Timpanogos Chief Antonga Black Hawk

Tabby Becomes Principal Chief of the Timpanogos

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

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Timpanogos Chief Tabby

Timpanogos Chief Tabby


Following a botched attempt for peace at Manti in 1865, Timpanogos War Chief Jake Arapeen having been dishonored before his people, resigned his leadership to his cousin Black Hawk. And upon the death of Chief Arapeen, Jake's father, leadership passed to his brother Tabby. The Timpanogos tribal warriors rallied under the new principal Chief Tabby and Tabby had asked his nephew Black Hawk to lead as his War-Chief, and war was declared on the Mormons. Black Hawk's campaign of vengeance would last just 15 months. This marked the beginning of what the whites first dubbed “the Mormon War”, then "The Utah War" and later "The Black Hawk War."

The Transcontinental Rail Road was being completed at Promontory Point in Utah. The future of the Timpanogos Nation was now in the hands of Black Hawk under the leadership of his uncle and principal Chief Tabby, and together, they unleashed fury upon the Mormons they hadn't seen nor anticipated.

Black Hawk assembled a thousand or more warriors from his communal Tribe with support from neighboring allies, the Colorado Utes, Lakota, Dine' and Apache. Over the course of just 15 months, they demonstrated incredible skill. They commanded a formidable counter-attack that effectively held back Mormon expansion into their most valued homeland along the Wasatch in central and southern Utah territory. Because Black Hawk understood Mormon economics, he managed to undermine their economy by flooding the market with stolen Mormon beef and horses, causing cattle markets to collapse and abandoning some 70 Mormon villages. Some say he nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of Utah. Skills I believe he learned from Arapeen and Wakara.

Within a year, Black Hawk was mortally wounded in battle while attempting to rescue a fallen warrior Shi-Nav-Egin (son of the sun). Whites called him Whitehorse, as he always rode a white horse. Mormons said that Whitehorse had a "superstitious power over his warriors," suggesting he was perhaps possessed. In reality, Shi-Nav-Egin had survived a near-death experience, and having lived; his people believed he had a great mission yet to accomplish. And being a deeply spiritual person, Shi-Nav-Egin was highly respected within the Tribe. Eventually, Black Hawk would die from his wound in 1870.

On March 28, 1865, Brigham Young promised Chief Sanpitch of the Timpanogos at Spanish Fork. He said, "Sanpitch, Soweett, Tabby, and all of you, I want you to understand what I say to you. I am looking out for your welfare...if you go to Uintah they will build you houses make you a farm, give you cows, oxen, clothing, blankets, and many other things you will want and then the treaty that colonel Irish has here gives you the privilege of coming back here on a visit. You can fish, hunt, pick berries, dig roots, and we can visit together. The land does not belong to you nor to me nor to the government. It belongs to the Lord. But our father at Washington is disposed to make you liberal presents to let the Mormons live here. If you will go over there and have your houses built and get your property and money, we are perfectly willing you should visit with us. I know that this treaty is just as liberal and does everything for you and for your people that can be done. Now, if you can understand this, you can see at once that we do not want anything to wrong any of you."

1866 June 18th Chief Sanpitch was taken captive and brutally murdered. Having a bounty on his head Dolf Bennet slit his throat during a botched plan of Brigham Young's to lure Black Hawk into a trap. The death of Sanpitch (Black Hawk’s father) was again very devastating to Black Hawk and his family. The old Chief Sanpitch long been Chief of the Piaute one of the bands of the Timpanogos Nation and was highly respected by all. The news sent a shock wave throughout Timpanogos territory.

Sanpitch had just the year before signed a peace treaty with Brigham Young present. Tabby and old Sowiette were so enraged that they immediately prepared to take revenge on the Mormons. They were making preparations to join Black Hawk and were it not for Black Hawk's plea to stop the bloodshed; Tabby would have done so.

Moreover, Tribes did not believe in "Satan" or "God," a concept that Christians introduced. But 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. While 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 Whitman's ways was a matter of honor and survival. Why is that so complicated to understand?"

On the other hand, 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 that 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-the 60s, when the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon culture, the Mormons' response was to 'exterminate' them. The underlying cause of the Christian mindset 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 principles; 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."

