The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk
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by Author Phillip B Gottfredson
Mormon leader Brigham Young's long-time admonition to the members of his church to "Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals," came in the wake of tens of thousands of settlers who systematically spread out across the most fertile Timpanogos land. Many “saints” were spending time in the Indian camps and inviting them into their homes, to which Brigham responded to his followers in 1854, "If the inhabitants of this territory, my brethren, had never condescended to reduce themselves to the practices of the Indians, (as few of them have,) to their low, degraded condition, and in some cases even lower, there never would have been any trouble between us and our red neighbors." (See Brigham's Discourses)
The Timpanogos peoples 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 Black Hawk War was never about possessions, the land was their mother, nourishing all her children, it belonged to everyone. It was about honor.
Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. Humility to the Native peoples meant no one person was above all others. Every individual was respected equally. Family and community were inseparable and cohesively bound together in an environment of Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. Even animals and all things Creator created were seen by Native peoples as having a purpose, and each possessing special gifts and talents. When decisions were made within Native communities everyone had to be in agreement before action was taken, it was the honorable way to live.
Within the communities each family took on particular roles, for example medicine people, warriors, weavers, hunters and gatherers etc. were the responsibility of individual families respectfully. Elders, who were the old and wise, they had the greatest influence in the community because they earned their respect. They were the spokespersons, teachers and keepers of wisdom.
This is the way Wakara and his brothers were groomed to become great leaders of the people when the time came. As a representative of his people Wakara could speak on their behalf. He understood he was responsible for their security and well being. When his people hurt, he hurt. When they were happy, he was happy. He was responsible for their very lives and cultural integrity.
These were the 'Eutahs' as they were called by early trappers, that meant the Timpanogostzis that occupy the Timpanogos Lake area, and were fully aware of the Mormons arrival. As previoisly stated, Salt Lake valley was well known by trappers and as it was the crossroads of travelers and traders long before the Mormons arrived. Going west it was the Oregon Trail. South it connected to the old Spanish Trail. The northern route Washington and Canada territories. So Salt Lake Valley was relatively a busy place, people came and went, but the Mormons were different. They came and stayed. And this raised concern for the Timpanogos.
The Timpanogos were business people. They were traders. They had traded in horses, leather goods, silver, and many other useful goods. Their trade routes reach all the way from the Colombia River to the Gulf of Mexico.
"The Spanish Trail, was a major trade route between New Mexico and Los Angeles. A large section of the trail curves north to pass through central and southern Utah before bending south again and passing out of the state. The Spanish Trail measures 1,120 miles long and passes through New Mexico, then enters Utah from the east near the present-day town of Ucolo, Utah about 15 miles east of Monticello, and continues roughly northwesterly to about the town of Green River, Emery County. Much of the route in southwestern Utah is now Interstate 70."
And so it was that the Timpanogos Indians occupied a vast area, they prospered and thrived off the trade routes. And now we understand why we see Chief Wakara having much to do with large herds of horses.
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
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 thereby undermining the Tribes wealth and power." (Note: The territorial legislature were all Mormons)
Within less than three months following the massacre, Fort Utah was dismantled and moved a short distance south to the newly formed community of Provo. Wakara met with leaders from the various bands of the Timpanogos Tribe and advised them that the Mormons were a kind of people who lie about being believers in God, and that their way was to live in peace in a loving way. That he had mistakenly trusted the Mormons when they swore no harm would come to them and their lands would not be taken from them. Wakara quickly learned they were a people who could not be trusted. They did not walk their talk. Wakara kept his promises, he had helped them through the winter, now he regretted helping them, feeling betrayed and confused he had to answer to his Tribe.
Wakara certainly was capable of launching an all out attack on the Mormons and could have driven them out of Utah territory and would have been justified to do so. But that was not the way of the Timpanogos. The Timpanogos way is to preserve life, not to destroy it. Wakara approaches the situation in a more honorable way. He first sat in council with his brothers Sowiette, Sanpitch, Arapeen, Ammon, Tabby, Grospeen, and others to determine the best way to approach the situation. He takes the high road and meets with Brigham Young looking for answers in a diplomatic way.
