The Black Hawk War;

Utah's Native American Tragedy

Phillip B Gottfredson Black Hawk War Historian

By Phillip B Gottfredson - Black Hawk War Historian

Great-grandson of Peter Gottfredson Black Hawk War Veteran


"I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the tree of life and the whole world will be one again." ~ Crazy Horse


Thank you for visiting The Black Hawk War: Utah's Native American Tragedy, the first website to acknowledge the forgotten history of the Snake Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe: their recollections of Utah's tradgic Black Hawk War; as told by tribal members to phillip B Gottfredson. On the internet since 2002 reporting 23 years of Utah's Native peoples hardship which began at Battle Creek and Fort Utah in the year 1849 and ending in 1872, making it the bloodiest Indian war ever recorded in American history.

This page is Phillip B Gottfredson's introduction to some 82 pages of history included in this website on the Black Hawk War. Phillip begins with some startling facts regarding the Mormon's war with the Timpanogos Nation, and the problem Utah has with their providential view in their dealings with Native Americans. Gottfredson then documents the origin of the Timpanogos Nation from whom Mount Timpanogos gets its name. He then discusses facts regarding the Colorado Ute Tribes being sent to Utah as "prisoners of war" after the Black Hawk War ended. "Historians mistakenly identify the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as being Ute," Mr. Gottfredson points to the facts, "The Ute and Timpanogos are two distinctly different Tribes in origin, language and customs."

If you prefer to skip this informative introduction and go directly to the written histories of the War, please click on the following link: Black Hawk War Timeline page.


Introduction to the Mormon's Black Hawk War by Phillip B Gottfredson

"Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter"

The Timpanogos Indians are Native inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1765, and Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. They describe having come in contact with Native Americans "the bearded ones" who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," whose leader was Turunianchi. Turunianchi had a son named Moonch. Moonch was the father of Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen, known as the "Royal Bloodline." The seven brothers were the uncles of Antonga (Black Hawk) who was the son of Sanpitch. Dominguez named Mount Timpanogos, Timpanogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley) in honor of the Timpanogostzis. Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 members living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah.

Black Hawk Memorial Mary Meyer Timpanogos Nation

Black Hawk Memorial Spring Lake

Mary Meyer Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation

Descendent of Timpanogos Chief Arapeen Black Hawk's Uncle

Trouble for the Timpanogos began July 24, 1847 when Brigham Young along with a party of 143 Mormons, emerged from the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon on a hill overlooking Salt Lake valley of the Wasatch Front, thus concluding a thousand mile journey taking 111 days by horseback and covered wagons. Brigham seeing the valley said, “Its enough, this is the right place, drive on.” In the following years to come, Mormons would continue to pour in on the land of the Timpanogos at the rate of 3000 a month, setting the stage for a major conflict with the Timpanogos Nation.

It was the Timpanogos Nation that LDS Church leader Brigham Young and his followers first encountered in 1847 and not the Colorado Utes as Utah historians would have us believe. The Colorado Ute Nation wasn't in Utah until 1881.

The Mormon's Black Hawk War was not a single incident. Researching the Black Hawk War for over 15 years, I was first to publish there being over 150 bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Nation and the Mormons during the years of 1849 - 1872. And 41 of those confrontations occurred before the year 1865, the date scholars claim the War began, their claim is inaccurate.

Historians say the years leading up to the war were "complex circumstances," which I find misleading. A knowing member of the Timpanogos Tribe put it succinctly when I asked if causes of the war were complex, "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 what's right... our honor... survival... why is that so complicated to understand?"

Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk didn't start the war as many claim he did. His brother Chief Walkara was in leadership and had been long before the Mormons arrived. In 1849 Brigham Young falsely accuses a small group of 'Indians' of stealing his horses which led to the massacre of a peaceful group of unarmmed Timpanogos Indians at Pleasant Grove, known as the Battle Creek Massacre. Shortly after a second massacre occurs at Fort Utah, when the severed heads of 50 Tribal leaders and members are hung from eves of buildings and stacked in boxes. That alone was enough to start a war. But Walkara was reluctant to do so until 1853.

