernetta was his sister. But Pick always said she was not the same sister as the one in the wagon.
While thousands more settlers came into the territory between the years 1847 and 1873, tensions between the Indians and non-Indians grew exponentially. Timpanogos elders told me, "there was a time when our people were happy and content living in the majestic mountains and fertile green valleys of Utah. Then the Mormons came, and our people were killed—the old, the young, the children, women—and many taken to reservations where many more would die."
In 1850 Mormon apostle George A. Smith, a cousin to Church Founder Joseph Smith jr., declared that the Indian people "have no right to their land" and he instructed the all-Mormon legislature to "extinguish all titles" and get them out of the way and onto reservations. This set the stage for the infamous Black Hawk War that would follow.
Wakara's vengeance was also fueled by previous events that unfolded at Battle Creek when his family was murdered, and Fort Utah where his kin were brutally attacked and beheaded. Throughout his life among the Mormons he made every effort to live peacefully with them.
Who are the Timpanogos Indian peoples? We begin with a book titled Juan Rivera's Colorado, 1765 by Author Steven G. Baker, tells of a Spanish explorer Juan Rivera who made two trips into western Colorado interacting with Paiute tribes, in search of “the bearded ones.”
Baker cites an account by an author named Bolton who quotes from the Escalante Dominguez journal that “extols the virtues of the villa de Timpanogos which was the home of the bearded Timpanogos whom the fathers met at Utah Lake in what they... believed to be the old province of Teguayo.” Fathers Dominguez and Escalante openly discussed the elements of the evolved from the legend of Teguayo in their briefings...letters... (regarding) the bearded Indians.”
In 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-Shoshonian word meaning rock water carriers (referring to salt), 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.
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.
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857, when Wakara was alive, 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. Peter wrote: "It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River..."