The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy
A History of the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation
By Phillip B Gottfredson
Welcome to The Black Hawk War: Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website, the only website dedicated to the study of the Utah Black Hawk War on the internet since 2002, exploring all aspects of a tragic conflict between early Mormon pioneers and the Indian peoples of Utah. With emphasis on the Timpanogos Indians version of the War. (To navigate entire website
see: Timeline of Black Hawk War Battles)
The Black Hawk War is said to have lasted seven years from the winter of 1865 into the fall of 1872 when Daniel Miller was the last man to be killed. Daniel drew his final breath in the arms of my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson. When asked if Daniel wanted the men there to take vengeance on the Indians. He said, "No, they don't know any better." This tragic moment, on the morning of September 26, 1872, was the result of 21 long agonizing years of Mormon's relentless impingement upon the Timpanogos Nation's inherent sovereignty which began in the winter of 1849 with the Battle Creek Massacre.
Explore this website and you will see that the Black Hawk War was not a single incident. Researching the War for over 15 years, I documented over 150 bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Indians and the Mormons between the years of 1849 and 1872. Within the years that followed Battle Creek, herein you will see that Brigham Young's militia in hand with U.S. Troops would commit some of the most hideous massacres in American history resulting in untold thousands of Indian deaths, along with a few hundred Mormons. I am referring to 1850 Fort Utah, 1857 MT. Meadows Massacre, 1863 Bear River Massacre, 1865 Grass Valley Massacre, 1866 Circleville Massacre, and this does not include deaths by starvation, violence, small pox, and measles.
What began as a hobby researching the Black Hawk War, it wasn't long before I was devoting all my time to the subject, and for the better part of a decade I struggled to make sense of the history as there are many contradictions in the victors accounts. Moreover, for years, and like most, I mistakenly assumed the War was between the Ute Tribe and the Mormons. That said, I have documented that the Timpanogos Indians are the aboriginal peoples of Utah territory and are the ones Brigham Young and his followers first encountered. This runs counter to mainstream history, but that doesn't make it wrong. The fact is of the 20 or more books, and countless journals I have read on the Black Hawk War, scholars and those who write about the War never ask or care what the Indians they study have to say about their work, nor do 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 I have read about Utah Indians is based in assumptions, replete with half truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. The time has come when historians need to correct these inaccuracies in Utah history, and Native people need to tell their story and demand it be told accurately.
I spent a lot time with the Utes. My experience with the Utes was excellent and I learned a great deal, but they would often contradict themselves when it came to their history. When asked who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs Walker, or Arropeen they didn't know. Moreover they couldn't explain who Chief Tabby was. Because of that I had to abandon my documentary film the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs had asked me to do, after I had invested years of research and tens-of-thousands-of-dollars as a novice filmmaker.
However, there is a good reason why the Ute are confused when it comes to the history of the Black Hawk War... their ancestors were living in Colorado, their homeland, during the War... who knew? That, and the fact that their true history has been deliberately kept from them while being forced to attended Mormon run schools where Indian history was excluded from the curriculum, and still is for that matter. But, regardless if your Indian or not, Utah history as it is written completely ignores the Indians side of the story. So it follows everyone is confused and that includes the non-Indians too.
Even more determined now to get to the heart of the matter, I got aquainted with Native peoples from North America to South America, and virtually everywhere inbetween. Years later I met a little known Indian Tribe no one ever told me about... the Timpanogos, who also live on the Uintah Reservation in Utah, same as the Utes, and their history made perfect sense to me. Why? It doesn't matter they are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they easily provided proof they are the living descendants of Black Hawk, Wakara, Sanpitch, Arropeen, Tabby, and other legendary leaders. Their lineage documented by birth, marriage, death certificates, Indian Agency records, treaties, and more historical records going back to 1765.
The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshoni and are indigenous to Utah territory. I have been living with the Timpanogos over the past year. And so it is with their permission I have published on this website a much truer version of the Black Hawk War as told to me by the Timpanogos peoples, whom I have come to love and respect as my own. (Visit the Timpanogos Nation website)
The Timpanogos peoples tell me "You're the first white man ever to take the time to understand our story" since those troubled times in Utah's history over a century and a half ago. I think that's disturbing. Here is a Nation of nearly a thousand people, indigenous to Utah territory, going back time-in-memorial and no one has ever asked them their story? Why? Well my friends, the answer to that involves billions of dollars of oil revenues, illegal land grabs, and a plethora of human atrocities I am not about to get into at this time. And it comes as no surprise, the Indian peoples are as always the victims of government corruption, white supremacy, and corporate greed. Suffice it to say, that's the 'third-rail' in the story of the Uinta Valley Reservation that virtually every resident of the Reservation knows about but has not the backbone to speak of publicly. Meanwhile, I'll stick to the Black Hawk War story.
