The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk
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 cloud 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 the Timpanogos Indian Nation. Following Battle Creek the Timpanogos scattered in every direction. (See How The Black Hawk War Began)
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)
Scott, under orders from Brigham Young, he and his men met up with a Shoshoni Indian they referred to as Little Chief on the Provo River. Little Chief regretfully led Scott to an encampment of Timpanogos 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, highly unlikely since most took shelter and were trapped in a nearby ravine, standing in freezing water, and they had only one gun, while the surrounding army pelted their victims with rocks. As they immerged from cover unarmed, troops shot them repeatedly. A Timpanogos man named 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 face to face with 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 leader 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." (Story of Old Battle Creek and Pleasant Grove, Utah, Howard R. Driggs, 1948)
So shocking was the Battle Creek massacre the Timpanogsos Tribe scattered in every direction. The Mormon Militia had demonstarted they were ruthless and not to be trusted.
While thousands more settlers came into the territory between the years 1847 and 1873, tensions between the Indians and non-Indians grew exponentially. Timpanogos Indian 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.
In July 1853, Walkara was camped on Spring Creek near Springville, when a Mormon settler killed a Timpanogos he said he had mistaken for a rabbit, which led to the deaths of two more Timpanogos. Walkara demanded the killer be brought before him. His request was refused by Brigham Young. This in part precipitated the "Walker War."
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.
1855, January 29th.-----Wakara was a powerful leader, who had so long defended his people and land, died at Meadow Creek, in Millard County, and was succeeded by his brother Arropeen. Among his final words he admonished his his tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them.
1855 Arropeen aka (Yene-woods), a brother of Walkara, became Tribal Leader of the Timpanogos after Walkara died, set out to avenge the deaths of his people, and continued on in his role as leader until 1865.
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.
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.