By Phillip B Gottfredson
As Americans, and citizens of Utah, when we look back on our history we want to find the heroes and stories of our ancestors that are inspiring. But the Mormon's Black Hawk War in Utah was brutal and bloody, one of the most inhumane wars in American history. Utah's forgotten tragedy with its truth ingloriously buried beneath a veneer of revised history, folklore replete with religious dogma and myth, bears witness of efforts to justify man's inhumanity to man.
Shamefully, the war as seen through the eyes of Utah's Native peoples has been deliberately ignored. Today, only a tiny percentage of Utah's population has heard of the Black Hawk War, and know virtually nothing of its Native inhabitants. The Time has come for Native peoples in Utah to tell their story and demand it be told accurately.
The Black Hawk War, lasting some seven years from the winter of 1865 into the fall of 1872 when Daniel Miller was the last man killed, was the outcome of 20 long agonizing years of Mormon's relentless impingement of Native peoples inherent sovereignty beginning in the winter of 1849 with the Battle Creek Massacre. Within the seventeen years that followed Brigham's militia in hand with U.S. Troops would commit some of the most hideous massacres in American history: 1850 Fort Utah, 1857 Mt. Meadows Massacre, 1863 Bear River Massacre, 1865 Grass Valley Massacre, and 1866 Circleville Massacre. (See Videos)
Psychological shock and severe distress spanning more than two decades was for the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe of Utah far outside their usual range of experience. The senseless deaths of thousands of Utah's Natives peoples men, woman and children, who's only crime was being indigenous to the Americas, was a horrific tragedy that has been forever indelibly etched upon the minds and hearts of their descendants. Utah's Black Hawk War was the end of a sacred time—a tragedy for Native American Peoples that should be remembered and never forgotten. Victims of genocide, Native peoples of Utah territory were subjected to deceit, torture, slavery, mass butchery, rape, and death, death to animals and plants, to the waters and the land; men, women and children were left to wonder demoralized and dehumanized in a land they believed belonged to them for eternity, a people who in their final agony cried out "we are human too."
Being a great-grandson of Peter Gottfredson, author of one of the oldest and highly cited firsthand accounts of the Utah Black Hawk war... the book Indian Depredations in Utah, I respectfully honor and admire the friendship that Peter had with Black Hawk and the Timpanogos Indians during and following the War. It was grandpa's book that ignited my interest in the War, and the need for me to know what his experience was like living among the Indian peoples. That led me on a life changing journey, and like my great-grandfather, I too lived with the Timpanogos Tribe, learning firsthand of their life-ways and the tragic consequences of the war.
Sixty years have passed and the images are still vivid in my mind, the glass case, the dry decayed remains of a man in the case, father whispering to me "that's Chief Black Hawk". It was a strange and eerie feeling for an eleven-year-old. It was the first time ever I had seen a decomposed human corpse, And that this display was in a small relic hall on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City didn't have any significance to me at the time. That was the first time I learned about Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk. I also remember father telling me when he first saw Black Hawk's remains, the Chief was on display in the window of a hardware store in Spanish Fork, that was after members of the Mormon Church had robbed his grave in 1919. Father was about the same age as me then, eleven or so.