It is important to understand that the Ute are comprised of seven tribes neither being Shoshoni, they are from Colorado and were not in Utah until 1881. The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshoni distinctly different from the Utes in language, customs, and origin. For information on the Ute see Origin of the Ute Tribe.
In this essay I have attempted to give an brief overview of the events as they happened between the Timpanogos and the Mormons and with intention to debunk some of the myths, such as Chief Wakara being buried with live children, and Wakara taking part in the slave trade. Or that the Native peoples of Utah were treated fairly, and that it was they who caused the war. These false accusations along with a plethora of other fabrications are deliberate attempts to discredit, confuse, gloss over, and to justify Mormon mistreatment of Utah's Timpanogos peoples. These fake stories have never been challenged and have been told over and over from a biased one-sided perspective until they have become accepted as truth.
Meanwhile, on July 24, 1847, 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.” The Mormons made their camp in the heart of the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Nation. The Timpanogos Indians would soon confront Brigham Young and his followers for trespassing on their ancestral land.
The Timpanogos were under the leadership of seven brothers namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arropeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and eventually Black Hawk who was the son of Sanpitch. These seven legendary leaders were referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every Eutah clan and village along the Wasatch. Their population was at least 70,000 and more. They were the ruling Tribe that occupied the entire territory comprised of some 250,000 square miles.
Let's also understand when Mormon settlers arrived in 1847, a year later the Hidalgo Treaty of 1848 was signed wherein the United States agreed to recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages." Settlers ignored the treaty with impunity. Utah territory bordered the northern section of Mexico.
When Chief Wakara confronted Brigham Young shortly after they entered the valley, he made it clear they were not welcome to settle on their land. Brigham assured Wakara that they were only passing through on their way to California. That they had made a long journey, lost many of their people along the way and were short on supplies. That they needed to spend the winter there and would move on in the spring. Wakara understood, and generously helped the Mormons survive through the winter. When spring came, the Mormons began to clear-cut the timber and build houses.
And there after more Mormons began to arrive in large numbers at the rate of some 3000 a month. Mormons begin seizing Timpanogos land, water holes, and timber.
In the winter of 1848, trouble began when a company of 35 Mormon militia, under the leadership of Colonel John Scott, left Salt Lake City in pursuit of a so called “renegade band of Indians” who were falsely accused of taking horses belonging to Mormon leader Brigham Young. So it followed that war with the Mormons began in earnest on February 28, 1849 with the first of six massacres at Battle Creek in the foothills above Pleasant Grove, Utah.
In the crisp morning air, on that cold February morning, shots echoed off the canyon walls. There lingered a thick gray cloud of gun smoke; the frozen snow was now crimson red with fresh innocent Native blood. This day would mark the beginning of a 21 year battle with Mormons, the US Government, and the Timpanogos Indian Nation. According to reliable accounts, Brigham gave the order for Colonel Scott "to take such measures as would put a final end to their depredations in future." But, before morning they received orders from Salt Lake City stating that "the horses were not stolen..." Three times the company had received word the Indian's had not stolen Brigham Young's horses, they had only been moved to a different location to pasture." Still, not one of the thirty-five men turned back.
Scott, under orders from Brigham Young, he and his men met up with a Shoshoni Indian they referred to as Little Chief on the Provo River. Little Chief regretfully led Scott to an encampment of Timpanogos Indians who allegedly had been doing some stealing. Moreover, it seems unlikely Little Chief would have betrayed his people in this way, more likely threatened, he gave in. The trail took the company of soldiers to the mouth of a canyon above Pleasant Grove. Scott and his men split into four groups and surrounded the camp, and opened fire on the unsuspecting people sleeping there in their teepees. It is said that the "battle" continued for a couple hours, highly unlikely since most took shelter and then were trapped in a nearby ravine, standing in freezing water, and they had only one gun, while the surrounding army pelted their victims with rocks. As they immerged from cover unarmed, troops shot them repeatedly. A Timpanogos man named Kone, unarmed, was shot in the back as he came out of his teepee.
A brave girl about the age of 16 emerged from cover and pleaded with Colonel Scott not to harm her brother. Scott ordered her to bring her brother to him. Terrified of Scott she brought from the thicket her younger brother who bravely stood face to face with Scott and said, "Go away, what are you here for? Go away... you kill my father, my brother... for what? Go away, let us alone."
"Joshua Terry, a pioneer of 1847, and a mountain man who married into an Indian tribe, once told the writer (Howard R. Driggs) that this Indian boy became the warring leader Black Hawk. When peace came, after the Black Hawk War of the later eighteen sixties, this Chief, Terry declared, told him that he was this same boy taken after the fight on Battle Creek. He could never understand why the white men had shot down his people. It put bitterness in his heart; and though he lived for some time with the white people, his mind was ever set on avenging the wrong. That is why he later made war against them." (Story of Old Battle Creek and Pleasant Grove, Utah, Howard R. Driggs, 1948)
The Building of Fort Utah
My great-grandfather peter wrote, "It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River..."
