Black Hawk Memorial Spring Lake
The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy
A Study of the Black Hawk War and the Timpanogos Tribe
By Phillip B Gottfredson
Welcome to The Black Hawk War: Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website, the first website dedicated to Utah Indian's history and recollections of the Black Hawk War. On the internet since 2002 exploring both sides of a tragic conflict between early Mormon pioneers and the Timpanogos Tribe, and the Indian peoples of Utah.
This page is an introductory to some 82 pages of history included in this website on the Black Hawk War in Utah. Moreover, it is important to read and understand why there are so many ambiguities found in main-stream accounts elsewhere, that unjustly demonize the Timpanogos peoples of Utah and ignore their version of the Black Hawk War and being 'much abused' by Mormons.
If you prefer to skip this commentary and go directly to the histories of the War please click on the following link: Black Hawk War Timeline page.
Introduction to the Black Hawk War story by Phillip B Gottfredson
Explore this website and you will see that the Black Hawk War was not a single incident. Researching the War and living with Native American Indians for over 15 years, I documented over 150 bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Tribe and the Mormons between the years of 1849 and 1872. Mormon leader Brigham Young spends 1.5 million dollars in Church funds to "get rid of" Utah's indigenous inhabitants, and bills Congress for reimbursement. (See the Black Hawk War Time-line page.)
Trouble began July 24, 1847 when Brigham Young along with a party of 143 Mormons emerged from the mouth of Cottonwood canyon on a hill overlooking Salt Lake valley of the Wasatch Front, thus concluding a thousand mile journey taking 111 days by horseback and covered wagons. Brigham seeing the valley said, “Its enough, this is the right place, drive on.”
Timpanogos Chief Wakara told interpreter Martenas in 1853, "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, 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. He said he wished to keep the
valley of the San Pete, and desired to leave the valley of
Salt Lake, as he could not live in peace with the whites—but
that the Whites had taken possession of this valley also—and
the Indians were forced to leave their homes, or submit to
the constant abuse of the whites. He said the Gosoke
who formerly lived in the Salt Lake valley had been killed
and driven away, and that now they wished to drive him and
his band away also—he said he had always wished to be
friendly with the whites—but they seemed never to be
satisfied—the Indians had moved time after time, and yet
they could have no peace—that his heart was sick—that his
heart felt very bad. He desired me very earnestly to
communicate the situation of the Indians in this
neighborhood to the Great Father, and ask his protection and
friendship—that whatever the great father wished he would
do. He said he has always been opposed to the whites
settling on his lands, but the whites were strong and he was
weak, and he could not help it—that if his great father did
not do something to relieve them, he could not tell what
they would do." (See: Chief Walker's full statement to interpreter Martinez in 1853.)
Professor Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah put it succinctly, "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. And what is so amazing about this whole story is that we failed. We failed after hundreds of years of trying to take everything from American Indians. We failed to do that. They're still here and there's survival; that great saga of survival is one of the great stories of all mankind." (See also: Chief Wakara's Statement)
We need to understand that the Native people of today don't want people to pity them, they only seek justice. And for us to honor the treaties, as they have done. There are 360 treaties made between our government and the Native American Indian which are the supreme law of the land, and yet we have failed to honor even one. They ask nothing more of us than they ask of themselves, to be treated with equality, honesty, humility, respect, and have the courage and wisdom to be truthful. They want to live their lives in peace and according to the traditions of their ancestors. (See: Truth in Education)
What began as a hobby in 1989 researching the Black Hawk War, it wasn't long until I was investing all my time and resources to the project. I struggled to make sense of the victors one-sided accounts, and many I read over and over again numerous times. It followed that in 2003 I turned to the Native peoples of Utah for answers. And what I found is that celebrated scholars and award-winning authors who write about the Black Hawk War never asked or cared what the Indians they study have to say about their work. Nor did they asked how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have their own version of the particular story they are writing about. It follows that virtually every account and half-baked documentaries about Utah's indigenous peoples are biased and based on assumptions, replete with half truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. The time has come when Native people need to tell their stories, and demand they are told accurately.