Drawn in by curiosity I began researching the history of the war on my own in 1990. My extraordinary journey into the indigenous world began in Washington DC at the Grand Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. It followed that the past decade would be a time of great honor and privilege for me to experience. I'm grateful to the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe, Shoshone, Lakota, Makaw, Siletz, Choctaw, Apache, Maya, Washoe, Paiute, Goshute, Pahvant, Colorado Utes, Hopi, Pueblo, and Dine' Navajo, and many more for sharing with me their version and interpretation of Christendom's arrival in the
Americas. Don't think this to be a small matter reader. "No one has ever asked us," was their reply when I inquired "why have you never told your side of the story?" And I will bear witness to the fact that Native Indian peoples of Utah many live in absolute fear of Mormon vengeance to this day should they tell their side of the story. Whether their perception is true or not it is a testament to the extreme trauma Utah's Native Indian peoples have experienced that needs to be acknowledged and remembered regardless of what happened. -Phillip B Gottfredson is a Recipient of Utah's Indigenous-Day Award
In my quest to learn the truth regarding the war, I devoted all my time over the past decade and half researching. I soon grew wary of Mormon scholars and writers who published a plethora of one-sided accounts for over a century and half. I became suspicious of what they wrote of the Indians which is often scant, brief and disingenuous. They did not ask or care what the Indians they studied had to say about their work, nor did they ask how they would analyze, interpret, or if they had their own version of the particular story they were writing about. I found that Tribal leaders have invited historians to discuss their version of the story to no avail. Accounts filled with omissions, ambiguities and half-truths have become standard. "Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth" and Utah's history is well-provided with inaccuracies. Moreover, the lack of transparency regarding the thousands of Indian lives that were lost in the Black Hawk War demonstrates contempt for true Indian history which has been Utah's record over the past century and half.
It became apparent to me, that if I was going to find the Indians side of the story I had to look in places no one else has looked. I would have to go directly to the living descendents of Black Hawk to find the answers I was looking for. I spent years interviewing those who's ancestors were in the war. I also visited every town throughout southern Utah where the conflicts occurred digging into the histories found there, finding missing bits and pieces that are not to be found in mainstream-history. I visited virtually every site where battles took place and stood in reverence on sacred ground once soaked with the blood of Native peoples, who's only crime was that they were Indian. And other times I was accompanied by Native people to those sites and humbly listened to them tell the stories of their ancestors as tears rolled down our cheeks. And as I became immersed in the Indian culture a very different story emerged. An inglorious story, replete with extreme and shameful cruelty telling of man's inhumanity to man.
It should be noted that Tribal identity is absolutely crucial in our understanding of the Black Hawk War in Utah, yet it remains the least understood topic causing inaccuracies in our histories leading to baseless conclusions and false assumptions. Historians mistakenly identify the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Tribe as being Ute. This is a common mistake most all historian's have made. The Utes, during the time of the Black Hawk War occupied their ancestral land in Colorado, and it was not until the Removal Act of 1881, following the Meeker Massacre, eleven years after the Black Hawk War ended, when the Colorado Utes were forced on to the Uinta Valley Reservation in Utah that had been set aside by President Abraham Lincoln for the "Indians of Utah," namely the Timpanogos, on October 3, 1861...more
The Timpanogos Tribe was under the leadership of seven brothers namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arropeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and eventually Black Hawk who was the son of Sanpitch. These seven legendary leaders were sons of Moonch, who was the son of Turunianchi, and were referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every Eutah clan and village along the Wasatch. (See Details of the Black Hawk War)
Timpanogos leader Wakara told interpreter M. S. Martenas In 1853 "He (Wakara) 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 - sent to me by Will Bagley
We begin with the winter of 1864-65, when "a small band of Indians was camped near Gunnison, Sanpete County (Utah). It is said that they contracted Smallpox, and that many died. The Indians seemed to think that the white people were to blame in some way for this and were threatening to kill the whites and steal their horses and cattle in an attempt to get them to leave. Arrangements were consequently made for a meeting between the Indians and the whites at Manti on the 9th of April, 1865, to talk over matters.
A number of prominent Timpanogos came to Manti. They met at Jerome Kempton's place (about four blocks south of town), and it appeared that an understanding would be arrived at, but a young Chief (Yene-wood) also known as Jake Arropeen (Wakara's brother) could not be pacified.