Within a few days following the Battle Creek Massacre, a second party was sent to Utah Valley. The Higbee brothers and Dimmick Huntington were made presidency of the soon-to-be Provo Branch of the LDS Church and led a party of 30 saints to Provo River to erect Fort Utah. Apostle George A. Smith gave the command to "remove the Indian people from their land," and said Indian people have "no rights to their land."
When they were within a few miles north of the Provo River they were stopped by An-kar-tewets, a warrior of the Timpanogos, who stood before the men telling them to go back where they came from, that they were not going to make any settlement on their land. Allegedly they argued for sometime, until Dimmick pleaded with An-kar-tewets that they wanted to live in peace with the Timpanogos and made promises of gifts. According to the victors’ accounts following a long discussion, An-kar-tewets made Dimmick raise his hand to swear to the sun that no harm would come to the Timpanogos, that they would never take away their lands or rights, and Dimmick and the others swore.
Members of the Timpanogos Tribe dispute this account saying it would be highly unlikely that a warrior such as An-kar-tewets would have made any concession to accommodate Dimmick and his party. First of all, he would not have the authority to speak on behalf of the Timpanogos community and make a decision that potentially put the entire tribe and its most precious resources at risk, they told me. They said it would be more in character of An-kar-tewets to have firmly denied Dimmick and his party any access; that they simply bullied their way into Timpanogos territory. That and "we don't swear to the sun," they added.
Dimmick and the rest of the party then immediately began building of the fort, for they knew they were in danger. Little did Dimmick and the others know that the land they built the fort on was a traditional and sacred meeting place for the Shoshone Timpanogos, and many other tribes for hundreds of miles around during the spring and summer months. The tribes would gather in sacred ceremonies to honor the Creator. Or, if they did know it was sacred land, they didn't care, they didn't honor their sworn oath made with An-kar-tewets earlier either.
It has also been stated that soon after Fort Utah was founded, Walker, according to Colonel Bridger and Mr. Vasquez, began stirring up the Indians against the "Mormon" settlers. In this movement Walker was aided by another chief named Pareyarts , variously styled Elk, Big Elk, Old Elk, etc., like himself a hater of the whites, and apparently quite as fond of fighting. It was with Big Elk and his band that the Provo settlers, in their first regular battle with the savages, had immediately to deal." - Peter Gottfredson
The loathsome acts to unfold at Fort Utah would haunt the Mormons for many decades to follow, even to the present day. Following the massacre of some 70 Indians at the fort, Hickman hung the head of Old Elk from the eves of his cabin. A witness at Fort Utah told reporters, "...it was hung pendant by its long hair from the willows of the roof of one of the houses. I well remember how horrible was the sight." - Robert Carter author Fort Utah.
Dr. James Blake, a surgeon among the Stansbury company, was greatly influenced by Hickman's trophy of Old Elk's head. Dr. Blake then ordered troops Abner Blackburn and James Orr to go out and behead each of the frozen corpses lying about in the snow, following the two-day battle that resulted in the deaths of 70 Indian people. Dr. Blake told the men he "wanted to have the heads shipped to Washington to a medical institution" for scientific examination.
What this account doesn't tell us is that there was a market for Indian body parts. Jim Bridger offered Hickman a hundred dollars for Old Elk's head. The men hacked from the frozen corpses as many as 50 heads. They piled them in open boxes, along with a dozen or so Mallard ducks Blake had shot while his men performed their chore. The heads and ducks were taken to the fort and placed in view of Black Hawk who was barely in his twenties, and his traumatized kin who had been taken captive at Battle Creek. Innocent of any wrongdoing, the captives were thus tortured as they were forced to view the grizzly remains placed before them for a period of two long and excruciating weeks.
Mary Meyer is the Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation and related the following story of her great-great-grandfather Joseph Stacey Murdock who was the first Bishop of Heber city. Joseph raised two Timpanogos Indian children, one by the name of Pernetta who he had taken from Fort Utah following the battle there. Pernetta was about 5 or 6 years of age, when Joseph took her away with him to Heber and raised her to adulthood. At the sametime a Timpanogos boy of the same age lay clinging to bloody remains of his mother. His name was Pick He was taken and put in a wagon with his sister. He was raised with Pernetta and was told that Pernetta was his sister. But Pick always said she was not the same sister as the one in the wagon.
Who are the Timpanogos Indian peoples? We begin with a book titled Juan Rivera's Colorado, 1765 by Author Steven G. Baker, tells of a Spanish explorer Juan Rivera who made two trips into western Colorado interacting with Paiute tribes, in search of “the bearded ones.”