What many Utah historians mistakenly assume about the Black Hawk War, or refuse to accept or just ignore, is that the Mormon's Black Hawk War with the Northern Ute Tribe - is simply not true. All seven bands of the Utes were in Colorado during the time of the Black Hawk War! How then were the Northern Utes involved in the Black Hawk War when they were in Colorado? There are major discrepancies in Utah's history while I have taken the time effort and have documented that the Timpanogostzis are the Native peoples Brigham Young and his followers first encountered, and not the Northern Utes. This contradicts mainstream history... but that doesn't make it wrong! The time has come when historians need to correct these inaccuracies and tell the truth. (See: Origins of the Timpanogos and Northern Ute Tribes. )
The Timpanogos Nation, and the Northern and Southern Ute Nations:
Until we understand this, Utah's history will remain confusing. There are Northern Ute Indians, Southern Ute Indians, both are from Colorado. And there are Timpanogos Indians, there are no "Timpanogos Ute Indians." "Timpanogos Utes" is an oxymoron. It is important to know that originally the Northern and Southern Ute Tribes were comprised of seven bands, and that the Northern Ute came from Colorado and the Northern Ute Tribe did not inhabit Utah until 1881, eleven years after the Black Hawk War ended!
Following the 1878 Meeker Massacre in Colorado the United States Government declared "the Utes must go" and enacted the Ute Removal Act that forced four of the seven bands, known today as the Northern Utes, to leave Colorado and they were relocated on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as prisoners of war. For more information on the Timpanogos and Ute see Origins of the Timpanogos and Northern Ute Tribes.
The Northern Ute Nation:
In the beginning I spent a lot time with the Northern Utes who are a federally recognized Tribe. My experience with the Northern Utes was interesting and I learned a great deal and made good friends, but being totally honest... they would often contradict themselves when it came to their history. Not surprising though, I was told by prominent and respected historians early on "that their history has been deliberately kept from them" which proved to be true. Most Northern Utes I spoke with said they came to Utah from Colorado. Others say the word 'Ute' is not in their language and prefer to call themselves Nuche'. The word "UTE" is a whiteman's name, which doesn't appear in history accounts until the 1900's when the histories were written. Just as the "FREMONTS" is whiteman's name for a Tribe that never existed. Then when asked who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs of the Black Hawk War, for example, Walker, Sanpitch, Tabby, Antongua, or Arropeen... they didn't know. But they knew they were not Ute leaders. See: Origins of the Timpanogos and Northern Ute Tribes.
Later I learned, the "NORTHERN UTE TRIBE" wasn't created until 1937, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation". The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is a federal corporation NOT A RESERVATION and never was. The Northern Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as do the Timpanogos. I realized if I was going to find answers I had to look elsewhere, dig deeper. See: Origins of the Timpanogos and Northern Ute Tribes.
The Ute Mountain Ute Nation:
The Ute Mountain Utes, or Southern Utes as they also called, are federally recognized and have their reservation in Ignacio, Colorado. The Southern Utes were allowed to remain in their homeland of Colorado following the Meeker Massacre. I will also add they are among the more prosperous Indian Nations having prospered from their oil and gas enterprises as do their cousins the Northern Ute. As a people they are well organized and have a clear understanding of their history. And though the Northern and Southern Utes are blood relatives, they function as separate Tribes.
Phillip B Gottfredson with Kenny Frost - Ute Mountain Ute
The Timpanogos Nation:
In 2015 I was contacted by a Tribe in Utah no one has ever talked about... the Timpanogos, who have lived in Utah long before President Lincoln created the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1861, a tribe that has been completely ignored and believed by many to be nonexistent. It doesn't matter they are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they are the original inhabitants of this land called Utah. Chief Executive Mary Meyer of the Timpanogos Nation, who is a direct descendant of Chief Arropeen, provided me with definitive proof that the Timpanogos are the living descendants of notorious Chiefs Sanpitch, Wakara, Arropeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and Antongua 'Black Hawk' who was the son of Sanpitch, and other legendary leaders in the Black Hawk War! Their lineage documented by birth and marriage records, death certificates, Indian Agency records, treaties, and more historic records going back to 1765. Information you won't find in mainstream Mormon accounts. (Mary Meyer is depicted in the photo of the Black Hawk Memorial above.)
