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by Phillip B Gottfredson

Ute Chief Walkara - Black Hawk Productions

Walkara was leader of the Timpanogos. 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 Timpanogos tribe. The name 'Walkara" is Shoshoni by origin means Hawk. Walkara would learn from an early age the necessary skills of hunting, horsemanship, and leadership. He would be chosen by his people the Timpanogos to carry on his families long legacy of legendary leaders. He spoke Shoshone, Spanish and English, necessary 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.

 

 

There are many different spellings of Wakara's name, for example: Walker, Walkara, Walkera, maybe some others. However according to his living descendents they prefer Wakara. The different spellings becomes problematic for internet searches since the most popular version is Walker. This spelling is obviously the English version, whereas Wakara is most certainly Native Indian. Indian names have always been spelled phonetically, which explains why all the different versions.

A brief evolution of the Shoshone People: They were first called the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there was three divisions, the Chickimec became the Nokoni; the Aztec, and Hopi (Moki). The Nokoni became the Shoshoni Nation which split into five bands, the Snake, Bannock, Timpanogos, Comanche and Paiute. According to the 1776 Dominguez Escalante Journal, Dominguez describes having come in contact with a Native peoples who called themselves Timpanogos, whose leader was Turunianchi, who occupied what is now known as Utah Territory. Dominguez named Mount Timpanogos, Timponogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos valley (Utah Valley) in honor of these people, a name that remains to this day. So it follows when the Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young arrived in Utah territory in 1847, the Native peoples they first encountered were the Timpanogos. The grandsons of Turunianchi were as follows: Tabby, Wakara, Arropeen, Sanpitch, Kanosh, Grospean, Amman, and Sowiette. Sanpitch was the father of Chief Black Hawk. (See Timpanogos complete history.)

 

Chief Walkara Interview

blackhawkproductions.com - Will BagleyIn 1853 Timpanogos 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 the Tribes wealth and power." (Note: The territorial legislature were all Mormons)

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.

Wakara would become a member of the LDS Church, was Chief at the time, but would die an untimely death in 1854. However, Wakara was poisoned. 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.-----Wakara was a patriot, 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.

There are several stories about Wakara's burial that are false, for example "Wakara was buried in a sepulchre of stone on the rugged eastern hillside above this little community of Meadow. His grave was located up Dry Canyon, the first canyon north of Corn Creek. On the day of burial two of his squaws and some Paiute children were offered up as sacrifice. Besides his weapons, trinkets, presents, the two squaws and two girls, a young boy was fastened alive to the pedestal beside Walkara's body. It is presumed the grave was robbed by whites in 1909." Interesting, but I lived with Perry Murdock for a couple months who is a direct descendent of Walkara, and when I asked him if his great-grandfather was buried with two children he was puzzled. "I can tell you we (Timpanogos) would never do such a thing, that's not our tradition. No, that wouldn't happen. we have sacrificed a horse sometimes so the person's favorite animal would be with him, but we would never treat children that way." He went on to tell me that Wakara's body was exhumed by tribal members and reburied to a secrete location where his remains would be undisturbed by grave robbers. That occurred in the early 1900's.

Yet another story that has no merit is that he also stole children of other tribes and made them slaves. That he and his men would raid Paiute bands and take women and children prisoner. He would sell the slaves to Spanish or Mexican traders and explorers, who would take them back to New Mexico to work in the mines or as domestic servants. In return, Wakara would get guns, ammunition, and other goods. He also sold children to the Mormon settlers, threatening to kill the children if he couldn't sell them. 

This is a gross misrepresentation not only of Chief Wakara but of Native peoples of Utah. The Paiutes were Wakara's own blood relations, his own people. The Timoanogos Tribe, and more importantly direct descendents of Wakara have never been given the opportunity to tell their side of the story. They have, however, told me in person that it is absurd to think Wakara would do such a thing. A man who for most of his life was not only a respected leader of the Timpanogos, but man of great character. For him to steal children from his own blood relations would have brought shame and disgrace upon himself and his tribe. Wakara was chosen to be their leader because he exemplified the highest standards and ideals of his people.

All Timpanogos 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.