Peter Gottfredson, my great-grandfather wrote that "John Lowry, believed drunk at the time, told the Chief to keep quiet, when someone yelled, ‘look out he's getting his arrows!’ Lowry jerked the Chief (by his hair) off of his horse, and was about to abuse him, when some men stepped in and broke them up." Lowry stated, "I told him a time or two to stop and to permit me to finish my talk. Just then someone called out ‘lookout, he is getting his arrows!’ I rode up to him and turned him off his horse, and pulled him to the ground. The bystanders interfered and we separated. In those early days it was at times imperative that harsh measures should be used... We had to do these things, or be run over by them. It was a question of supremacy between the white man and the Indian."-Indian Depredations in Utah - Peter Gottfredson
John Lowry made it clear that it was "a matter of supremacy" and that it was the whiteman who had the right to run over the Indian. Not surprising he would see it that way when 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. Following the incident at Manti, Timpanogos leader Arropeen, being dishonored before his
people, resigned his leadership to his brother Chief Tabby, who saw it as the final blow after some 21 years of Mormon depredations. and so it followed the Timpanogos Tribe rallied under the new
leadership of Tabby's nephew Black Hawk, whom Tabby had asked to lead as his War-Chief, and declared war on the Mormons. Black Hawk's champaign of vengeance lasted just 15 months. This
marked the beginning of what the whites later dubbed "The Black Hawk War."
Moreover, the Timpanogos, as with all Tribes at the time, did not believe in "Satan" or "God" in the Christian sense, and are being judged and mocked by Christian values and beliefs. They were under extreme duress by a people who by this time had made it clear to the Native peoples they had two choices, surrender to the Mormons their land or... die. The Timpanogos were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. They were deeply connected to the beauty that surrounded them, majestic mountains, lakes and streams. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms and uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the animals and all living things. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from a greater power. They were neither "savage" nor "heathens" rather a prosperous, and deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos the war was never about possessions, the land was their mother, nourishing all her children, it belonged to everyone. It was about honor, honoring the sacred. To this I further say if you must judge them, do so by their own standards.
The Mormon church
believed they had a divine obligation to convert Utah's American
Indians to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing
the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people" and would be forgiven of the sins of
their forefathers. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) According
to church doctrine, the nature of the dark skin was a curse, the
cause was the Lord, the reason was because the Lamanites (Indians) "had
hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was
to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
Meanwhile, during the 1850-60's when the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon
culture, the Mormons’ response was to 'get rid' of them. What choice were the Timpanogos given when confronted with a Book of Mormon in one hand, and a gun in the other? (See Doctrine of Discovery)
"Mormons used slavery as a tool of redemption." According to Historian Andrés Reséndez' author of The Other Slavery, "Brigham said buy up the up the laminate children, educate them, and teach them the gospel so that many generations would not pass they should become a white and delightsome people. Buy them up to save their souls."
The underlying cause of the Christian mind-set begins before Columbus arrived in the Americas, Christian Monarchs decreed that anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible, or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, were deemed "heathens," "infidels" and "savages". Christians were then entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them. Indeed America was founded upon Christian principals; there was no separation of church and state by those who drew their power from Old Testament-inspired Manifest Destiny, saying: "This is the land promised by the Eternal Father to the Faithful, since we are commanded by God in the Holy Scriptures to take it from them, being idolaters, by reason of their idolatry and sin, to put them all to the knife, leaving no living thing save maidens and children, their cities robbed and sacked, their walls and houses leveled to the earth." - Steven T. Newcomb Indigenous Law Institute and author of "Pagans in the Promised Land."
Let's also understand when Mormon settlers arrived in 1847, Utah territory bordered the northern section of Mexico, and the Timpanogos Tribe were the first indigenous peoples Brigham Young and his followers encountered. Their population was at least 70,000 or more. They were the ruling Tribe that occupied the entire territory comprised of some 250,000 square miles. The 'Eutahs' as they were called by early trappers, were all one people before the Mormons came, but as Mormon's began killing them - terrified they scattered in every direction seeking protection. "In the Hildago Treaty of 1848 the United States agreed to recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages." Settlers ignored the treaty with impunity. (See The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo)
The Black Hawk War was not a single event, nor did a single event ignite the war as some would have us believe. Historian Will Bagley had this to share with me, "...it's very difficult to deal with what is truly a series of small atrocities. A border war. A war between neighbors and people who'd lived with each other and knew each other very well. A war between young men who'd grown up with a lot of Indian friends or a lot of Mormon friends, and that's what makes this history so painful that's why the Black Hawk war is so difficult for both Indians and Mormons to remember."