Phillip B Gottfredson with June - Timpanogos Nation
The Timpanogos are a band of the Snake-Shoshoni and are distinctly different from the Utes of Utah and Colorado in language, customs, and origin. The Snake are prominent in early Oregon history and are seen to have occupied a vast area of not only Oregon, but Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Kansas. Of all the Shoshoni bands, the Snake were most feared by early trappers. (Visit the Timpanogos Nation website)
The Timpanogos are Snake Shoshone and were occupying Utah territory when Spanish Explorers Dominguez and Escalante came through in 1776.
The earliest record I have found, so far, that refers to the Timpanogos in Utah begins with the Spanish explorer Juan Rivera in 1765. Rivera preceded explorers Dominguez and Escalante's expedition into Utah, and describes having come in contact with aboriginal peoples "the bearded ones" who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," an Aztecan Shoshonian word meaning People of the Rock water carriers (referring to rock salt), whose leader was Turunianchi.
Turunianchi had a son named Moonch. Moonch was the father of Sanpitch, Wakara, Arropeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen, who occupied a land that is now known as Utah. Dominguez named Mount Timpanogos, Timpanogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley) in honor of the Timpanogostzis.
Then came the year of 1824, when a French explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with a Snake-Shoshone Nation (Timpanogos) living along the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake. Provo City derives it's name from this early explorer Provost.
Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 members who live on the Uintah Valley Reservation in the north-east section of Utah near the city of Roosevelt. Visit the Timpanogos Nation Website
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857 and lived among the Timpanogos and was invited to the camp of Chief Antongua Black Hawk on numerous occasions. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the Timpanogos Nation ruled the entire territory of the Wasatch in Utah.
Perhaps the writers of Utah's history their intentions were never meant for native peoples of Utah to read, who know better their own history. Perhaps writers are too much in the habit entertaining readers with flowery rhetoric and folklore, glossing over gruesome stories of Bill Hickman and Dr. James Blake cutting off the heads of Indian corpses at Fort Utah, then selling them to make a few extra bucks. Or making heros of those who cut the throats of 26 innocent Paiutes at Circleville. Or looting Chief Black Hawk's grave and placing his remains on public display for amusement. Or glorifying brave leaders like John Scott, George A. Smith, or James A. Allred, or Captain Howard Stansbury. Or exonerating questionable heroics of soldiers in Brigham Young's private but illegal militia like John Lowry, Niels O. Anderson, James A. Peterson, or Brigham's body guard Porter Rockwell. Or perhaps their intentions are to dehumanize Utah's native inhabitants. To justify the genocide of Utah's native peoples and glorify man's inhumanity to man calling it the Black Hawk War. Unjustly placing all the blame on the Native peoples of Utah, who's only crime was they being Indian. This kind of story-telling only alienates and divides people who are seeking truth.
In my studies of the Black Hawk War, I wanted to be told that the people committing the atrocities on Utah's Native peoples were wretched people, loathsome people. People who lived out on the fringes of society. People who had gone astray of any moral conscience or human decency. But, they were people who after committing senseless murders would go home after and tend to their farms, and sing hymns in church the next day. They were the bishops, councilors, business men, and exemplary folks in their communities.
Speaking as a non-Indian, I believe we are blinded by our own enculturation, over a 150 years go by and the LDS Church has made no effort to at least apologize for our ancestors unrighteous behavior exacted upon the indigenous Timpanogos peoples of Utah, who have had to stand horrified, terrorized, in tears, powerless to defend their human rights, their inherent sovereignty, their dignity stripped away and demoralized by broken treaties and relentless mockery. Maybe Brigham Young was correct in saying his followers have "cork for brains and wear wooden shoes."