On April 21, 1866, Mormon residents of Circleville, Utah captured 26 peaceful Indians and locked them up in the meeting house. One by one they were led out of the cellar, 24 in all—women, men, and children—and one by one their throats were cut ear to ear and their bodies held to the ground until they bled to death. (See Circleville Massacre)

As we can see the Black Hawk War was not a single event, nor did a single event ignite the war, and the circumstances were not "complex" as Mormon scholars would have us believe.

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. Illa Chivers told the story of her grandfather putting on a leather glove and passing his hand through Mormon flour, finding it had ground glass in it. Brigham also told the Denver Rocky Mountain Newspaper, "you can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder."

The book My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace author Phillip B Gottfredson


"I am not exaggerating when I say that this book has changed my life. I can't recommend it enough". - Stephanie T Lundeen

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Brigham Young repeatedly admonished his followers to "Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals." 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 $30 million today.

On June 26th, 1866, War Chief Mountain, was wounded in battle at Diamond Fork above Spanish Fork. Mountain and his warriors had taken some 30 head of cattle from Mapleton, but were caught. The battle resulted in six deaths—two whites and four Timpanogos. This battle was a significant win for the Mormons, as it was the first time they had prevailed and recovered much of their cattle. According to a Springville account, Black Hawk was shot by Col. Creer with a long rifle at 800 yards. But, Black Hawk wasn't even there. He was near Ephraim ailing from his wound he received at Gravely Ford.

In the spring of 1867 at Heber City, Chief Tabby's son was captured after butchering a cow. He expected to be killed, but Bishop Murdock told him he would be released if he would carry a personal message to Chief Tabby requesting a meeting to negotiate an end to the long and needless war. After Tabby received Joseph's message, a government Indian agent tried to meet with Tabby, but Tabby said he would only talk with "Old Murdock!"

1867 Aug 12th: Several accounts explain that while near the Uinta Valley Reservation, Black Hawk and his warriors, in a prearranged meeting, met with Indian Superintendent Franklin Head. The Indian people, it appears, had respect for Franklin. It is said that Black Hawk told Franklin that he and his warriors were tired of fighting and wanted peace.

Back in June of 1866, Black Hawk was shot during battle at Gravely Ford near Richfield while rescuing a fellow warrior White Horse. In the month following Black Hawk was shown kindness when he received food and medicine from his long time friend Mormon Bishop Canute Peterson. During the same month Black Hawk received word that a Ute warrior Mountain had been wounded during an ambush at Little Diamond above Spanish Fork. Saddened by Mountains' near death experience, when Black Hawk was well enough to travel he visited his uncle Tabby camped north of Heber, and convinced him to end the war. Black Hawk and other Timpanogos leaders had to make tough decisions as they came to grips with a heartbreaking reality - they were just simply out numbered.

In the month of August, 1867, Black Hawk with humility and resolve made an extraordinary gesture of good faith. Near Strawberry Black Hawk met with Indian Agent Franklin Head saying he and his people were tired of war, but Franklin wasn't convinced. Black Hawk handed Indian agent Head his knife and asked him to cut off his long hair demonstrating his commitment to end the bloodshed. Black Hawk didn't surrender as historians would have us believe, the following three years the leader dedicated his efforts to total peace with the white man.

Black Hawk, with his massive army, could have caused far more depredations to the “saints”, and certainly had just cause. But in a surprising change of tactics he elected to give up his campaign of vengeance to take a more altruistic course. At that point, all hopes of their ever being free or holding onto their land was gone. And Black Hawk, knew that the Transcontinental Railroad would soon be completed, meaning an even greater influx of Anglos into Utah.

1867 August 19th: Hundreds of Northern Timpanogos people accompanied Tabby to Heber City. They went directly to Tabby's old friend Joseph Murdock’s home at 115 East 300 North where they camped in his yard and pasture. The following day, four of Murdock’s five wives who were living in Heber City, and the townsfolk prepared a feast on a lot owned by John Carroll, across the street from the Murdock home. A large pit was dug to roast enough beef to feed everyone. Each woman had been asked to bake a dozen loaves of bread. Rows of tables were loaded with corn and whatever the townsfolk could find in their pantries and larders to feed their guests.

The feasting and talk lasted all day. Murdock and Tabby exchanged a few simple gifts. The leaders then went across the street to an upstairs room in Murdock’s home where a peace pipe was smoked and an agreement of friendship was signed. Tabby signed his name and the six war leaders made their marks.

This peace agreement ended the fighting between the settlers in Heber Valley and the Timpanogos people. It was one of the first agreements in a series of peace pacts made between Mormon settlers and Timpanogos leaders that led to the eventual end of the Black Hawk War.

