Black Hawk Memorial
The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy
A History of the Timpanogos Nation and The Black Hawk War
By Phillip B Gottfredson
Welcome to The Black Hawk War: Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website, the only website dedicated to the study of the Black Hawk War on the internet since 2002, exploring both sides of a tragic conflict between early Mormon pioneers and the Timpanogos Nation, the Indian peoples of Utah.
What began as a hobby over a decade ago researching the Black Hawk War, it wasn't long until I was donating all my time and resources to the subject. But, I struggled to make sense of the many contradictions in the victors one-sided accounts, and many I read over and over again numerous times. Moreover, for years, and like most, I mistakenly assumed the Black Hawk War was between the Northern Ute Tribe and the Mormons which is simply not true. Everyone I talked with agreed it was the Northern Utes. All the books I had read said so. But, some things just didn't make sense knowing all seven tribes of the Northern Utes were in Colorado during the Black Hawk War and were not Utah! That said, new research reveals major discrepancies in Utah history, I went on to document that the Timpanogostzis is the Tribe Brigham Young and his followers first encountered, and not the Northern Utes. And this contradicts mainstream history... but that doesn't make it wrong! see Origins of of the Timpanogos and Northern Ute Tribes.
Utah seems to delight in creating confusion when it comes to Native Arican Indian history. For example, take the so called "Fremont Indians" who, by the way, never existed. Named in honor of an early explorer by the name of John Charles Fremont who in the 1800's tripped over some ancient artifact in Utah that archaeologists failed to attribute to any known Tribe, made the decision to create one, and now we have people who believe there was a Tribe called the "Fremonts."
In all the years of research on the Black Hawk War, it becomes obvious to me 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 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 and half-baked documentaries about Utah's indigenous peoples are based on assumptions, replete with half truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. Now we see why it said "they don't want the truth to be told." Or maybe they just don't care enough to write balanced and truthful accounts. The time has come when historians need to correct these inaccuracies in Utah history. Mormons need to stop putting the blame on others for this tragedy, and take responsibility for their own unrighteous behavior. And First Nations people need to tell their story and demand it be told accurately.
And of coarse 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.
Whereas Utah historians would have us believe that Brigham Young and his followers were confronted with 'loathsome savages,' and Mormons claim they gave the indigenous peoples of Utah every opportunity to succeed, which the opposite is true, they were given every opportunity to fail.
That said, some may judge me as being 'anti-Mormon' and they are wrong! I was born into the LDS Church and served a two year mission. I was taught to " tell the truth and shame the devil." These are the facts as I see them after 15 years of research. But, if you must judge me, do so by my own standards, not yours, and expect the same in return.
It follows that writers attempt to glorify and romanticize the Black Hawk War by attributing the war to one individual Black Hawk when he played only a minor role in the war. From 1855 to 1865 Chief Tabby's brother Arropeen had been War Chief, but following the Mormon's botched attempt to reach a peace agreement in 1865 at Manti, Utah, Arropeen resigned his position to Black Hawk, also under the leadership of Timpanogos Tribal Chief Tabby. Antongua, or Black Hawk as Brigham Young superciliously called him, was the son of Sanpitch and a nephew of Chief Wakara (Walker), and was in leadership for only 14 months when he died from complications from a gunshot wound to the gut in 1870. And according to the Timpanogos Tribe he played a minor but effective role ending the 21 year conflict.
At first I spent a lot time with the Northern Utes. 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 "the Church has deliberately kept their history from them" which proved to be true. They were forced into whiteman's schools and forced to accept whiteman's version of history. But, most Utes I spoke with were correct and agreed they came to Utah from Colorado. Others say the word 'Ute' is not in their language and prefer to call themselves Nuche'. They too were correct, the word "UTE" is a whiteman's name, which doesn't appear in history accounts until about the mid 1800's, just like the "FREMONTS is whiteman's name." 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 were correct when they said they were not Ute leaders, and didn't know how they fit into the story of the Black Hawk War.
Moreover, the "UTE TRIBE" wasn't created until 1938, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation". The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is a fedral coporation not a reservation and never was. The Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as does the Timpanogos Tribe. I realized if I was going to find answers I had to look elsewhere. But where?
Until you make this distinction... nothing about Utah's history will make sense. There are Northern Ute Indians and Timpanogos Indians, there are no "Timpanogos Ute Indians." "Timpanogos Utes" is an oxymoron. It is important to know that originally the Northern Ute Tribe was comprised of seven bands none being Shoshoni, that they are from Colorado and were not in 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 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 of the Timpanogos and Northern Ute Tribes.
There has never been any act of Congress that has abrogated or amended the Executive Order of 1861 that established the Uintah Valley Reservation for the "Indians of Utah" and, according to the Tenth District Court ruling in 2016 "remains intact."
Having lived with a Shoshoni family in Oregon for six years, many times they told me "you'll never find the truth in whiteman's writings"... also proved to be true. Following my heart and driven by passion to learn everything I could about Native American Indians, in the years following I got acquainted with indigenous peoples from North America to South America, and virtually everywhere in between because I became fascinated, and intrigued and eventually embraced their cultural life-ways and teachings as my own.