Baker cites an account by an author named Bolton who quotes from the Escalante Dominguez journal that “extols the virtues of the villa de Timpanogos which was the home of the bearded Timpanogos whom the fathers met at Utah Lake in what they... believed to be the old province of Teguayo.” Fathers Dominguez and Escalante openly discussed the elements of the evolved from the legend of Teguayo in their briefings...letters... (regarding) the bearded Indians.”
In the Dominguez Escalante Journal: Their Expedition Through Colorado Utah Arizona and New Mexico in 1776, Escalante describes having come in contact with aboriginal peoples who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," an Aztecan-Shoshonian word meaning rock water carriers (referring to salt), whose leader was Turunianchi, 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 these people, an honor that remains to this day.
Then in 1824, explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with a Snake-Shoshone Tribe (Timpanogos) living along the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake. Provo City derives it's name from this early explorer.
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857, when Wakara was alive, and lived among the Timpanogos during the war. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the Snake Shoshoni Timpanogos Tribe ruled the entire territory of Utah. Peter wrote: "It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River..."
The Timpanogos peoples were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. They were deeply connected to the beauty that surrounded them, majestic mountains, lakes and streams. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms and uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the animals and all living things. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from a greater power. They were neither "savage" nor "heathens" rather a prosperous, and deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos the war was never about possessions, the land was their mother, nourishing all her children, it belonged to everyone. It was about honor.
Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. Humility to the Native peoples meant no one person was above all others. Every individual was respected equally. Family and community were inseparable and cohesively bound together in an environment of Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. Even animals and all things Creator created were seen by Native peoples as having a purpose, and each possessing special gifts and talents. When decisions were made within Native communities everyone had to be in agreement before action was taken, it was the honorable way to live.
Within the communities each family took on particular roles, for example medicine people, warriors, weavers, hunters and gatherers etc. were the responsibility of individual families respectfully. Elders, who were the old and wise, they had the greatest influence in the community because they earned their respect. They were the spokespersons, teachers and keepers of wisdom.
This is the way Walkara and his brothers were groomed to become great leaders of the people when the time came. As a representative of his people Wakara could speak on their behalf. He understood he was responsible for their security and well being. When his people hurt, he hurt. When they were happy, he was happy. He was responsible for their very lives and cultural integrity.
These were the 'Yutahs' as they were called by early trappers, that meant the Timpanogostzis that occupy the Timpanogos Lake area, and were fully aware of the Mormons arrival. Salt Lake valley was well known by trappers and as it was the crossroads of travelers and traders long before the Mormons arrived. Going west it was the Oregon Trail. South it connected to the old Spanish Trail. The northern route Washington and Canada territories. So Salt Lake Valley was relatively a busy place, people came and went, but the Mormons were different. They came and stayed. And this raised concern for the Timpanogos.
The Timpanogos were business people. They were traders. They had traded in horses, leather goods, silver, and many other useful goods. Their trade routes reach all the way from the Colombia River to the Gulf of Mexico.
"The Spanish Trail, was a major trade route between New Mexico and Los Angeles. A large section of the trail curves north to pass through central and southern Utah before bending south again and passing out of the state. The Spanish Trail measures 1,120 miles long and passes through New Mexico, then enters Utah from the east near the present-day town of Ucolo, Utah about 15 miles east of Monticello, and continues roughly northwesterly to about the town of Green River, Emery County. Much of the route in southwestern Utah is now Interstate 70."
And so it was that the Timpanogos Indians occupied a vast area, they prospered and thrived off the trade routes. And now we understand why we see Chief Wakara having much to do with large herds of horses.
Timpanogos leader Wakara told interpreter M. S. Martenas In 1853 "He (Wakara) said 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, and his parents before him—that the Mormons 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." - STATEMENT, M. S. MARTENAS, INTERPRETER Great Salt Lake City, July 6 1853 Brigham Young Papers, MS 1234, Box 58, Folder 14 LDS Archives - Will Bagley Transcription
However, the Mormon population grew and the Indian population declined through disease and destruction of food resources. Mormon leaders moved to disrupt the Mexican trade in horses thereby undermining the Tribes wealth and power." (Note: The territorial legislature were all Mormons)
Within less than three months following the massacre, Fort Utah was dismantled and moved a short distance south to the newly formed community of Provo. Walkara met with leaders from the various bands of the Timpanogos Tribe and advised them that the Mormons were a kind of people who lie about being believers in God, and that their way was to live in peace in a loving way. That he had mistakenly trusted the Mormons when they swore no harm would come to them and their lands would not be taken from them. Walkara quickly learned they were a people who could not be trusted. They did not walk their talk. Wakara kept his promises, he had helped them through the winter, now he regretted helping them, feeling betrayed and confused he had to answer to his Tribe.