Mormon writers describe this meeting saying “Wakara begged Brigham to be baptized into the Church,” as though he had surrendered to Brigham Young. No, a man like Wakara would not 'beg' much less surrender. It is more likely Wakara had enough respect for Brigham Young as a fellow human being and leader he would have considered making some concessions or compromise, for Wakara's allegiance was to himself and his people and to the land of his ancestors. You don't see the Mormons making such efforts for peace, so it took a better man to use such diplomacy, only a coward would sneak up on innocent people in the night massacring them with guns and cannons filled with chain-shot as it happened at both Battle Creek and Fort Utah.
Wakara and his brothers were a men of honor, and would find any means possible to avoid the shedding of innocent blood, which was the Indian way.
In July 1853, Wakara was camped on Spring Creek near Springville, when a Mormon settler killed a member of the band he said he had mistaken for a rabbit, which led to the deaths of two more Timpanogos. Wakara demanded the killer be brought before him. His request was refused by Brigham Young. This in part precipitated the "Walker War."
Wakara and his band of warriors returned in war paint, raided the settlements of Utah, Juab, Sanpete, Millard and Iron Counties during the summer and fall. The last engagement was at the south end of Utah Lake generally spoken of as the Goshen Valley battle, which lasted about three hours; the troops taking the Indian camp. Nine Indians were killed; some of the troops and horses were shot, but none mortally.
1855, January 29th, Wakara died a sudden death. He had been poisoned by members of the Mormon Church, history scholars have told me, at Meadow Creek, in Millard County. Among his final words he admonished 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 sepulcher of stone on the rugged eastern hillside above this little community of Meadow, Utah. 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 Wakara'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 descendant of Wakara, 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. It is said 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 relatives. The Timpanogos Tribe, and more importantly direct descendants 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.
Living descendants of Wakara gave me their version saying that "When the Mormons arrived and fighting broke out our people scattered in all directions for safety. Our children whose parents were killed Wakara rescued them and took them to our own people for safety, and so they wouldn't end up in Brigham Young's custody. Brigham would take our children, those of our leaders for his own protection knowing we wouldn't attack his home where our children were."
Moreover, its a fact, "Mormons used slavery as a tool of redemption." According to Historian Andrés Reséndez' author of The Other Slavery, "Brigham said buy up the lamanite 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."
Slavery was legal in Utah as a result of the Compromise of 1850. Some Mormon pioneers, Brigham Young included, had brought African-American slaves with them when they migrated west. In the Compromise of 1850, Congress formed the Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory allowing each to engage in slavery at their own discretion.
Chief Arapeen becomes leader: Following Chief Wakara's death, his brother Arapeen became Chief of the Timpanogos Nation. Wakara and his brother Arapeen were inseparable, and had road together side-by-side since their childhood days. Arapeen was chosen by the Tribe to be their leader. Chief Arapeen during his five year leadership would strive to hold his people together as bloody confrontations with the Mormons continued to escalate. Arapeen getting on in years, turned to his son Jake Arapeen to lead his felloe warriors into battle. The Tintic war, Salt Creek Battle, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Chicken Creek Battle, the arrival of Johnston's Army, smallpox spreading epidemically killing his the people, and the Bear River Massacre.
Johnston and his army of 2500 U.S. troops were sent to Utah in 1857-1858 while Young's good fortune was that government funds and resources were diverted to the Civil War, leaving Johnston at a disadvantage once they arrived. Brigham seized the moment, and gave the order that Johnston's wagons and food be burned. A faithful follower by the name of Lot Smith carried out the order, causing 2500 men to suffer extreme hardship during the bitter cold of winter.
Under the orders of Brigham, Nauvoo militia stole 800 of the 1,400 head of cattle with the Army there. While Mormons severely punished famished Indians for stealing their cattle, the Mormons not only stole cattle from the United States Government, they destroyed the army’s 2720 pounds of ham, 92,700 of bacon, 167,900 of flour, 8910 of coffee, 1400 of sugar, 1333 of soap, 800 of sperm candles, 765 of tea, 7781 of hard bread, and 68,832 rations of desiccated vegetables.
