The life of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk had come full circle when on September 26, 1870, his loving kin honorably laid him to rest on a hillside overlooking Spring Lake, the place of his birth. Black Hawk crossed over to the spirit world into the arms of his ancestors within days after arriving at Spring Lake above Payson. From the age of thirteen, when at Battle Creek, he witnessed the sensless murder of two of his kin. He and 14 of his relatives were taken captive. A year later at Fort Utah he witnessed the traumatizing decapitation of 70 of his people. And the time when he was mortally wounded at Gravely Ford while attempting to save the life of his fellow warrior White Horse. He had fought the good fight, and he passed out of this world in peace.
But, his journey was not yet over. Just 49 years following his burial, in 1919 his grave was robbed, and the bones of Chief Black Hawk were put on display in the window of a hardware store.
On July 1, 1915, William Probert wrote a letter to my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson the following:
Mr. Peter Gottfredson, Springville, Utah
There are probably a dozen men in Utah who claim the honor of killing Black Hawk, none of which is true.
It is true that Black Hawk was severely wounded in the fight at Gravelly Ford on the Sevier River, near what is now called Vermillion; but he lived three of four years after receiving the wound; and before his death Black Hawk obtained permission from the military authorities of the Territory to visit all the places where he and his tribe had caused trouble or raided. And accompanied by a few (seven or eight) warriors, Black Hawk visited every town and village from Cedar City on the south to Payson on the north and made peace with the people. On his mission of peace he was provided with an escort, usually from two to six citizens, from town to town. Ansel P. Harmon and myself acted as such escort from Holden to Scipio, Millard County.
(Signed) William Probert.
Manti, Utah, Feb. 12,1915.
Mormon leaders accomplished colonization of land belonging to the Timpanogos without treaty, title, deed, or compensation; they stole it. And while the Mormons celebrated the completion of the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1867, the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, and the Salt Lake Temple now in its 17th year of construction; in 1870, Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk was slowly making his last journey home. It likely took him 12 or more days by horseback to ride from Cedar City to Spring Lake, Utah. The gunshot Probert spoke of was to the stomach, which never healed. Black Hawk was in severe pain, gaunt and hollow-eyed, and knew he would soon die.
We have to ask the question, why? Why would anyone in such a dire condition choose to travel 180 miles on horseback? The reason is Black Hawk wanted to return to his place of birth. But there's more to it. The most vital clue is that he visited "every town and village...and made peace with the people," which speaks volumes about the many endearing qualities of Chief Black Hawk. He apologized for the pain and suffering he caused and pleaded to end the bloodshed. Mormon settlers didn't do this, so it took an extraordinary man and leader to do such a thing.
Black Hawk was born into a royal bloodline of Shoshone-Timpanogos leaders circa 1838. He was the son of Chief Sanpitch(Tenaciono) and mother Tanar-oh-which, who gave birth to several children. Sanpitch was a son of Chief Moonch. Sanpitch was the eldest of seven siblings; all were Shoshoni-Timpanogos leaders Wakara, Sowiette, Arapeen, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), Tintic, Kanosh, and Grospean.
In the year 1865, at the height of the Black Hawk War, Black Hawk would become his Tribes War Chief when his uncle Tabby was the Nations principal Chief. The following year Black Hawk recieved heart breaking word that his father Sanpitch had been murdered at Birch Creek near the Mormon settlement Moroni, Utah.
Just 49 years following Black Hawk's burial, on September 20, 1919, members of the Mormon church robbed Black Hawk's grave. The following article appeared on the front page of the Deseret News with the headline, "Bones of Black Hawk Now on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum." The reporter explains that the remains of Black Hawk had been on public display for amusement in the window of a hardware store in downtown Spanish Fork, Utah. Then Benjamin Guadard, the man in charge of the L.D.S. Museum, acquired the remains for public display on the recently completed Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.