Walkara certainly was capable of launching an all out attack on the Mormons and could have driven them out of Utah territory and would have been justified to do so. But that was not the way of the Timpanogos. The Timpanogos way is to preserve life, not to destroy it. Walkara approaches the situation in a more honorable way. He first sat in council with his brothers Sowiette, Sanpitch, Arropeen, Ammon, Tabby, Grospeen, and others to determine the best way to approach the situation. He takes the high road and meets with Brigham Young looking for answers in a diplomatic way.
Mormon writers describe this meeting saying “Walkara begged Brigham to be baptized into the Church,” as though he had surrendered to Brigham Young. No, a man like Walkara would not 'beg' much less surrender. It is more likely Walkara had enough respect for Brigham Young as a fellow human being and leader he would have considered making some concessions or compromise, for Walkara's allegiance was to himself and his people and to the land of his ancestors. You don't see the Mormons making such efforts for peace, so it took a better man to use such diplomacy, only a coward would sneak up on innocent people in the night massacring them with guns and cannons filled with chain-shot as it happened at both Battle Creek and Fort Utah.
Wakara and his brothers were a men of honor, and would find any means possible to avoid the shedding of innocent blood, which was the Indian way.
In July 1853, Walkara was camped on Spring Creek near Springville, when a Mormon settler killed a member of the band he said he had mistaken for a rabbit, which led to the deaths of two more Timpanogos. Walkara demanded the killer be brought before him. His request was refused by Brigham Young. This in part precipitated the "Walker War."
Walkara and his band of warriors returned in war paint, raided the settlements of Utah, Juab, Sanpete, Millard and Iron Counties during the summer and fall. The last engagement was at the south end of Utah Lake generally spoken of as the Goshen Valley battle, which lasted about three hours; the troops taking the Indian camp. Nine Indians were killed; some of the troops and horses were shot, but none mortally.
1855, January 29th, Wakara died a sudden death. He had been poisoned by members of the Mormon Church, history scholars have told me, at Meadow Creek, in Millard County. Among his final words he admonished his tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them.
There are several stories about Walkara's burial that are false, for example "Walkara was buried in a sepulcher of stone on the rugged eastern hillside above this little community of Meadow. His grave was located up Dry Canyon, the first canyon north of Corn Creek. On the day of burial two of his squaws and some Paiute children were offered up as sacrifice. Besides his weapons, trinkets, presents, the two squaws and two girls, a young boy was fastened alive to the pedestal beside Walkara's body. It is presumed the grave was robbed by whites in 1909."
Interesting, but I lived with Perry Murdock for a couple months who is a direct descendant of Walkara, and when I asked him if his great-grandfather was buried with two children he was puzzled. "I can tell you we (Timpanogos) would never do such a thing, that's not our tradition. No, that wouldn't happen. we have sacrificed a horse sometimes so the person's favorite animal would be with him, but we would never treat children that way." He went on to tell me that Walkara's body was exhumed by tribal members and reburied to a secrete location where his remains would be undisturbed by grave robbers. That occurred in the early 1900's.
Yet another story that has no merit is that he also stole children of other tribes and made them slaves. That he and his men would raid Paiute bands and take women and children prisoner. He would sell the slaves to Spanish or Mexican traders and explorers, who would take them back to New Mexico to work in the mines or as domestic servants. In return, Walkara would get guns, ammunition, and other goods. It is said he also sold children to the Mormon settlers, threatening to kill the children if he couldn't sell them. This is a gross misrepresentation not only of Chief Walkara but of Native peoples of Utah. The Paiutes were Walkara's own relatives. The Timpanogos Tribe, and more importantly direct descendants of Walkara have never been given the opportunity to tell their side of the story. They have, however, told me in person that it is absurd to think Walkara would do such a thing. A man who for most of his life was not only a respected leader of the Timpanogos, but man of great character. For him to steal children from his own blood relations would have brought shame and disgrace upon himself and his tribe. Walkara was chosen to be their leader because he exemplified the highest standards and ideals of his people.
Living descendants of Walkara gave me their version saying that "When the Mormons arrived and fighting broke out our people scattered in all directions for safety. Our children whose parents were killed Walkara rescued them and took them to our own people for safety, and so they wouldn't end up in Brigham Young's custody. Brigham would take our children, those of our leaders for his own protection knowing we wouldn't attack his home where our children were."
Moreover, its a fact, "Mormons used slavery as a tool of redemption." According to Historian Andrés Reséndez' author of The Other Slavery, "Brigham said buy up the lamanite children, educate them, and teach them the gospel so that many generations would not pass they should become a white and delightsome people. Buy them up to save their souls."
Slavery was legal in Utah as a result of the Compromise of 1850. Some Mormon pioneers, Brigham Young included, had brought African-American slaves with them when they migrated west. In the Compromise of 1850, Congress formed the Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory allowing each to engage in slavery at their own discretion.
