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 Indian peoples of Utah.
First let me introduce you to the Timpanogos Indian Tribe, and a little background on myself and the Black Hawk War.
The earliest record I have found so far that refers to the Timpanogos in Utah begins with the Spanish explorer Juan Rivera in 1765. A decade later explorers Dominguez and Escalante explores 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 these people.
Then in 1824, 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.
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.
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 Utah.
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
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. Moreover, for years, and like most, I mistakenly assumed the War was between the Ute Tribe and the Mormons which is simply not true. Everyone I talked with agreed it was the Utes. All the books I had read said so. But, some things just didn't make sense i.e. all seven tribes of the Utes were in Colorado during the War not Utah. That said, I went on to document that the Timpanogostzis is the Tribe Brigham Young and his followers first encountered, and not the Utes. And this contradicts mainstream history... but that doesn't make it wrong. see Origins of of the Timpanogos and Ute Tribes.
Regarding the War, why historians try to make the case that the 21 years leading up to the war were "complex circumstances," is both baffling and deceptive to me. Descendants of Chiefs Black Hawk, Wakara, Tabby, Arropeen tell a very different story. 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?"
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 impingement upon the Timpanogos Indian Nation's inherent sovereignty. Trouble began in the winter of 1849 with the Battle Creek Massacre wherein 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.
I wanted to be told that the people committing the atrocities 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 in spite of their alleged degraded life style 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.
It follows writers attempt to glorify and romanticize the Black Hawk War attributing the war to one individual Black Hawk, a war Chief under the leadership of Timpanogos Chief Tabby. Antonga, or Black Hawk as Brigham Young called him, was the son of Sanpitch and a nephew of Chief Wakara (Walker), and was in leadership for only 14 months. And to the Timpanogos Tribe he played a minor but effective role toward the end of the 21 year conflict.
Why is the Indians version of Utah's Black Hawk War being ignored? Everyone should care, especially historians... what the Timpanogos have to say who are indigenous to Utah. Are they not the other half of the story? Are they not the ones who lost 90% of their population, their children, woman, men, their land stolen, their freedom taken away, their graves robbed, and their decayed remains put on public display for amusement? The fact is the war wasn't about stolen Mormon cattle as historians would have us believe. It was about white-mans bigotry and greed for land, power, and riches.
Of the 20 or more books and countless journals I have read on the Black Hawk War, it becomes obvious that 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 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." The time has come when historians need to correct these inaccuracies in Utah history, and First Nations people need to tell their story and demand it be told accurately.
I was asked to make a documentary film about the Black Hawk War. Strange, because I had no experience making films. I never aspired to be a filmmaker and still don't. This project never was about me. It's about bringing to light the truth. But, I strongly believe someone should. Someone needs to tell the story honestly and accurately.
At first I spent a lot time with the Utes. My experience with the Utes was interesting and I learned a great deal and made good friends, but they would often contradict themselves when it came to their history. Most 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.' It was when asked who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs Walker, Sanpitch, Tabby, Antongua, or Arropeen... they didn't know. Perplexed, I knew I was talking to the wrong Tribe.
I attended a Ute powwow once. I was staying out the way watching the dancers, eating fry-bread. Some guy got on the PA system and asked, "Are there any white people in the audience, raise your hand?" I raised my hand. He then said, "Welcome, now pat yourself on your back for stealing our land."
The Deloris Dori Eccles Foundation along with Utah State Division of Indian Affairs generously donated funds to pay for professional filmmakers, when opposition to the film derailed the project.
Moreover, having lived with a Shoshoni family in Oregon for six years, many times they told me "once you learn Indian ways you can never go back"...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.
Years later, I met a little known Tribe no one ever talked about... the Timpanogos, who also live on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah, same as the Utes do, 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 they are the living descendants of 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. Finally! Finally after years of research I found the truth! Everything fell into place.
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.
Moreover, until you make this distinction... nothing about Utah's history will make sense. There are Ute Indians and Timpanogos Indians, there are no "Timpanogos Ute Indians." "Timpanogos Utes" is an oxymoron. It is important to know that originally the 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 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 Ute Tribes.
The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshoni and are distinctly different from the Utes 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 Black Hawk War than before, adding valuable information from the Timpanogos peoples, whom I have come to love and respect as my own because of their compassion, integrity and honesty. (Visit the Timpanogos Nation website)
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.
One final note: 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." And can you guess who "the Indians of Utah" in 1861 were? Answer: The Timpanogos Nation.
Moreover, 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 Black Hawk war in Utah was brutal and
bloody. So severe was the tragedy for a people innocent of any wrong doing, it can only be described as genocide driven by white-man's bigotry, fanaticism and greed. And this is why Mormons and the indigenous people of Utah alike find it so difficult to talk about the Black Hawk War. For the Timpanogos Nation it was the end of a peaceful and sacred time, a time that shall be remembered and never forgotten.
So, here are the 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.