We Can Forgive—But Never Forget The Black Hawk War

Author Phillip B Gottfredson

Author: Phillip B Gottfredson

For many years I have lived the Black Hawk War, and personally I am horrified that our fellow human beings who are Native Americans living in this age are still being treated with such indifference. And that we, we who are neighbors to indigenous people know so little of their lives. We can say "that's all in the past and we just need to forget about it." But it would be criminal to do so.

There is nothing about the Black Hawk War for us to be proud of, it's about the nitty-gritty realities of any war. The only difference was there were only losers, nobody won. I found no evidence that my ancestors participated in any violent acts—for that I am grateful, but they were there. They were there standing on the ancestral homeland of the Timpanogos.

They were part of Mormon colonialism like everyone else. As members of the LDS Church, they believed in living the teachings of Jesus. And even though they didn't like the moral hypocrisy of the church, they did nothing. They said nothing. They just did their job to establish the "Kingdom of God" and found a way to swallow their pride and stuff their feelings in order to get along. They did have compassion for the Native people on some level, for some befriended them and helped them on numerous occasions. But they were powerless to do more and lived-in fear of the consequences should they do so.

We can do nothing to change the past. But we can change the future. I am doing what I can to do that. It may not be much, but I can at least be the flea on the dog.

As for the Timpanogos, there can be no confusion they were victims of genocide. The only thing they were guilty of was being "Native American."

We assume that the Native peoples have since been given every opportunity to succeed, that "it’s their own damn fault" as some say. All I can say to that is the big lie continues on and on. I have lived decades with the Native people, I have listened to them talk about what it means to be a Native American. I can say with certainty we so are blinded by our own inculturation that we can't see the harsh realities that they are faced with each and every day of their lives because of our inherited racist and judgmental views.

It is difficult for Native people to talk about their painful past, especially to non-Natives. And I can't blame them, they have been so demoralized and beaten down, it is very hard for them to trust. And for non-Native people it is difficult to come to grips with the truth, that our ancestors were involved in such a horrible tragedy as the Utah Black Hawk War.

There is much healing that is needed on both sides. Healing that can only come from mutual respect, self-respect, and understanding. Somehow, we need to find a common language that will bring us together as one people, without having to compromise our individuality, our traditions, our culture, but in a good way, where there is freedom for all to live our lives according to the dictates of our own conscience. Without forcing our individual beliefs upon one another. We should be able to walk our paths together with integrity, honesty, respecting each other, and being kind to each other.

Instead of arrogance there should be humility, and instead of hate, there should be love. Both Native and non-Native should realize that we all are suffering from the evils of the past in ways we all need to understand.

We need to talk, but we also need to stop talking, and listen. From our hearts we should talk, and listen.

We need to learn from each other. Who is more qualified to teach us about human equality than those who are the victims of the American holocaust? While our ancestors came to America for various reasons, some sought religious freedom, some wealth, and others for political reasons. But unlike our ancestors, Native Americans were not then fighting for independence, or wealth, or religious freedoms. They were already free. But sadly, would find themselves victims of the very injustices that our forefathers died defending for themselves. It is very difficult to explain why our people who advocated freedom, rebelled against aristocracy and supremacy, would come to America and deprive the Native people of their unalienable rights as human beings.

300 years have gone by and still, to this day, Native Americans continue to struggle for equality as American citizens. It is a disturbing reality that so many of us cling to the old ways of thinking that one is inferior, and others are superior.

For the Timpanogos the Utah Black Hawk War was not about race, it was not about religion. The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct living descendants of Creator. Chief Joseph said, “We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything."

Race and religion were the excuse for Europeans to justify greed, and superiority. It was a human condition where each were putting their lives on the line to defend their freedoms and culture according to individual beliefs, beliefs that had evolved long before they encountered each other.

It is time that we stop blaming each other. It is time we stop viewing these injustices as simply white or non-other processes, and begin viewing them as the human condition.

It is time that our schools adhere to federal mandates and teach the truth about our history in the spirit of equality, and explain compassionately the dynamics of the time that led to such a horrific human tragedy, that we may avoid repeating those mistakes again and again. Explanations give us the tools to bring change. We need to recognize that there is still much work to be done before we can say with a clear conscience that we live in a country that guarantees liberty and justice for all, and not just for some.

The time has come for each of us to return to the sacred teachings that our Creator gave us and forgive ourselves and each other for our petty ways, and reconcile the past with the present. "Yes, we can learn to forgive—but we will never forget" my Native friends told me.


Visit: The Timpanogos Nation's Official Homepage