Timpanogos Chief Antonga Black Hawk

Corpses Beheaded At Fort Utah

by Phillip B Gottfredson author, Black Hawk's Mission of Peace

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Timpanogos Indian - Black Hawk Productions


A few days before the Battle Creek Massacre, Brigham Young sent a second party to Utah Valley. The Higbee brothers and Dimmick Huntington were made presidency over the soon-to-be Provo Branch of the LDS Church and led 30 saints to Provo River to erect Fort Utah. Apostle George A. Smith ordered the Mormon militia to "remove the Indian people from their land," saying "they have no rights to their land." It was a land-grab as the Mormons had no legal right to take possession of the Timpanogos traditional homeland, violating the Hidalgo Treaty, inherent sovereignty, and vested treaty rights.

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 were not going to make any settlement on their land. Allegedly they argued for some time 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 lengthy 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.

Council members of the Timpanogos Tribe today dispute this account, saying, "it would be implausible that a warrior such as An-kar-tewets would have made any compromise to accommodate Dimmick and his party. First of all, he would not have the authority to speak on behalf of the Timpanogos Nation. Or make decisions that would potentially put the entire Nation and its most precious resources at risk. They said it would be more in the character of An-kar-tewets to have firmly denied Dimmick and his party any access that they bullied their way into Timpanogos territory. That and "we don't swear to the sun," they added.

Dimmick and the rest of the party immediately began building the fort, for they knew they were in danger. Little did Dimmick and the others know that the land they built the fort on was a traditional and sacred meeting place for the Shoshone Timpanogos and many other tribes for hundreds of miles around during the spring and summer months. The tribes would gather socially and in sacred ceremonies to honor Creator. Or, if they did know it was sacred land, they didn't care. They didn't keep their sworn oath made with An-kar-tewets earlier if they made such an oath.

Soon after Fort Utah was founded, Wakara, according to Colonel Bridger and Mr. Vasquez, began "stirring up the Indians" against Mormon colonists. "In this movement Walker was aided by his war Chief named Pareyarts , variously styled Elk, Big Elk, Old Elk, etc., like himself resented 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" wrote Peter Gottfredson.

The loathsome acts to unfold at Fort Utah would haunt the Mormons even to the present day. Following the massacre of some 70 Timpanogos at the fort, Hickman hung the head of Old Elk from the eves of his cabin. A witness at Fort Utah told reporters, "...it was hung pendant by its long hair from the willows of the roof of one of the houses. I well remember how horrible was the sight." - Robert Carter author Fort Utah.

A surgeon among the Stansbury company, Dr. James Blake, was greatly influenced by Hickman's trophy of Old Elk's head. Dr. Blake then ordered troops Abner Blackburn and James Orr to go out and behead each of the frozen corpses lying about in the snow, following the two-day battle that resulted in the deaths of 70 Timpanogos people. Dr. Blake told the men he "wanted to have the heads shipped to Washington to a medical institution" for scientific examination. In other words, sell them for a price.

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There was an 'Indian' body parts market. Jim Bridger offered Hickman a hundred dollars for Old Elk's head. The men hacked from the frozen corpses as many as 50 heads. They piled them in open boxes, along with a dozen or so Mallard ducks Blake had shot while his men performed their chore. The heads and ducks were taken to the fort and placed in open boxes in front of Black Hawk, who was barely in his twenties, and his traumatized kin taken captive at Battle Creek. Innocent of any wrongdoing, the tortured captives were forced to view the grizzly remains of their kin placed before them for a period of two long and excruciating weeks.

Mary Meyer is the Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation and related the following story of her great-great-grandfather Joseph Stacey Murdock. The latter was the first Bishop of Heber city. Joseph raised two Timpanogos Indian children, one by the name of Pernetta, whom he had taken from Fort Utah following the battle. Pernetta was the daughter of Chief Arapeen and was about 5 or 6 years of age when Joseph took her away with him to Heber and raised her to adulthood. At the same time, a Timpanogos boy of the same age lay clinging to the bloody remains of his mother. His name was Pick, and he was taken and put in a wagon with his sister. He was raised with Pernetta and was told that Pernetta was his sister. But Pick always said she was not the same sister as the one in the wagon.

While thousands of more settlers came into the territory between 1847 and 1873, tensions between the Timpanogos and Mormon colonists grew exponentially. Timpanogos elders told me, "there was a time when our people were happy and content living in the majestic mountains and fertile green valleys of Utah. Then the Mormons came, and our people were killed—the old, the young, the children, women—and many taken to reservations where many more would die."

When Mormon apostle George A. Smith, a cousin to Church Founder Joseph Smith jr., declared that the Timpanogos people "have no right to their land" and instructed the all-Mormon legislature to "extinguish all titles" and get them out of the way and onto reservations. This set the stage for what Mormons later would call the "Walker War" that would follow.

On January 31, 1850, Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells of the LDS Churches' all Mormon Nauvoo Legion drafted orders for Captain George D. Grant to "exterminate the Timpanogos," known as "Special Order No. 2". Isaac Higbee was the bishop of Fort Utah. He met with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Fort when they agreed that the only way to keep Fort Utah would be to exterminate the Timpanogos. Source: Utah State Archives, State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah Territorial Militia Correspondence, 1849-1863, ST-27, Microfilm reel 1, Document No. 5. Eugene E. Campbell. Establishing Zion

"I say go [and] kill them…" said Brigham Young, "Tell Dimmick Huntington to go and kill them—also Barney Ward—let the women and children live if they behave themselves… We have no peace until the men [are] killed off—never treat the Indian as your equal." Source: BYC, Microfilm reel 80, box 47, folder 6. Farmer, Jared (2008). On Zion's Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674027671

Chief Wakara's vengeance was fueled by the events at Battle Creek when Brigham Young's militia murdered his family and took Black Hawk a hostage. And Fort Utah, where his kin was brutally attacked and beheaded. He soon regretted helping the Mormons survive the first winter.

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