In 1863, 593 Shoshone men women and children were brutally massacred at Bear River. As the Indians tried desperate measures to fight off the U.S. Army, including the use of tomahawks and archery, the soldiers seemed to lose all sense of control and discipline. After most of the men were killed, soldiers proceeded to rape the women and girls of the encampment, and many of the children were also shot and killed. In some cases, soldiers held the feet of infants by the heel and "beat their brains out on any hard substance they could find." Those women who refused to submit to the soldiers were shot and killed. After the slaughter ended, soldiers went through the Indian village raping women and using axes to bash in the heads of women and children who were already dying of wounds. Leaders Bear Hunter (Indian name Camawick brother of SACAJAWEA) and Lemhi both were killed. The troops burned 75 Indian lodges, took possession of 1,000 bushels of wheat and flour, and 175 Shoshone horses. While the troops cared for their wounded and took their dead back to Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City for burial, the Indians' bodies were left on the field for the wolves and crows for nearly two years. One local resident, Alexander Stalker, noted that at this time many soldiers pulled out their pistols and shot several Shoshone people at point-blank range. The soldiers also deliberately burned almost everything they could get their hands on, especially the Indians’ dwelling structures, and killing anybody they found to be still inside. Hundreds of corpses were left to be eaten by animals and the bones remained uncovered for years to follow. See video Bear River Massacre with Will Bagley - Purchase book by Rod Miller Massacre at Bear River
The Bear River Massacre has been ignored. "It was not in the interest of key players—the military and the Mormons—to remember, and the decimated Northwestern Bands of the Shoshone had no voice in the nation that came to surround them. The battle, as it was initially regarded, was celebrated in Salt Lake City, especially by the military. What few records there are indicate that between 250 and 350 Shoshones died, although some suggest nearly 500 perished. Paul Hutton, a historian of the Indian Wars at the University of New Mexico, said he had never heard of the Bear River Massacre when he got his first teaching job at Utah State University in 1977." - Salt Lake Tribune
There never was anything genetically inferior about the Utah Indians. Shaped by their environment, they were a tough and rugged people. They had tremendous knowledge and skills to master their environment, and sustained a population numbering in the tens of thousands. To feed a lot of people they needed a productive and fertile environment. The Timpanogos were not farmers, but depended on natural resources for their food supply. They found sustenance from roots, fruit, seeds, and a variety of nutritious plants. Fish, deer and elk were their primary source for protein, as well as clothing, and many other uses. Theirs was a highly structured society, noble and skilled in their ways, and deeply respected by other tribes throughout the West.
There were no legal treaties made between the Timpanogos and the Mormons. Only the federal government had the authority to make such treaties with the Indians. Congress in 1864 authorized Treaty Negotiations for the Indians of Utah Territory, and on June 8, 1865 the Spanish Fork Treaty was negotiated with the Timpanogos Nation. However, the treaty would fail ratification as it bore the signature of Brigham Young, thus leaving intact the Uinta Valley Reservation, land belonging to the Timpanogos. Congress declared "rather than associate with Brigham Young on such an occasion, they would have the negotiations fail; they would rather the Indians, than the Mormons, would have the land." - Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish (Please see Treaties)
By the 1860s the United States government, under President Grant had, for the most part, placed care of the Indians in the hands of Christian groups. Henry Pratt's assimilation program began with the slogan: "Kill the Indian and save the man." Indian children were taken from their families by force, and placed in boarding schools. Their goal was to completely abolish their traditions, language and culture in a single generation. These children remained in these schools for periods as long as six years, never being allowed to have any contact with their parents or families. Many died from Smallpox and Measles, and were buried in schoolyards. To this day, Native people continue to search school records for their deceased ancestors, only to find that many of the graves of these poor children were never marked.
