The Black Hawk War; Utah & the Mormons
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Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk's Grave 

CHIEF ANTONGA BLACK HAWK - TIMPANOGOS NATION 1834 - 1870

Eagle feather

 

The Black Hawk War; Grooming A Timpanogos War Chief

from Phillip B Gottfredson | Author "Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace"

There are some truths about Utah's Black Hawk war, untold truths, that have been deliberately ignored and left out of main-stream history such as the Timpanogos Tribe of the Wasatch, for example. And that the war was not a single event, but one that spanned twenty years between 1849-1872. That there were over a hundred and fifty bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Nation and Mormon colonists; forty-one of those occurred before the year 1865, the year Utah's historians say the Black Hawk war began. The Timpanogos however, have not forgotten the previous sixteen years of plunder, poisoning their water sources, or when their ancestors were brutally massacred at Battle Creek, Fort Utah and Bear River by Mormon colonists.

Phillip B Gottfredson, author of the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace, has spent decades living among First Nations people seeking to understand Native American culture. In collaboration with tribal leaders, he shares the Timpanogos version of the story, writing from the vantage point of the native peoples of Utah – a reference point that has been deliberately ignored.

Quoting from the book “Black Hawk's Mission of Peace.” In a conversation with Perry Murdock a council member of the Timpanogos Tribe, and a direct descendant of Chief Wakara, Perry said "Every day we are reminded The book "Black Hawk's Mission of Peace" of what our ancestors went through. How our families were torn apart. Children murdered, the old, the women, all those who were brutally murdered and made to suffer and die from violence, then disease, then starvation, our ancestors’ graves torn up, the land destroyed, it was genocide plain and simple. Why? What did we do? We didn't do anything. We were living in peace. We were happy. Our children were happy. We loved each other. We cared for each other. And when the Mormons came, we tried to help them. Then they tried to take everything away from us. They wanted it all. They wanted to exterminate us, wipe us off the face of the earth. Why? For our land? For our oil? Now we have nothing." In a nutshell—this is was the cause of the Black Hawk War.

Timpanogos Chief Antonga Black HawkTimpanogos Chief Black Hawk for whom the war was named, is demonized as a renegade warrior, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. When the most compelling story of all that comes out of the war is—Black Hawk’s heroic mission of peace.

Black Hawk was not the villain—he was the victim. Contrary to what historians would have us believe, the Timpanogos preferred peace over war. They saw themselves as stewards of a sacred land and fought to protect the sacred, and their honor.

From the Native Americans perspective when Mormon colonists came to the Wasatch they upset the sacred and natural order of all living things, killing the deer, elk, and buffalo. They depleted the fish population and polluted the water. They cut down trees, diverted rivers and streams, and fenced off the land, which drastically altered their environment they were solely dependent on for food, medicines, and life sustaining necessities.

The grooming of a War Chief requires time, wisdom of Elders, and a deep commitment to the wellbeing of the tribe. Native American culture is a culture of values. Chief Sitting Bull said, "The warrior is not someone who fights, for no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is the one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."

Chief Wakara's nephew Black Hawk was but a boy when the Mormons came, and in time would became his nations War Chief under the leadership of his uncle Chief Tabby. Black Hawk's first responsibility was spiritual. As a chosen leader of his warriors, his responsibility was to always try to preserve life. He told them to shed no blood, only in self-defense.

As a War Chief, he preferred 'taking coup' to taking a life. Black Hawk put family and tribe above all else. It was not about him, he followed his people's values and traditions, and helped those who were starving, often going without himself.

Black Hawk always offered up prayers before going into battle, with ceremony and dance. And as a survivor, he made offerings to the enemy's family and was cleansed in holy ceremony.

Being a strong leader came naturally. His charismatic charm befriended people from all walks of life, and aroused in people loyalty with enthusiasm. It was his nature to be humble, kind, gentle, honest, and patient in all affairs. Black Hawk by his own example taught that love can overcome hate, and hypocritical morality. One who respected himself and appreciated others because we are all human. He understood the natural order that all inhabitants of Mother Earth are connected, what Native peoples call "the circle of life." He loved unconditionally, and forgave unconditionally, and that being born human makes you superior to nothing.

His elders taught that true freedom meant being in harmony with his fellow man and all that our Creator gave us. He fought tirelessly to protect the sacred, his people, and equality.

"How do I know these things? I lived with them; I found the truth" Gottfredson said. "These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North and South America. But it's not about me, its about the circle of life."

Gottfredson explains, "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.' And I believe that was Black Hawk’s message when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world. As he was dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach, he made an epic hundred and eighty mile journey and spoke to Mormon settlers along the way pleading for peace—an end to the bloodshed. You didn't see the settlers do this. So, it took a greater man to do such a thing. This was Black Hawk's mission of peace, but it gets left out of history."

Black Hawk was by no means a 'renegade' as some have characterize him. At a young age he was schooled in the Jesse Fox school in Spanish Fork, Utah. He was able to read and write and spoke three languages Shoshoni, English, and most likely Spanish since his Tribe had long established trade relations with the nearby Mexicans. And as historian John Alton Peterson points out in his book "Utah's Black Hawk War" Black Hawk had a keen understanding of Mormon economics.

