The first confrontation occurred during the winter of 1849, when a
11-year-old Ute named Nuch would witness the brutal murder of his
family in the foothills above today’s Pleasant Grove, and was taken
captive by Mormon militants. Wrongly accused of stealing Brigham
Capt. John Scott ignored Brigham's orders to return to Salt Lake
that the horses had been found.
Nuch would later become known as Black Hawk. But the gruesome
images of his family's slaughter would forever be indelibly seared upon
his mind. This event has always been referred to as a "battle" when,
Black Hawk's family were only armed with one gun against an
army of 44 armed militia. The Ute leader by the name of Kone was the
first to be shot in the back blowing the top of his head off. One
unarmed man running for his life was shot 16 times. (See Battle Creek here)
Changing the conditions in which the Indian people thrive was a key
element in taking over Indian lands. It meant logging, constructing
forts and towns, diverting streams, introducing thousands of
domesticated cattle, plowing and fencing vital grass lands and
planting domesticated crops, massive slaughter of buffalo herds, which devastated the Utes’ precious
resources. These settlers were less dependant upon natural sources
for their food because of farming techniques, while the Indian
people were forced to travel greater distances, requiring greater
effort, to find food, leaving the Ute with no choice other than to
prey upon the settlers’ cattle, or die of starvation. Another example recorded is that, in just one
day alone, 6790 fish were taken from the Provo River with gill nets
and sent to Salt Lake as tithing, ignoring the present and future
needs of the Indigenous people.
"The Man Mormons Called "Black Hawk"
While Black Hawk has been the subject of hundreds of accounts, it's strange we know very little about the man. His name appears in hundreds of books, journals, and on hundreds of headstones and historical makers throughout Utah. A man who's remains were dug up and put on public display, and reburied again. Yet none of these accounts explain the kind of person he was, his perspective on life, spiritual beliefs, or background. It is briefly mentioned in one account he had two wives, but who were they? Did he have children?
The man they called "Chief Black Hawk", according to his living descendants, his Ute name was Nuch. "Black Hawk" and "Antonga" are not Ute Indian names! 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 the Natives of Utah called "Black Hawk" or "Antonga" period. Nuch is also referred to as "Antonga." To the Mexicans Nuch was known as "Antonga", a nick-name. The name is not a Ute name either. The Ute's and Shoshonie had long established trade relations with the Mexicans and interacted with them for decades and more.
Utah's "Black Hawk" was born into a family of legendary leaders going back centuries in time, and was known among the Natives as Nuch, he was so named in honor of his people the Nuchu, a sacred name the Utes call themselves. (See the Facts)
According to historical accounts I found in both state and 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. It was, perhaps, a sinister message to the Utes that a similar destiny awaited them. 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.
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.
As Chief of the southern Utes, Walkara, Black Hawk's uncle, had long established a trade route
along the Spanish trail raiding horses which he would sell to
Brigham Young at bargain prices. Young, the Lord's Prophet dealing in stolen goods, baptized Walkara and made him
an elder of the church. Later Brigham began interfering with
Walkara's trading business which started tensions between the two,
but it was when one of Walkara's men was murdered by one of
Brigham's followers that lit the fuse to the powder keg and set
Walkara on the warpath. Soon Walkara would die an untimely death from
pneumonia in 1854. However, some scholars say there is strong
evidence that Walkara
was poisoned, as his death was sudden. And,
it is one of Utah's darkest truths that it was not uncommon for
anti-Indian settlers to poison the Indians’ food and water sources
White Rocks Ute Reservation circa 1880
"It was the frontier at it's very worst..."
Brigham Young's depredations of Utah's Indian peoples began February 28, 1849 when the first of six massacres occured at Battle Creek 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 Native blood. This day would mark the beginning of a 21 year battle with Mormons, the US Government, and all five tribes of the Shoshonie/Ute Indian Nation.
A company of 44 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 fasley 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. 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
It is said that the "battle" continued for a couple hours, perhaps, but highly unlikely since those trapped in the ravine, standing in freezing water, had only one gun. But, a brave Ute 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 in front of 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 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 1850, a few months following the murder of his family, young
Nuch would again be traumatized when made to witness the
decapitation of his kin at Fort Utah, following a premeditated
two-day vicious attack by Mormon militia that resulted in the deaths
of 70 of his clan. The details of this event will follow. But, the kind of trauma that becomes generational needs to be understood. When generational traumas, such as war, genocide,
oppression, poverty, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse,
death or loss of parents or siblings, are not grieved and healed by
individuals, families and communities, the effects of unresolved
trauma are carried into the next generation.