Following his murder in 1855, his brother Chief Arapeen takes Walkara's place. Black Hawk who at the tender age of 13 was severally traumatised being present at both massacres of his kin. Add the loss of his uncle Walkara, and a series of murders leading up to the Bear River Massacre where some 400 of Black Hawk's blood relations are brutally slaughtered in 1863. Black Hawk wasn't in leadership until late 1865, and then for only 14 months under the leadership of his uncle Chief Tabby.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857 cannot be ignored as having no impact on the Native American population in Utah. Mormons masquerading as Indians savagely slaughter 150 whites and blame the bloody affair on the Native peoples. In view of what has already happened to Utah's Native population, this was yet another shock wave that sent the Timpanogos running in every direction.

Clearly Brigham Young started the war, and it was Black Hawk who ended the war through peaceful means as you shall see. Account after account shows that Black Hawk and his entire family of legendary leaders were against bloodshed from the beginning.

One only needs to look at my timeline of the War to see that 1865 was the year the war was at its highest point following 16 years of Mormon's ruthless cruelty resulting in thousands of Indian deaths, and continued on 7 years after 1865.

Add that notorious Mormon leader Brigham Young spent a staggering 1.5 million dollars in Church funds (equivalent to $28 million today) to "get rid of the Indians" and bills Congress for reimbursement. No wonder Brigham famously said "It's cheaper to feed them, than to fight them." (See: and download 227 page document PDF file)

Timpanogos Chief Walkara Speaks

It's rare that we get to hear the Native peoples version of the story, and this is just one of many I will be shareing with you. I want to thank Historian Will Bagley for giving me this document:

 Chief Wakara Timpanogos NationTimpanogos Chief Walkara told interpreter Martenas in 1853, "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, 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. He said he wished to keep the valley of the San Pete, and desired to leave the valley of Salt Lake, as he could not live in peace with the whites—but that the Whites had taken possession of this valley also—and the Indians were forced to leave their homes, or submit to the constant abuse of the whites. He said the Gosoke who formerly lived in the Salt Lake valley had been killed and driven away, and that now they wished to drive him and his band away also—he said he had always wished to be friendly with the whites—but they seemed never to be satisfied—the Indians had moved time after time, and yet they could have no peace—that his heart was sick—that his heart felt very bad. He desired me very earnestly to communicate the situation of the Indians in this neighborhood to the Great Father, and ask his protection and friendship—that whatever the great father wished he would do. He said he has always been opposed to the whites settling on his lands, but the whites were strong and he was weak, and he could not help it—that if his great father did not do something to relieve them, he could not tell what they would do." (See: Chief Walker's full statement.)

Professor Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah sums it up succinctly: "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."

"We had to do these things, or be run over by them," wrote John Lowry a Black Hawk War veteran. "It was a matter of supremacy between the whiteman and the Indian."

The consequence of the war resulted in a staggering 70,000 Indian deaths from violence, starvation, and disease over a 23 year period. A 90% decrease in Utah's Native population was noted by Brigham Young, and recorded in Indian agency reports, and government census records.

Supreme domination was the staff to which the banner of Christianity was tied, that brought total destruction to a vibrant and thriving Native civilization. And is today celebrated without conscience or regret as... 'The Days of '47 celebration.'

Black Hawk deserves a lot of praise for his two year "mission of peace." His last days on earth, deathly ill from a gunshot wound recieved a year earlier at Gravely Ford that never healed, he rode by horse a hundred and eighty miles from Cedar City to Payson visiting every Mormon village along the way. Black Hawk apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused and pleaded for an end to the bloodshed. You don't see Mormon's apologizing for anything. So it took a greater man to do such a thing. And that's what's left out of Utah's history. (See: Black Hawk's Mission of Peace)

Chief Walkara, Black Hawk's uncle, who helped Brigham and his followers survive the first winter of '47 with food and provisions. Or Walkara's brothers Chiefs Tabby, Sanpitch, Sowette, Arapeen, Grospean, Ammon, Kanosh and others who made every effort to avoid blooshed. Instead praises are lavished on cricket eating segals. But it gets written differently, that they were loathsome savages and deserved to die, because they were different, they were Indians.

According to church doctrine (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) the nature of their dark skin was a curse, the cause was the Lord, the reason was because the Lamanites (Native Americans) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.

Many mendacious stories are told and retold, such as children being buried alive with Timpanogos Chief Wakara when there is no credible evidence to support such an atrocious claim, when living descendants of Wakara vigorously dispute this story. Saying it is a fabrication of the truth and grossly contradicts the traditional core values of the Timpanogos Nation. Its whiteman who write these stories, never asking the Native People their opinion. Which brings me to making this point...