Tabby was the youngest of what Brigham Young called the "royal line" of brothers. He was the last of his brothers to die in c. 1898 in Tabiona on the Uintah Valley Reservation, Utah. He sat in on all Council meetings during the Black Hawk War making critical decisions. He was signor of three agreements, the Goship agreement of Peace, the 1865 Spanish Fork Treaty, the 1867 Heber agreement of Peace.

Of a matter of fact, none of these so-called treaties were ever ratified. Only congress had the legal right to make treaties with Native Americans. At best these were only agreements between Mormon colonists and the Timpanogos Nation.

Black Hawk performed many heroic acts of courage and bravery, and it is a matter of record that he sought sacred guidance in all his decisions. I firmly believe that, were it not for the inspired leadership of this man, many more lives would have been lost in the Black Hawk War in Utah.

The news of Black Hawk's tactical maneuver spread quickly. Brigham Young grasped the moment, and took credit for having reconciled the war through vigilance and kindness, underscoring that his policy “to feed them and not fight them had paid off. The Rocky Mountain News quoted Brigham Young's boasting, "If you want to get rid of the Indians try and civilize them," a statement that speaks to Brigham's “two hearts.”

In a letter written by William Probert to my g-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, he makes reference to Black Hawk's "Mission of Peace." In spite of the tremendous personal misery that Black Hawk endured throughout his life from the time he was a child, in the remaining weeks before his death he is described as physically distraught, gaunt, hollow-eyed, skeleton-like; yet he elected to travel by horseback nearly two hundred miles from Cedar City to Springville, Utah. Black Hawk was under heavy guard, and accompanied by his devoted warriors Mountain and Joe, Along the way they stopped at every Mormon settlement and with dignity Black Hawk reminded the settlers they had broken their promises, stolen his people’s land and brought disease. Yet, he asked the Saints to forgive him and his people for the sufferings they had caused them, and admonished them to do the same and end the bloodshed. We don't see the Mormon;s doing this, so it took a greater man to do such a thing. He was well received, and left a lasting impression on the Saints, albeit some took his "Mission of Peace" as a surrender. If he surrendered it was to save the few remaining lives of his people. Black Hawk returned to his place of birth at Spring Lake, and there he died. With honors he was buried high up on the mountainside. Black Hawk died Sept. 26, 1870.

1871: U.S. federal troops stepped in and fiftheen-hundred Timpanogos Indians were driven from their homes in the shining mountains and valleys of Utah at gunpoint, and left to fend for themselves in one of the most desolate regions of Utah. Again, many died from hunger, hopelessness and despair as a result. Carlton Culmsee, writer for the Deseret News observed that Indians on the Uinta reservation, set aside by Abraham Lincoln in 1861, were distraught and were, as he said: "So many kegs of powder, sullen, and silent potentials for violence...believing that the government had not kept their promises of schools, houses, mills, aids for farming," since the federal government was ignoring the Utah Indians’ demand that promises be kept. White employees on the reservation, sent to keep watch over the now-segregated Indian people (at gun point), also were neglected as food and supplies were often scant. However, as government officials responded, their needs were satisfied by taking from the Indians what meager food supplies they had for themselves. As anger was fueled, the disgruntled Indian people were appeased by token amounts of food and trinkets distributed among them by reservation employees. "And the Mormons were, of course, not blameless," Culmsee points out, "while those 'saints' who disregarded Brigham Young's admonition to deal fairly with the Indian people, these men offset in considerable measure what Brigham Young's wisdom accomplished, and caused some reservation Indians to distrust the Mormons." Brigham also laid the blame on his own people, that "the Architects of Zion had to work with such material as the Lord has provided, stupidity, wooden shoes, and cork brains thrown into the bargain.”

Perpetual Demoralization

Did the Black Hawk war begin in 1865, as scholars say? Was it over in 1868? The Mormons got their "promised land," and the Transcontinental Railroad had come to Salt Lake. Black Hawk died in 1870. Ninety percent of the Indigenous population had been killed since the arrival of Mormons in 1847. The remaining fifteen hundred Timpanogos were forced to walk over hundred miles to Fort Duchesne, the Uintah Valley Reservation in the Uintah Basin, abandoned, and 500 more died from starvation in the first year.

But, what happened next boggles the mind-

Next the stunning conclusion of the story of Black Hawk when his grave is robbed in 1919.


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