Brigham Young called Black Hawk a "formidable foe" as a skillful leader he nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of the territory.

Mormon leader Brigham Young is often misquoted saying “it is better to feed them than fight them.” Suggesting it was his intention to treat the Timpanogos with respect and kindness. The truth is Brigham said, It is cheaper to feed them than to fight them.” Either way, the important question is, was the Timpanogos Nation treated with respect and kindness?

In the end Black Hawk's grave was robbed by members of the LDS Church at Spring Lake, and his mortal remains were put on public display in the window of a hardware store for amusement in Spanish Fork, Utah. Then later was moved to Temple Square in down town Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades.

And there's more—a lot more. Important information. The other half of the story, the Native Americans version that gets left out of Utah's one-sided history and school curriculum. Why? Is it because no-one cared enough to ask Native Americans of Utah their side of the story? There needs to be truth in education. Educators need to teach true Native American history as a regular part of American History. The truth should be told regardless of what happened.

Q: Who are the Timpanogos, and why have I never heard of them?

Why indeed? Utah's history failed to tell us about the twelve-thousand-foot mountain Mount Timpanogos, Utah right in the heart of Utah that was named 'Mt. Timpanogos' in honor of the Tribe. "In 1776 Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante named the majestic mountain 'La Sierra Blanca de los Timpanogos' (translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos)." For over a century, Utah's historians have either assumed or mistaken the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as being Colorado Utes. Whereas, early explorers never mention the name "Ute" in their journals. To learn more about the Dominguez and Escalante expedition visit our Timpanogos Nation; Utah's Black Hawk War page.

The Timpanogos are not enrolled members of the Ute Tribe and never were. They are two distinctly different Nations in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. The Colorado Utes where not in Utah until 1881 as "prisoners of war" 14 years after the Black Hawk War ended. When you read The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron page on this topic you will have clarity.

The Timpanogos Tribe are Shoshoni who's roots are in Oregon. Today the Tribe consists of about 1000 members living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in the north-eastern section of Utah near Roosevelt.

Timpanogos leadership consisted of seven brothers namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen. Antonga Black Hawk was the son of Sanpitch. These seven legendary leaders were referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every clan and village along the Wasatch. They were a powerful and prosperous nation highly respected by all in the area. They had long maintained trade routes from the Columbia River to the north to the Gulf of Mexico to the south.

Brigham Young and his followers, many who were recent converts to the Church and had emigrated from Europe to North America to "live in freedom the teachings of Christ," would spend in excess of a million dollars in church funds to ‘exterminate’ the Timpanogos Tribe.

Utah's Black Hawk War is a story of genocide, paradoxes and racism. There's no other way to explain it truthfully.

Quoting from "Walker's Statement to M. S. MARTENAS "They were friendly for a short time" said Chief Wakara, "until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly—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."

Blinded by their own inculturation, the Mormon church believed they had a divine obligation to convert Utah's Native Americans 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 because 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.

When the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon culture, the Mormons’ response was to 'exterminate' them.

"I say go [and] kill them…" said Polygamist leader Brigham Young, "...let the women and children live if they behave themselves…" Young then ordered his all-Mormon militia to exterminate the Timpanogos that led to some of the bloodiest massacres in Native American history known today as the Utah Black Hawk War.

The Timpanogos say, "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 white man's ways... it was a matter of what's right... our honor... survival... why is that so hard to understand?"

Q: So, who caused the Black Hawk War?

Well, some say it was because "they stole our cattle." But there is far more to the story. To fully comprehend the inculturation of early Christian-led colonists that brought extermination and devastation to Native Americans of Utah and across the Americas, it begins with the Doctrine of Discovery followed by Manifest Destiny. Christian Monarchs decreed that anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible, or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, was deemed "heathens," "infidels" and "savages". Christians believed that they were entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them "by reason of their idolatry and sin."

University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool explained, "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom."

Learn more...

Topics & Stories by Category; Main Menu:

European Colonization | Doctrine of Discovery; Manifest Destiny...

Events Leading To War | Battle Creek; Fort Utah; Walker War...

Black Hawk War Period | The Black Hawk War; Circleville Massacre...

Post War Period | Black Hawk's Burial; Congressional Acts...

Timeline | From 1847 to 1872...

Factoids | Interesting facts about the Utah Black Hawk War...

 

The Author: Phillip B Gottfredson

The book Indian Depredations In Utah"My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson was a friend of Black Hawk and spent much of his youth living in the camps of the Timpanogos during the war. In 1919 Peter wrote a firsthand account of the Black Hawk War his book Indian Depredations in Utah. Inspired by Peter's book, I wanted very much to know what his experience was while living with the Timpanogos."

"During the decades I spent learning from Native peoples throughout North and South America, it became obvious to me that Utah's Black Hawk War was the end of a sacred time—a tragedy for the Timpanogos that should be remembered and never forgotten. This was the motivation needed to write a companion book to Peter Gottfredson's book titled My Journey to Understand Black Hawk Mission of Peace." - Phillip B Gottfredson

 

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Peter Gottfredson 1919 Purchase the book Indian Depredations in Utah INDX Purchase the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace 2019 Phillip Gottfredson

—A Gottfredson Legacy—

 

 

 

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