What began as a hobby in 1989 researching the Black Hawk War, it wasn't long until I was investing all my time and resources to the project. I struggled to make sense of the victors Christian view of history, and many books I read over and over again numerous times. The LDS Church has a monopoly on Utah's history. I would dare say damn-near all of it has been written by Mormon authors. It followed that in 2003 I turned to the Native peoples of Utah for answers. And what I found is that celebrated scholars and award-winning authors who write about the Black Hawk War never asked or cared what the Native Americans they study have to say about their work. Nor did they asked how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have their own version of the particular story they are writing about. Consequently, virtually every account and documentaries about Utah's indigenous peoples are biased and based on assumptions, replete with half truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. This according to the OAH ( Organization of American Historians) is a "violation of the principal of truth on which the historical profession is based." The time has come when Native Americans need to tell their stories, and demand they are told accurately. (See: Truth in Education)

In my studies of the Black Hawk War, I wanted to be told that the people committing the atrocities on Utah's Native peoples were wretched people, loathsome people. People who lived out on the fringes of society. People who had gone astray of any moral conscience or human decency. But, they were people who after committing senseless murders would go home after and tend to their farms, and sing hymns in church the next day. They were the bishops, councilors, business men, and exemplary folks in their communities.

Forgotten are the tens of thousands of Native American men, women, and innocent children who bled to death on the battlefields of Bear River, Mt. Pleasant, Provo, Manti, or on the shores of Utah Lake. Or those who starved to death for want of food, run off their hunting grounds. Or those who died from measles and smallpox, or poisoned to death their sources of water contaminated with arsenic. Or those brutally murdered. 'Old Bishop', a beloved old Indian, was eviscerated, his stomach cavity filled with rocks and thrown in the river, accused of stealing a shirt off a clothes line.

After the war we see ongoing cultural genocide as relentless attempts made to assimilate Native Americans into whiteman's culture and take away their reservations. The Dawes Allotment act, Reorganization Act, the Termination Act, the Self Determination Act, and the Religious Freedom Act. Then the boarding house schools, or the LDS Church Indian placement program are few of many examples of cultural genocide as native children are taken away, torn from the arms their families and relatives, their languages and traditions stripped away, to be assimilated, but not intergrated, into the white mans world. Inspired by the racist slogan of Manifest Destiny "Save the man, kill the Indian." If those children were among the fortunate, who survived after years and years of unimaginable brutality in all its many forms, living in complete isolation from their moms and dads, cousins, uncles, and grandparents, they returned home where they were now strangers among their own people. One elderly Navajo woman showed me the scars in her mouth she said happened when they washed her tender mouth out with lye soap for speaking her Native language.

We have much to learn from the Native Americans who have occupied Utah's landscape since time and memorial, if only we would listen. Some Native American concepts and values differ greatly from mainstream culture. The landscapes of Utah are as sacred today as when the Great Spirit created them. Burial sites, massacre sites, battle fields such as Battle Creek, Bear River, or Circleville where the cries of the wounded and dieing can still be heard following the horrors that took place there. And for native peoples of Utah the Timpanogos, Paiute, and Goshute, respect for the dead is as important as respect for the elderly and reverence for life.

Utah's Timpanogos were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. They were deeply connected and stood in awe of the beauty that surrounded them, the majestic Wasatch mountains, Utah lake, Timpanogos Mountain, and Provo River. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms for food or medicinal uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the animals elk, deer, buffalo, and all living things. Even the rocks were sacred to them. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from a greater power. They were a deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos peoples the war was never about riches or possessions, the land is their home, their mother, nourishing all her children, it is sacred, and being sacred belonged to everyone. They fought to protect the sacred, and their honor as a peaceful people on a land they believed belonged to them for eternity.

The Snake Shoshone Timpanogos Nation

In 2015 I was contacted by a Tribe in Utah no one has ever talked about... the Timpanogos, who have lived in Utah long before President Lincoln created the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1861, a Tribe that has been completely ignored, marginalized and believed by many to be nonexistent. Yet Utahan's all know Mount Timanogos, and countless entities that bear the Tribe's name throughout the state. It doesn't matter the Timpanogos are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they are the original inhabitants of this land called Utah, and their aboriginal rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty rights remain intact as being the supreme law of the land.