In Phillip B Gottfredson's book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace, there are several affidavits in the news article. One example is Ben Bullock's account:
Quote: In 1911 I became interested in what is known as the “Syndicate mine,” located on Santiquin mountain, a little southeast of Spring Lake Villa. Several of the old settlers of Spring Lake Villa knew the old “Black Hawk” has been on the mountain near where we was working this property. At my leisure moments I would hunt for the spot where “Black Hawk” was buried and one day one of the miners, William E. Croft reported what he supposed to be “Black Hawk’s” grave. This started an investigation and Mr. Croft along with Lars L. Olsen and myself uncovered the remains of “Black Hawk,” which were buried in a large quartzite slide. Three feet of rock were taken from the skeleton, and upon uncovering it, we found the remains in a sitting posture. The first article we saw was a china pipe, which, was laying upon the top of his head. Then we discovered the saddle, the remains of the skeleton, portion’s of his horses bridle that had been buried with him; sleigh bells, ax, bucket, beads, part of an old soldier coat with the brass buttons still intact. All of these were removed very carefully, and for safety deposited them with the Spanish Fork Co-op where they were exhibited for several days.
Subsequently at the suggestion of Commander J. M. Westwood I secured these remains and conveyed them to the L.D.S. Church Museum on temple block, suggesting that they should be placed on exhibition there and preserved. – Ben H. Bullock.
"My father, Merrill E. Gottfredson, remembered seeing his remains when they were on display in the hardware store window when he was just a boy. For decades, remains of Black Hawk, and those of an Indian woman and a child, were also on display in the church museum for the public to see as mere curiosity. My father took me there at the age of twelve, and I will never forget seeing Black Hawk's remains on display in a glass case," Phillip Gottfredson wrote.
"They say there are no known photos of Black Hawk, there's one and it appeared on the front page of the Deseret News Paper. Just 49 years had passed since Black Hawk had been laid to rest, when members of the LDS Church looted his grave. Accompanying the article is a photo of William E. Croff standing in the open grave, grinning ear to ear, while holding in his hands the skull of Black Hawk," said Phillip Gottfredson.
Gottfredson describes in his book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace how the living descendants of Black Hawk were outraged, but their angry voices fell on deaf ears. Mormon Church leaders made no apologies and expressed no conscience or remorse. Despite a federal law passed in 1906 called the Graves Protection Act, descendents of Black Hawk had no real legal recourse until the enactment of the National American Graves Protection Reparation Act, or NAGPRA, passed in 1994.
It took an act of Congress, the help of National Forest Service archeologist Charmain Thompson, and the humanitarian efforts of a boy scout Shane Armstrong to find and rebury the remains of Chief Black Hawk at Spring Lake. In a private conversation with Phillip, Shane, and his mother, Shane explained, "I felt it in my heart I should find Black Hawk's remains," he said. Inspired at the age of 14, Shane, on his own, makes contact with Thompson. He explained the frustration of finding Chief Black Hawk's remains. "no one knew where they were," said Shane Armstrong. Gottfredson details how after a month of searching they located the lost remains of the Chief in a basement storage room in a cardboard box.
On November 24, 2008, the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs awarded Shane Armstrong the prestigious Indigenous Day Award for his humanity and compassion.
Sixty-seven years after Mormon church members robbed his grave, Chief Black Hawk's mortal remains were returned to the place of his birth and reburied on May 2, 1996, at Spring Lake. It raises the question, why? Why did the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its leaders make a mockery of the teachings of Jesus by never showing compassion or respect for the dead or the living descendants of Chief Black Hawk? Why have they never expressed any regret or asked for forgiveness? It's logically untenable for "Latter-Day Saints" to judge indigenous people as "savages and heathens." Brigham and his followers' lust for dominion and riches may have won the war, but it cost them dearly. "Many of our ancestors lost their humanity leaving behind a legacy of moral ambiguity contradicting their most fundamental religious beliefs," said Phillip. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" -Mark 8:36
Marva Loy Egget of Spring Lake, Utah played a major role in burial arrangements, while the coffin, and headstone were donated by citizens of Spring Lake, many whose ancestors fought against Black Hawk during the war. Ironically the grave site is on property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, according to a NAGPRA official I spoke with the LDS Church has no jurisdiction over the actual grave or Black Hawk's remains whatsoever.
It should also be noted that there is no record of the Timpanogos tearing up white man's graves. One can only imagine what would happen if Brigham Young's mortal remains were put on public display in a window of a hardware store for amusement.