I documented over 150 bloody confrontations with Mormon settlers led by Brigham Young. The first of six massacres of the Timpanogos commenced at Battle Creek in 1849, and the bloodshed continued on into the year 1872. While historians focus on the years 1865-68 when Sanpitch's son Black Hawk launched his 15 month counteroffensive as being the time of the war. And some historians try to make the case that the 22 years leading up to the war were "complex," a knowing member of the Timpanogos Tribe asked the question, "What choice were we given? To walk knee deep in the blood of our people, or give up our sacred land and culture and accept whiteman's ways... it was a matter of honor and survival, why is that so complicated to understand?"
"We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom. And what is so amazing about this whole story is that we failed. We failed after hundreds of years of trying to take everything from American Indians. We failed to do that. They're still here and there's survival; that great saga of survival is one of the great stories of all mankind." - Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah
"Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals."
Mormon leader Brigham Young famously said "It's CHEAPER to feed them than to fight them." One can only imagine the cost of feeding some 70,000 people. He also told the Denver Rocky Mountain News paper "you can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder." He repeatedly admonished his followers to "Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals." (See Brigham Young Discourses)
How much Brigham Young spent on 'flour' for Indians is anyone's guess, but the costs of doing war is clearly spelled out in a 250 page document I found in Mt. Pleasant titled "Memorial of the Legislative Assembly of Utah" which was prepared by the Legislature of
Utah in 1873 and sent to the United States Congress. It is a bill which Congress awarded reimbursement of one and a half million dollars for expenses incurred by
Brigham Young's private militia, the Nauvoo Legion, for removal of the
Indian population in Utah territory between the years 1865 and 1873. Putting that into perspective, a million and half dollars in 1873 would be somewhere around $32 million today.
In 1848, 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. 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. According to the Timpanogos I was told that An-kar-tewets would not have made any compromise, it is a great honor to be a warrior, a warrior would not put the Tribe at risk by allowing Dimmick and the Higbee party to pass. He was simply was out numbered.
"It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River, and that, too, in spite of the invitation previously extended to the colonists by the chiefs, Sowiette and Walker, to settle among their tribes and teach them how to become civilized. 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
Later, Winter of 1849, 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.
So it followed that war with the Mormons 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.
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. (Source: 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. Moreover, 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, highly unlikely since most took shelter and then 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)
Work began immediately after and Fort Utah was built along side of the Timpanogos River (Provo River). Moreover, smallpox had begun to spread epidemically among the
Natives, and the saints had succeeded in driving most of the Timpanogos
from the valley into the nearby mountains. On a cold winter day
came to the fort asking for medicine for his people who were sick
from the disease. A soldier took the Chief by the nap of his neck
and threw him out of the fort.
The Murder of Old Bishop
On a warm spring day three men were riding along the Provo River near Fort Utah on
their horses when they came upon a "friendly Indian" the whites
called Old Bishop. The whites called him by this name because his
mannerisms reminded them of a white man by the name of Bishop
Whitney. The three men, Rufus Stoddard, Richard Ivie, and Gerome
Zabrisky began to heckle the man, and accused him of stealing the
shirt he was wearing from off a cloths line. Old Bishop denied having stolen the shirt from
anyone, saying he had made a fair trade for it.
Ivie pulled his gun on Old Bishop and told him to take it off. The
old Indian man stood his ground and refused. Ivie murdered the Indian in cold blood.
Concerned that what they had done would spark retribution from the
Indians, the men then gutted the old man. They then filled his body
cavity with rocks and threw him in the Provo River. Quoting from
History of Utah Stake, James Goff, one of the colonists, stated
later, "The men who killed the Indian ripped his bowls open and
filled them with stones preparatory to sinking the body."
Satisfied, the men returned to the fort and boasted of having taken
Old Bishop's life. Thinking they had committed the perfect murder they
relaxed and fell back into their routines. So much for the alleged
promises made by Dimmick Huntington and Higbee brothers to An-kar-tewets.
The Man Called "Black Hawk"