Arropeen becomes leader Wakar's brother Arropeen was then chosen by the Tribe to be their leader. Chief Arropeen during his decade long leadership would strive to hold his people together as bloody confrontations with the Mormons continued to escalate. The Tintic war, Salt Creek Battle, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Chicken Creek Battle, the arrival of Johnston's Army, smallpox spreading epidemically killing his the people, Lincoln creates the Uinta Valley Reservation, and the Bear River Massacre. In the winter of 1863 US Army Colonel Patrick Edward Connors committed one of the most hideous massacres in US history on the borders of Utah and Idaho, when he slaughters 593 Shoshoni. And Brigham Young supplied Connors with equipage and soldiers to aid the cause.
The Shoshone, innocent of any wrong doing, tried desperate measures to fight off the U.S. Army as the soldiers seemed to lose all sense of control and discipline. After most of the men were killed, and many of the children were also shot and killed. In some cases, soldiers held the feet of infants by the heel and "beat their brains out on any hard substance they could find." Those women who refused to submit to the soldiers were shot and killed. After the slaughter ended, soldiers went through the Indian village raping women and using axes to bash in the heads of women and children who were already dying of wounds. Leaders Bear Hunter (Indian name Camwick brother of SACAJAWEA) and Lemhi both were killed.
At the same time the United States was engaging in the Civil War, and Kit Carson has forced the Navajo peoples to Redondo, The Black Hawk War begins in the winter of 1864-65. Its interesting to note that Connors, Brigham Young, and Kit Carson were each 30 degree Masons. One cannot begin to imagine the difficulties Arropeen had to deal with, and the toll it took on him as a human.
Then the Black Hawk War, "a small band of Indians was camped near Gunnison, Sanpete County (Utah). It is said that they contracted Smallpox, and that many died. The Indians seemed to think that the white people were to blame in some way for this and were threatening to kill the whites and steal their horses and cattle in an attempt to get them to leave. Arrangements were consequently made for a meeting between the Indians and the whites at Manti on the 9th of April, 1865, to talk over matters.
A number of prominent Timpanogos came to Manti. They met at Jerome Kempton's place (about four blocks south of town), and it appeared that an understanding would be arrived at, but a young Chief (Yene-wood) also known as Arropeen (Wakara's brother) could not be pacified. Peter Gottfredson, my great-grandfather wrote that "John Lowry, believed drunk at the time, told the Chief to keep quiet, when someone yelled, ‘look out he's getting his arrows!’ Lowry jerked the Chief (by his hair) off of his horse, and was about to abuse him, when some men stepped in and broke them up." Lowry stated, "I told him a time or two to stop and to permit me to finish my talk. Just then someone called out ‘lookout, he is getting his arrows!’ I rode up to him and turned him off his horse, and pulled him to the ground. The bystanders interfered and we separated. In those early days it was at times imperative that harsh measures should be used... We had to do these things, or be run over by them. It was a question of supremacy between the white man and the Indian."
John Lowry made it clear that it was "a matter of supremacy" and that it was the whiteman who had the right to run over the Indian. Not surprising he would see it that way when in 1850 Mormon apostle George A. Smith, a cousin to Church Founder Joseph Smith Jr.., arrogantly and without compassion declared that the Indian people "have no right to their land" and he instructed the all-Mormon legislature to "extinguish all titles" and get them out of the way and onto reservations, violating Utah Indian's inherent rights as a sovereign nation by virtue of the fact they were inhabitants of the land for hundreds if not thousands of years prior to the Mormons arrival.
Following the incident at Manti, Timpanogos leader Arropeen, being dishonored before his people, resigned his leadership to his brother Chief Tabby, who saw it as the final blow after some 21 years of Mormon depredations. and so it followed the Timpanogos Tribal warriors rallied under the new leadership of Tabby's nephew Black Hawk, whom Tabby had asked to lead as his War-Chief, and declared war 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."
Moreover, the Timpanogos, as with all Tribes at the time, did not believe in "Satan" or "God" in the Christian sense, and 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 whiteman's ways... it was a matter of honor and survival, why is that so complicated to understand?"
Now, 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 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.
Meanwhile, during the 1850-60's when the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon culture, the Mormons’ response was to 'get rid' of them. (See Doctrine of Discovery) The underlying cause of the Christian mind-set 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 principals; 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."
As we can see the Black Hawk War was not a single event, nor did a single event ignite the war 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. He also told the Denver Rocky Mountain News paper "you can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder." 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 Young repeatedly admonished his followers to "Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals." (See Brigham Young Discourses) 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.
Black Hawk, or Antongua as he is sometimes called, was born at Spring Lake, Utah circa 1825, Black Hawk, was bright and intelligent with a good sense of humor. He was the son of Sanpitch He was from his childhood groomed to be a warrior honoring the traditions of his Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos ancestors. His charismatic personality and natural leadership ability made him likable among both his own people and the whites. As a young man, he was educated in Jesse Williams Fox's school in Manti which implies he learned to speak English, could read and write and learned mathematics.
