Ute Chief Walkara

by Phillip B Gottfredson

Ute Chief Walkara - Black Hawk Productions

"Walkara was a Ute Indian leader born 1808 near the Spanish Fork river in Utah, an area which had long been the home of his family and kin located in the central area of Utah. He was a member of the Tumpanawach tribe. Walkara would learn from an early age the nessacary skills of hunting, horsemanship, and leadership. He would be chosen by his people the Nuchu, or Ute, to carry on his families long legacy of legondary leaders. He spoke Ute, Spanish and English, nessacary to carry on with the tribes commercial enterprise trading in furs, horses, silver, jewelry and tanned leather goods. They had long established a trade rout; from the Columbia river to the Gulf of Mexico dating back as far as the mid 1500's.

Walkara was also involved some slave tradeing with the Spaniards, who

 

made expeditions into Utah since the 1740s. Raiding Great Basin Indian tribes such as the Navajo, Walkara traded to Spaniards young men and women to work in the mines of northern Mexico and in the homes of Spanish colonists.

In 1847 Mormons entered Ute lands. In 1853 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

"However, the Mormon population grew and the Indian population declined through disease and destruction of food resources. Mormon leaders moved to disrupt the Mexican trade in horses and people (a law against the Mexican slave trade was passed by the territorial legislature in 1853, thereby undermining Wakara's wealth and power." - Tina Kelley and Kathryn L. MacKay (Note: The territorial legislature were all Mormons)

In July 1853, Walkara was camped on Spring Creek near Springville, when a Mormon settler killed a Ute he said he had mistaken for a rabbit, which led to the deaths of two more Utes. Walkara demanded the killer be brought before him. His request was refused by Brigham Young. This precipitated the Walker (Walkara) War.

Walkara'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.

Walkara would become a member of the LDS Church, was Chief at the time, but 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.

1855, January 29th.-----Walkara, the Ute 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.

All Ute leaders came from the same bloodline dating back centuries, whether they were the warriors, the spiritual leaders, weavers, medicine men, etc., each family bloodline maintained individual traditions all of which contributed to the well-being of the community.  

Note: Walkara is the correct spelling (aka Walker aka Wakara aka Wakera aka Wakeera). American Indian names were spelled phonetically is the reason for so many variations. Walkara is a Shoshoni name means "Hawk" not gold, or yellow metal, or yellow anything as so many accounts have said. The Ute are of the Shoshonie bloodline.