Many felonious stories are told, such as children being buried alive with Timpanogos Chief Wakara when there is no credible evidence to support such an atrocious claim, when living descendants of Wakara vigorously dispute such a claim. Saying it is a fabrication of the truth and grossly contradicts the traditional core values of the Timpanogos Nation. (See: The Walker War; Timpanogos Chief Wakara)
We have much to learn from the native peoples who have occupied Utah's landscape since time and memorial, if only we would listen. Some Indian concepts and values differ greatly from mainstream culture. The landscapes of Utah are as sacred today as when the Great Spirit created them. Burial sites, massacre sites, battle fields such as Battle Creek, Bear River, or Circleville where the cries of the wounded and dieing can still be heard following the horrors that took place there. And for native peoples of Utah the Timpanogos, Paiute, and Goshute, respect for the dead is as important as respect for the elderly and reverence for life. Utah's native inhabitants were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. They were deeply connected and stood in awe of the beauty that surrounded them, the majestic Wasatch mountains, Utah lake, Timpanogos Mountain, and Provo River. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms for food or medicinal uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the animals elk, deer, buffalo, and all living things. Even the rocks were sacred to them. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from a greater power. They were a deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos peoples the war was never about riches or possessions, the land is their home, their mother, nourishing all her children, it is sacred, and being sacred belonged to everyone. They fought to protect the sacred, and their honor as a peaceful people on a land they believed belonged to them for eternity.
The Timpanogos, Paiute, and Goshute, their history, their version of the Black Hawk War has been tossed aside and ignored like a plastic spoon or paper plate after a picnic. "We had to do these things, or be run over by them," wrote John Lowry." It was a matter of supremacy between the whiteman and the Indian." Supreme domination was the staff to which the banner of Christianity was tied, that brought total destruction to a vibrant and thriving native civilization. And celebrated without conscience or regret as... 'The Days of 47.'
Why historians today try to make the case that the 21 years leading up to the war were "complex circumstances," is both baffling and deceptive to me. A knowing member of the Timpanogos Tribe put it succinctly when asked if causes of the war were complex, "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 whiteman's ways... it was a matter of what's right... our honor... land and survival... why is that so complicated to understand?"
Writers avoid talking about the tens of thousands of Native men, women, and innocent children who bled to death on the battlefields of Bear River, Mt. Pleasant, Provo, Manti, or on the shores of Utah Lake. Or those who starved to death for want of food, run off their hunting grounds. Or those who died from measles and smallpox, or poisoned to death their sources of water contaminated with arsenic. Or those brutally murdered, eviscerated, their stomach cavity filled with rocks and thrown in the river.
The boarding house schools or the LDS Church Indian placement program is another example where native children were taken away to, torn from the arms their families and relatives, their languages and traditions stripped away, to be assimilated into the white mans ways. "Save the man, kill the Indian." If those children were among the fortunate, who survived after years and years of unimaginable abuse in all its many forms, living in complete isolation from their moms and dads, cousins, uncles, and grandparents, they returned home where they were now strangers among their own people. I have personally been told of the atrocities by people who lived in those boarding house schools. One elderly woman showed me the scars in her mouth she said happened when they washed her tender mouth out with lye soap for speaking her Native language.
In closing, I am reminded of what great-grandpa Pete wrote in the preface of his book, he said, "It has been a half century and more since the raids and assaults recorded in this book took place, most of the persons who took active parts in the same have responded to the last earthly call, and what information we get first handed must of necessity be obtained now or never. I have often qurried; why should those conditions be forgotten, and why has so little interest been taken in keeping memorandas and records of events and conditions of those early and trying times." Why indeed grandpa, why indeed...
So, here are the stories and more facts about the Black Hawk War in Utah ...
>If you're a first-time visitor may I recommend you begin here... The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk
>Because there are over 80 pages of documented material in The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website it is best navigated from the Black Hawk War Timeline Page. All of the important events have been organized chronologically by date, and linked to all the stories of the War.