My father told me Peter was invited into Black Hawk's camp on numerous occasions during the war. It is well documented that Black Hawk was a compassionate leader.
He was resistant to killing, and only then in self-defense, that being consistent with traditional beliefs of the Timpanogos. Conditioned by his own personal torment, having witnessed his people becoming increasingly ill from smallpox and measles, and seeing the slow agonizing death from starvation - was unbearable. Mormons had taken all their game, making it ever more difficult traveling greater distances to find food to support their large population. Often Black Hawk went without food himself to help his people. Often he called upon Great Spirit for guidance, and to make peace with the spirit world.
But, the hellish terror of his people's suffering was overwhelming as he saw their hearts fill with hopelessness and despair. By his twenties Black Hawk had already witnessed with extreme agony the senseless murders of his family at Battle Creek, and the gruesome beheading of his kin at Fort Utah, the murder of his uncle Wakara, and the disrespect shown towards his uncle Arropeen. Then in 1863, when 593 Shoshone men women and children were brutally massacred at Bear River, and all the other injustices his people were suffering from...the task that lay before his must have seemed overwhelming.
In 1866 Utah's Mormon population was approaching 200,000 people when Black Hawk began his campaign against the atrocities and seemingly endless encroachment of Mormon settlers on his peoples aboriginal land. On April 21, 1866, an express from Fort Sanford reached Bishop James Allred at Circleville, Utah telling of a Paiute that pretended to be friendly had shot and killed a white man who belonged to the militia stationed at the nearby fort. The people of Circleville were told to protect themselves against the Indians who were camped in their valley. Though residents in Circleville had no cause for concern with their neighbors whom they had befriended.
Oluf Larsen was one of the guards who participated in the killings. He said: "We naturally concluded the Indians were planning something. This led us to call a council to consider what was best to do about them. We concluded it was best to take them prisoners, feed and care for them until we could get information from higher authority. In the evening, we went quietly down and encircled their camp. We closed up quite well, so none should be able to escape if they tried to break away. A man by the name of James Allred [James Tillman Sanford Allred] who spoke the Indian language very well, and who had considerable experience among them, and knew their customs quite we,l showed them the necessity of complying with our wishes telling them they would be treated kindly, and would show their friendship by moving into town. No sooner had he explained this than *one Indian jumped across the river where I had my position and in the twinkle of an eye, the men opened fire and the bullets whistled around my ears. Just as the Indian fell, he discharged his gun. The bullet grazed my breast and cut the barrel square off the gun of the man by my side. Had the bullet come three inches nearer, it would have killed both of us. All the other Indians surrendered and we marched the men into the meeting house, and we placed them under guard. Later we went and moved the squaws and children and belonging[s] into a vacant cellar with guards watching them." The captured Indians, 26 in all, showed a lot of unrest, then on the evening of the following day some of the Indians were able to cut themselves loose from their bindings and make a break. In the excitement the two Indians trying to free themselves were shot and killed by the guards. The remainder of the Indians were then taken from the meeting house to a nearby underground cellar and imprisoned there. The settlers had another meeting, and it was decided among them to kill the remaining captured Indian people. And so it was that one by one they were led out of the cellar, 24 in all.
There were women, men, and children, and they were first struck from behind on the head to stun them, then their throats were cut. A terrified mother of two young boys and one girl, between thirteen and seven or eight years of age, told her crying children to run for their lives. When the door was opened for the next victim the three made a break and forced their way past the guards and ran. In the dark of night the guards fired several shots at the three but were unable to hit them. One was shot in the side but the bullet barely grazed his rib, not enough to stop him. It is safe to say the mother never knew if her children had managed to escape. Her children would wait through the night in vein for the return of their parents. The day after following the massacre, the now three orphaned children who had made their escape were found in a nearby cave. They were taken by James Allred to Marysvale, a nearby town.
It was Allred's intention to sell or make a trade for the children. According to accounts, no one wanted the little girl. There, in Marysvale, the captured girl was taken by her heals and swung hitting her head against a wagons wheel until dead. It is unclear what happened to one of the remaining two boys, whether he also killed or managed to escape, but James Allred took the remaining boy on to Spring City.
When Brigham Young heard of the details of this heinous crime he was upset, but did nothing more than verbally chastise the murders. Later they were praised by Church members for having done their dirty deed well. The so called "saints" of Circleville did all they could to cover up the tragic event, saying that they acted in self defense when the Indians attacked the guards. But in time the event leaked to the news, but curiously not a single person was prosecuted.