1855 Yene-woods, a relative of Walkara, became Chief after Walkara
died, set out to avenge
the deaths of his people, and continued on in his role as leader
Nuch was born into a royal bloodline of many honorable leaders going back hundreds of years. For example: Chief Walkara, Chief Yenewoods, Chief Sanpitch, Chief Sow e ett, Chief Tabby, Chief Old Elk, Chief Kone, Chief Colorow, Chief Old Uinta, and Chief Mountain are just some of Chief Nuch's blood relations.
In 1866 Congress voted in the Civil Rights bill overturning President Andrew Johnson's veto. Utah's population was approaching 200,000 people when Nuch began his 15 month champaign against Mormon settlement on his peoples ancestral land.
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 forefathers. Nuch was a skilled horseman which is not surprising since the Utes were the first in North America to obtain the horse from Spanish explorer Desoto around 1530. 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. 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. Years later, following botched peace efforts in 1865 by John Lowry, he was honorably chosen by his tribe to be a sub-Chief of his brother Chief Tabby. He accepted the challenge. (See How The Black Hawk War Began)
Out numbered and against all odds of ever winning, beginning in the winter of 1865, courageously Nuch led his fellow warriors and communal tribe, with support from neighboring allies, in war against the Mormons. In just 15 months, after leadership was passed from Chief Arropeen to Nuch, he demonstrated incredible skill as he 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 the Mormon's economics, he managed to undermine their economy by causing cattle markets to collapse, and the abandonment of some 70 Mormon villages. He nearly succeeded in driving them out of Utah.
Then in June of 1866, Chief Nuch was shot during battle at Gravely Ford near Richfield. He convinced his brother Chief Tabby to end the war. Nuch and other Ute leaders had to make tough and yet well informed decisions as they came to grips with a heartbreaking reality... life as they knew it was at an end.
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 white man's diseases, and the slow agonizing death from starvation was unbearable. Often he 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.
Still the Chief didn't surrender. The following three years the Chief dedicated his efforts to total peace with the white man.
In the month of August, 1867, Black Hawk, with deepest 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.
"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
Much has been said about Black Hawk "stealing Mormon beef" and little or no emphasis on Mormon theft of Native lands, and more important their freedom. (See Doctrine of Discovery)
The first, and only treaty, was signed between the Ute and the federal government on March 2, 1868. It was then ratified on July 25, 1868. (See treaty 1868)
The so called "treaties" made prior to 1868 between the Mormons and the 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. - Dr. Floyd O'Neil
Days prior to his death in 1870, Nuch, now deathly ill from his wound, he continued peace efforts, my great-grandfather called Black Hawk's "mission of peace." To his honor his passionate plea to honor the 1868 treaty contributed significantly to the ending of the bloodshed. 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. Nuch died from the gun shot wound he received four years earlier at Gravely Ford while attempting to rescue a fellow warrior named White Horse.
He had fought the good fight, and he knew he was about to die, before Chief Nuch passed over in 1870, deathly ill from a bullet wound, 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." Still he was willing to make peace, he then made a plea to the settlers to do the honorable thing and end the bloodshed. "You didn't see that happening on the part of the settlers", said Forrest Cuch, "So it took a greater man to do such a thing. And that's what is overlooked in the victors’ accounts." ( See Gravelly Ford)
Black Hawk did not surrender to Brigham Young as some accounts suggest. Nuch was a patriot. Rather he took upon himself the agony and humiliation of his people. If he surrendered, he surrendered to a higher power. In his wisdom he knew it was futile to expose his people to more violence.
1866 July-August, Bishop Canute Peterson of Ephraim, Utah paid a
visit to the ailing Ute 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 Ute 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)
They say that Mormon leader Brigham Young said, "It is better to feed them than to fight them," is incorrect.
What he said was, "It is cheaper to feed them than to
fight them," and, putting it in proper context, he was spending
millions in church funds equipping his own private militia to wage
war against them. According to one scholar, historian Will Bagley,
There was nothing benevolent at all in his
statement. It was purely a matter of economics.