The Silent Victims

11/02/2006

by Phillip B Gottfredson

Recently I have had the honor of being contacted by the decedents of those whose relatives led some of the massacres in the Utah Black Hawk War, the murders, and injustices that I have been writing about over the past four years on this website. Over the years I have devoted to researching the Black Hawk War and the Timpanogos Nation's history in Utah, and the agony they have suffered by the hands of the Mormons Church leaders; I have had the honor of meeting their living decedents and learned of their on going anger and resentment. Many times I sat in tears, overwhelmed by their grief. And now I must admit I spent little time wondering about those whose ancestors were the ones that committed these human injustices against the American Indian. Over the past month I have met some of those people, and what they have to say has opened my eyes to a whole new reality I wish to share.

This is a whole new realm of human suffering we need to learn more about, a quiet suffering. There are those who live their lives in shame, who have no voice or ears to hear their agony of knowing it was their ancestors who were to blame. What each have in common Indian and non-Indian is that both victims of the same crime.

I again reflect on the words of George E. Tinker. Tinker said, "It is time we stop viewing these injustices as simply white processes and begin viewing them as human processes. Its is time we apply the same yardstick to both groups--compassionately seeking to understand human actions in the past without flailing old wounds by "unabashedly" taking sides. Without confronting and owning our past, as white Americans, as Europeans, as American Indians, as African Americans, we cannot hope to overcome the past and generate a constructive, healing process, leading to a world of genuine, mutual respect among peoples, communities, and nations." But that "mutual respect" must begin by seeking to understand the history and human motivations of all these "peoples and communities, and nations" with a spirit of equity, balance, and compassion. 

Healing does not come by simply acknowledging the wrongs of the past, but its a begining. What about those silent victims? For as I have listened to what they have to say, there is no doubt they would like to express their regret for the sins of their forefathers. They have told me how their families have been, and continue to be, outcasts and are often forced to lie to their children about their relatives to spare their children from being castigated out of society for the sins of their ancestors, only to find out later from other sources what their ancestors did. "Everyday" one mother told me, "Not a day goes bye I ask what it was that made my great-grandfather do what he did?"

Who is there that can teach us about human injustices better than those who are victims of the Utah Black Hawk War?  Who better qulified to build that bridge between our cultures? It takes those who understand most how destructive racism and discrimination are to all. They can help design the bridge to be strong to withstand the worst kind of bigotry. Learning from the mistakes of the past, and using that wisdom to help others, in every way possible will go along way bring about understanding and peace.

I truly believe that the silent victims need to have a voice that they can share their wisdom without fear, or censorship. They too need healing.