Chief Executive Mary Meyer of the Snake Shoshone Timpanogos Nation, who is a direct descendant of Chief Arapeen (aka Arrapeen), generously provided me with definitive proof that the Timpanogos are the living descendants of the 'Royal Bloodline' of Chiefs Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and Antongua 'Black Hawk' who was the son of Sanpitch, and other legendary leaders in the Black Hawk War! Their lineage documented by birth and marriage records, death certificates, Indian Agency records, treaties, and boast of having filed some 13000 pages of historic records with the Department of the Interior going back to 1765. Information you won't find in mainstream Mormon accounts. I am genuinely humbled by Mary's help, one of the greatest honors in my life to work with Mary Meyer and the Timapanogos Nation.

Phillip B Gottfredson with June - Timpanogos Nation

Phillip B Gottfredson with June, Mary Meyers mother - Timpanogos Nation

The Timpanogos are a band of the Snake-Shoshoni and are distinctly different from the Utes of Utah and Colorado in language, customs, and origin. The Snake are prominent in early Oregon history and are seen to have occupied a vast area of not only Oregon, but Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Kansas. Of all the Shoshoni bands, the Snake were most respected and feared by early trappers.

Spanish Explorers Dominguez and Escalante 1776

The earliest record I have found, so far, that refers to the Timpanogos in Utah begins with the Spanish explorer Juan Rivera in 1765. Rivera preceded explorers Dominguez and Escalante's expedition into Utah, and describes having come in contact with Native Americans "the bearded ones" who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," an Aztecan Shoshonian word meaning People of the Rock water carriers (referring to rock salt), whose leader was Turunianchi.

Turunianchi had a son named Moonch. Moonch was the father of Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen, who occupied a land that is now known as Utah. Dominguez named Mount Timpanogos, Timpanogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley) in honor of the Timpanogostzis. (No mention of there being any Utes)

Then came the year of 1824, when a French explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with a Snake-Shoshone Nation (Timpanogos) living along the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake. Provo City derives it's name from this early explorer Provost. (No mention of there being any Utes)

Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 members who live on the Uintah Valley Reservation in the north-east section of Utah near the city of Roosevelt.

Honored that my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857, and lived among the Timpanogos and was invited to the camp of Chief Antongua Black Hawk on numerous occasions. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah published in 1919, that the Timpanogos Nation ruled the entire territory of the Wasatch in Utah. (Utes mentioned only three times)

The Colorado Utes

What Utah historians mistakenly assert about the war is that the Mormon's Black Hawk War was with the Ute Tribe - which is simply incorrect. All seven bands of the Confederated Utes were in Colorado during the time of the Black Hawk War which was between the years 1849 and 1872. "But, Mr. Gottfredson, all the histories say it was the Utes." Correct! Histories written during the 1900's all say so, and that's my point. The Confederated Ute Tribes were not in Utah until 1881. That said, its well known that Black Hawk ask for solidarity and support from surrounding Tribes such as the Colorado Utes, Navajo, Apache, Comanche to name a few, all then agreed to push back on the Mormons under the leadership of Chief Black Hawk. Further proving the Timpanogos was the ruling Nation of the entire Wasatch front at the time. Utah's history of the Black Hawk War needs to be cleaned up and corrected.

The Northern Ute Nation:

In the beginning I spent a lot time with the Northern Utes who are a federally recognized Tribe. My experience with the Northern Utes was interesting and I learned a great deal and made good friends, and not to be disrespectful... they would often contradict themselves when it came to their history. Not surprising though, I was warned by prominent and respected historians early on "that their history has been deliberately kept from them" which proved to be true for the most part. However, most Northern Utes I spoke with were correct to say they came to Utah from Colorado. They say the word 'Ute' is not in their language and prefer to call themselves Nuche'. The word "UTE" is a whiteman's name, which doesn't appear in history accounts until the 1900's when the histories were written. Just as the "FREMONTS" is whiteman's name for a Tribe that never existed. Then when asked the Ute people who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs of the Black Hawk War, Walker, Sanpitch, Tabby... puzzled they didn't know. But they knew they were not Ute leaders. Instead they correctly reffered to Ouray and Colorow as being their Chiefs.