During the years following, I got acquainted with a little known 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, and their story blew me away. Why? It doesn't matter they are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they provided me with definitive proof that they are the living descendants of 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. Finally! Finally after years of research I found the truth! Everything fell into place.
The Timpanogos are a band of the Snake-Shoshoni and are distinctly different from the Northern Utes of Utah in language, customs, and origin. The Timpanogos are indigenous to Utah territory. Over the past two years I have been living with the Timpanogos pouring over documents and listening to their amazing stories and teachings. And so it is with their permission I have updated this website to a much truer and balanced version of the Mormon's Black Hawk War than before, adding valuable information from the Timpanogos Nation, whom I have come to love and respect as my own because of their compassion, integrity and honesty. (Visit the Timpanogos Nation website)
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, Sanpitch, 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
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.”
Timpanogos Chief Wakara confronted Brigham saying he and his followers were not welcome on their land.
Mormon leader Brigham Young assured Wakara they had no intentions of staying and were passing through.
Wakara, Tribal Chief of the Timpanogos Nation, allowed Brigham and his trail-beaten exhausted followers to stay and rest until spring. Chief Wakara obliged Brigham Young when he asked the Tribe to help the travelers and helped them with food to get through the winter. Chief Wakara would live to regret helping the Mormons. Mormon emigrants would pour in at the rate of some three thousand a month taking over Timpanogos land. Wakara died suddenly in 1855 having been poisoned by members of the Mormon church. It followed that Wakara's brother Tabby was chosen as Tribal Chief and remained so until his death in c. 1896.
Let's also understand when Mormon settlers arrived in 1847, a year later the Hildago 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 this treaty with impunity. It was never abrogated or modified and remains intact!
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857 and lived among the Timpanogos. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the Timpanogos Nation ruled the entire territory of the Wasatch in Utah.
Regarding the War, 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?"
The Black Hawk War in Utah 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 unrighteous transgression upon the Timpanogos Indian Nation's inherent sovereignty, that began in the winter of 1849 with the Battle Creek Massacre above Pleasant Grove, when the Mormon militia slaughtered a small family of Timpanogos Indians innocent of any wrong doing.
Explore this website and you will see why the Black Hawk War was not a single incident as historians would have us believe. Researching the War 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.
Within the years that followed Battle Creek, herein you will see that Brigham Young's militia the Nauvoo Legion, in hand with U.S. troops, would commit some of the most hideous massacres in American history resulting in untold thousands of Timpanogos deaths, along with a few hundred Mormons. I am referring to 1849 Battle Creek Massacre, 1850 Fort Utah massacre, 1857 MT. Meadows Massacre, 1863 Bear River Massacre, 1865 Grass Valley Massacre, 1866 Circleville Massacre, and this does not include untold deaths resulting from starvation, violence, small pox, and measles.
The Timpanogos are the people my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson lived among and wrote about during those troubled times. Peter helped them gather food. He played with their children. "He was invited into Black Hawk's camp on numerous occasions" my father told me. And that's what I wanted to find out, what it was like for grandpa Pete to live among the Timpanogos and know the great Antongua, or as Brigham Young called him "Black Hawk." And now I know. From great-grandfather, to great-grandson, in my mind things had come full circle. When I began my research so many years ago I had no idea it would forever change my life...in a good and profound way.
The Timpanogos 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 sad. 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?
To answer that question we have to go back to the end of the War in 1873. We see the Timpanogos so badly traumatized, demoralized and marginalized, that life for the Timpanogos had become all about survival in the decades that followed. It meant to "tell no one that you are Timpanogos" to avoid persecution and worse... death. And I can tell you that fear is still pervasive among the Timpanogos to this day. And from their oral and written histories, and by my own observations it becomes clear that white-man's prejudice and greed over billions of dollars of oil revenues, illegal land grabs, a plethora of human atrocities; is the 'third rail' about the Uinta Valley Reservation no one wants to talk about right now. I was warned years ago "don't go there." And Native people have asked that I not speak of these things, "now is not the time." Just saying, white man's depredations of the Timpanogos of Utah didn't end with the Black Hawk War as historians would have us to believe.
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."
As Americans, and citizens of Utah, when we look back at our history
we want to find the heroes and stories of our ancestors that are
inspiring. But the conflict between the Mormons and the Native peoples of Utah, the Mormons call the "Black Hawk war," was brutal and
bloody. The Timpanogos didn't want war, nor did they invite the Mormons to take from them their homeland. So severe was this tragedy for a people innocent of any wrong doing, who's only crime was that they were "Indian" it can only be described as genocide driven by Mormon bigotry, fanaticism and greed. And this is why Mormons and the indigenous people of Utah alike find it so difficult to talk truthfully about the atrocities Mormons of Utah have brought upon themselves, and others. For the Timpanogos Nation it was the end of a peaceful and sacred time, a time that will be remembered and never forgotten.
So, here are 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 70 pages of documented material in The Black Hawk War; Utah's Forgotten Tragedy website it is best navigated from the Timeline Page. All of the important events have been organized chronologically by date, and linked to all the stories of the War.