Last year, April 22nd, Mary and I attended a historic dedication of the Circleville Massacre Monument, historians and speakers gave a fair and accurate depiction of the tragic event of 1866. Approximately 25 Koosharem Paiute were present at the dedication along with some 40 or so people comprised of historians from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Shirlee Silversmith Director of Indian Affairs, members of the Northern Ute Tribe, along with towns folk and the press. The ceremony lasted over an hour. And following the ceremony there was talk among the Paiute and historians of locating the burial place of the Massacre victims and a possible repatriation of their remains to bring closure to those whose ancestors were involved in the atrocity.
For the first time that I can recall, there appears to be a sincere and united effort between Native peoples of Utah and the Church to respectfully recognize this darkened part of Utah's history. Unlike other such attempts in the past, this time things had a much different tone of honesty and bold directness when addressing the details of the Massacre. None of the speakers sidestepped or sugar coated the story. And I want to commend Church Historian Richard E. Turely for his candid remarks. Mr. Turely openly admitted during his speech that one of his ancestors were among those who committed the atrocity, and that he deeply regretted that it happened. I think that took a lot of courage, and I have deep respect for Mr. Turley for his honesty and directness setting an example for others follow. I met Mr. Turley for the first time afterwards and thanked him for his tremendous contribution.
Meanwhile, just as the Transcontinental Rail Road was being completed at Promontory Point in Utah, Black Hawk, under the leadership of his uncle Tabby, unleashed a 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, among them the Colorado Utes, Lakota, Dine' and Apache. Over the coarse of just 15 months they demonstrated incredible skill as they commanded a formidable counter-attack that effectively held back Mormon expansion into their most valued homeland 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 the abandonment of some 70 Mormon villages. Some say he nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of Utah. Skills I believe he learned from Wakara.
Then 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.
When Black Hawk was well enough to travel he visited his uncle Tabby camped north of Heber getting ready his warriors to attack the Mormons, 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, on the way to see Tabby, Black Hawk with humility and resolve made an extraordinary gesture of good faith. Saying he and his people were tired of war. He met with Indian agent Franklin Head at Strawberry Valley, handed Franklin 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, as with his uncles before him, gave his very life for his people. A humble man tormented by meaningless deaths of his family and kin - fought for peace to his dieing day. A man who's bones were dug up and disgracefully put on public display by the Mormon Church for amusement on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Larry Cesspooch told me in an interview, "It was white history that wrote it -- that he (Black Hawk) surrendered. And no, a man like that don't surrender. He'll come to terms with reality. I'm done, we're done, we, we did what we could, we're done. But it gets written differently... And like any of us, I think you get to a point where it's like any war, you get in and you do what you've got to do. And maybe there's a family there, and you killed, killed their kids -- you, as a human, that thing we all are, is going to at least make you say I'm sorry."
Three years passed, and days prior to his death in 1870, Black Hawk, now deathly ill from his wound, he still continued his peace efforts, my great-grandfather called it "Black Hawk's mission of peace." Black Hawk and Tabby contributed significantly to ending the war. Consistent in character and with Timpanogos teachings, once again they tried to get along with the white man. My great grandfather, saw the suffering of his friend Black Hawk and was deeply disturbed as he witnessed the consequences of man's inhumanity to man. A people Peter had grown up with and had shared moments of joy and companionship.
He had fought the good fight, and he knew he was about to die, before Black Hawk passed over in 1870, described as gaunt and skeleton like, he chose to travel 180 agonizing miles by horse, and he visited every Mormon village to apologize, taking responsibility for the pain and suffering he and his warriors had caused. Thinking not of himself, putting the well-being of his people first - Black Hawk made one last appeal. He spoke to the settlers saying, "you broke your promises, stolen our land, killed our children, men and women, and spread disease among my people." He then made a plea to the settlers to end the bloodshed. "You didn't see that happening on the part of the settlers. So it took a greater man to do such a thing. And that's what is overlooked in the victors’ accounts."
Black Hawk was buried on a hillside above Spring Lake in 1870, the place of his birth. Yes it's true, Black Hawk stole Mormon cattle and horses by the thousands in defense. And here's the flip side to that coin, our Mormon ancestors stole over 250 thousand square miles of occupied Timpanogos land and never gave them a red cent for any of it, adding insult to injury laying all blame on Utah's Indian peoples. Struggle for equality and the right to live in peace never ended with the war. Chief Tabby, the last of the seven brothers, carried the torch on into the late 1800's.
Then in 1881, the White River Utes of Colorado killed an unprincipled Indian agent Named John Meeker which resulted in the Colorado Utes being forced on to the Uinta Valley Reservation. And while there have been only short periods of peace for the Timpanogos following the war, the struggle for survival has consumed the lives of the people over the past century and half. Tabby passed over at the age of 102, around the year 1898.
"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." - Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah.
The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website is best navigated from the Battle Timeline Page. All of the important events have been organized chronologically by date.