The "NORTHERN UTE TRIBE" wasn't created until 1937, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation". The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is only a constitutional name of the Ute Tribe. The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is a constituional name NOT A RESERVATION and NEVER WAS A RESERVATION. The reason I emphasize this fact is that today we see the media and others using the constitutional name of the Ute Nation when referring to the Uintah Valley Reservation adding even more confusion, making my point how inaccurate and confusing Utah's history has become. The Northern Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as does the Timpanogos Nation.

FACT: Following the 1878 Meeker Massacre in Colorado when the Utes killed an unprincipled Indian Agent Nathan Meeker, the United States Government declared "the Utes must go" and enacted the Ute Removal Act of 1880, and in 1881 four of the seven bands of the Colorado Utes were forced on to the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war", and are known today as the Northern Utes.

The Ute Mountain Ute Nation:

The Ute Mountain Utes, or Southern Utes as they are also called, are federally recognized and have their reservation in Ignacio, Colorado. The three bands of the Southern Utes were allowed to remain on their homeland of Colorado following the Meeker Massacre. I will also add they are among the more prosperous Indian Nations having benefitted from their oil and gas enterprises as do their cousins the Northern Ute. As a people they are well organized and have a clearer understanding of their history. And though the Northern and Southern Utes are blood relatives, they function as separate Tribes.

Colorado Ute Chiefs were Chief Ouray who died Aug 24, 1880, Chief Colorow died 1888, and Chief Ignacio died December 9, 1913.

Phillip B Gottfredson with Kenny Frost of the Ute Mountain Ute Nation

Phillip B Gottfredson with Kenny Frost - Ute Mountain Ute


Perhaps the writers of Utah's sanitized history their intentions were never meant for Native Americans of Utah to read, who know better their own history. Perhaps writers are too much in the habit of entertaining readers with flowery rhetoric and folklore, glossing over the savage and barbarian behavior of Bill Hickman or Dr. James Blake cutting off the heads of Indian corpses at Fort Utah, then selling them to make a few extra bucks. Or making heros of those who cut the throats of 26 innocent Paiutes at Circleville. Or William E. Croft looting Chief Black Hawk's grave and placing his remains on public display in the window of a hardware store, my father remembered so well, and at Temple Square for amusement. The image of seeing Black Hawk's remains on display at the age of 12 are still vivid in my mind. Or glorifying unprincipled leaders like John Scott, or James A. Allred, or Colonel George D. Grant. Or exonerating questionable heroics of soldiers in Brigham Young's illegal militia like John Lowry, Niels O. Anderson, Dimmick Huntington, or Brigham's body guard and serial killer Porter Rockwell. Or perhaps their intentions are to dehumanize Utah's native inhabitants. To justify the genocide of Utah's Native Americans and glorify man's inhumanity to man calling it the "Black Hawk War." Unrighteously placing all the blame on the Native peoples of Utah, who's only crime was they being Indian.

This kind of mendacity only alienates and divides people who are seeking truth regardless of what happened, and want to heal from the wounds of the past be they Native American or Mormon. Yes Mormon! Those whose ancestors carried out these atrocities are seeking answers too. I know, for I have spoken with many who have broken down in tears shamed by their ancestors cruelty.

In closing, I am reminded of what great-grandpa Pete wrote in his autobiography:

"I can look back and see the mistakes I have made, also the successes. In my minds eye I can see where I could have done better, but would I. We can look back and see where we could have done better, but would we. Environments have much to do with shaping our natures character and destiny. Had we at certain stage in life taken a different course it is impossible to know where it would ultimately have led to. So I say, it is no use to harbor regrets, but necessary to make the best of the future. Life is a stream leading to somewhere. I have often in my minds eye compared it with starting out on a highway with many roads leading off in different directions, each leading to a different place and in each place conditions differ, as do the people with whom we would associate. Which would affect our condition in life, physically, morally and intellectually, and who shall say which would have been the best road for us to have followed; and here we are, so I say, and advice; try to so live each day that there will be no regrets."

The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy



More Information ...

See: Origins of the Timpanogos and Colorado Ute Tribes.

Comments and questions are welcome on our Facebook page

See: Veterans of the Black Hawk War * Source Material

See: Phillip B Gottfredson Indigenous Day Award recipient

See: Peter Gottfredson's Autobiography

Visit: Timpanogos Nation * Ute Tribe * Ute Mountain Utes * Paiute * Goshute *



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