The environment of the Utah Indian people was now drastically altered from logging and from the introduction of domesticated cattle and horses numbering in the thousands. Settlers farming domesticated crops and cattle on previously Indian land meant that Natives were less able to depend on the natural environment for their food supply. While the Indians were excellent and well-seasoned hunters and gatherers, it required a large expanse of land to sustain their communities. The settlers knew this, and so systematically killed and drove away the deer and elk, and slaughtered massive numbers of native buffalo. Colonists almost always settled on the most fertile land. They emptied the rivers, and streams, of fish by over-fishing them with gill nets. The Native people were forced to travel greater distances, expending more energy, to find food. Ultimately, they were faced with the agonizing realization that they were being forced by starvation into surrendering. It became necessary to prey on Mormon beef. They plundered thousands of head of cattle to feed their hungry families. They would have much preferred to eat deer, elk and buffalo, but it was a matter of survival. With this, and the pandemic spread of disease, it's a wonder the Timpanogos survived at all.
Brigham and his followers were, by no means, strangers to persecution or to being demoralized. Having been exiled from their homes in Illinois by angry mobs, they sought refuge in Utah territory. John W. Gunnison wrote, "It's a curious matter of reflection, that those whose mission it is to convert these aborigines by the sword of the spirit, should thus be obliged to destroy them." The ambiguities and ironies in the mistreatment of the Native people are perplexing. It would seem natural that the Mormon people would show compassion toward the Native. But Brigham's relentless disregard for Timpanogos land rights and utter intolerance of their culture is cloaked in his rhetoric to "Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals." It then comes as no surprise that, unfairly, far more emphasis has been given by historians to Brigham's Indian policy efforts, than the Timpanogos leaders’ demonstrated humanity and willingness to compromise. The Timpanogos are seldom cited for their peace efforts. Meaningless and numerous so-called "treaties" were divisive and broken at will by Mormon leaders.
As Brigham continued using church funds waging war against the Indian people, he engaged such noted serial killers as "Wild Bill" Hickman, Porter Rockwell, and John D. Lee. Lee baptized Hickman into the church. Lee and Rockwell were sealed to Brigham Young in the temple. Lee was the leader of the massacre at Mountain Meadows. Hickman and Rockwell were Brigham's personal body guards.
Shortly before Fort Utah had been erected in Utah Valley in 1849, three men: Rufus Stoddard, Richard Ivie, and Gerome Zabrisky began to heckle an elderly Indian man, whom whites called Old Bishop, near the fort. They accused him of stealing the shirt he was wearing from off a wash line. Old Bishop denied that he stole the shirt from anyone, saying he had made a fair trade for it. Ivie aimed his gun on Old Bishop and told him to take it off. The old Indian man stood his ground and refused. Ivie took aim directly at his head and pulled the trigger, murdering the Old Bishop 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 cavity with rocks, and tossed him in the Provo River. Quoting from History of the Utah Stake by James Goff, one of the colonists stated later: "The men who killed the Indian ripped his bowels open, and filled them with stones preparatory to sinking the body." However, scholars claim that the argument was not over a shirt, but over cattle that had been stolen.
In 1861, President Lincoln set aside over four million acres of land in the northeastern region of Utah as reservation land for the Timpanogos. But before he did, he asked Brigham Young if he felt the land was suitable. Brigham answered, "The only purpose the land has is to hold together the two halves of the world." In other words, it was perfect for a reservation. That President Lincoln would ask Brigham his opinion suggests that Mormon leaders had a working relationship with the President, in spite of the fact that only four years earlier Brigham had committed the treasonous act of destroying government property, leaving Johnston's army stranded—a crime for which neither Brigham nor the perpetrators were ever held accountable.
At the same time the United States was engaging in the Civil War, and Kit Carson has forced the Navajo peoples to Redondo, The Black Hawk War begins in the winter of 1864-65. Its interesting to note that Connors, Brigham Young, and Kit Carson were each 30 degree Masons. One cannot begin to imagine the difficulties Arapeen had to deal with, and the toll it took on him as a human.
Then the Black Hawk War, "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 Arapeen (Chief Arapeen's son) 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."
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.., arrogantly and without compassion 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, violating Utah Indian's inherent rights as a sovereign nation by virtue of the fact they were inhabitants of the land for hundreds if not thousands of years prior to the Mormons arrival.