By Phillip B Gottfredson -
Black Hawk War Historian
Great-grandson of Peter Gottfredson Black Hawk War Veteran
Welcome to The Black Hawk War: Utah's Forgotten Tragedy, the first website to acknowledge the Snake Timpanogos Tribal history and their recollections of being severely abused by Mormons. On the internet since 2002 exploring 23 years of massacres, beheadings, murders, and grave robbings, which began at Battle Creek and Fort Utah in the year 1849. It is the bloodiest Indian war ever recorded in American history that Mormons would later call "The Black Hawk War."
This page is Phillip B Gottfredson's introduction to some 82 pages of history included in this website on the Black Hawk War in Utah. Beginning with some jaw-dropping facts on the Mormons Black Hawk War, and the serious problems within Utah's history. Gottfredson clarifies the origins of the Timpanogos Nation, and gives some critical background perspective on the Northern and Southern Ute Tribes, and ends with a brief summary.
If you prefer to skip this informative introduction and go directly to the histories of the War, please click on the following link: Black Hawk War Timeline page.
Introduction to the Utah Black Hawk War by Phillip B Gottfredson
The Black Hawk War was not a single incident. Researching the War and living with Native American Indians for over 15 years, I was first to publish there being over 150 bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Nation and the Mormons during the years of 1849 - 1872. And 41 of those confrontations occurred before the year 1865, the date scholars claim the Black Hawk War began, proof their claim is invalid.
It wasn't a 'spark' that ignitghted the war... more like 41 cases of dynamite!
Add that notorious Mormon leader Brigham Young spent a staggering 1.5 million dollars in Church funds to "get rid of" Utah's aboriginal people, and bills Congress for reimbursement. No wonder Brigham complained saying "It's cheaper to feed them, than to fight them."
Trouble for the Timpanogos peoples in Utah 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.”
It's rare to we get to hear the Native peoples version of the story, however I have many to share with you. And I want to thank Historian Will Bagley for giving me this document: Timpanogos Chief Walkara 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 sums it up 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."
"We had to do these things, or be run over by them," wrote John Lowry a Black Hawk War veteran. "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 is today celebrated without conscience or regret as... 'The Days of 47.'
The consequence of the war resulted in a staggering 70,000 Indian deaths from violence, starvation, and disease over a 23 year period. A 90% decrease in Utah's Native population was noted by Brigham Young, and recorded in Indian agency reports, and government census records.
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.
Many fallacious 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)
Why historians today try to make the case that the 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, falsely accused of stealing a shirt off a clothes line.
The boarding house schools or the LDS Church Indian placement program is another example where native children were taken away, 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 brutality 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 Navajo 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.
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.
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. See: Truth in Education
The Snake Shoshone 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 the Timpanogos are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they are the original inhabitants of this land called Utah, and their aboriginal rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty rights remain intact as being the supreme law of the land.
Chief Executive Mary Meyer of the Snake Shoshone Timpanogos Nation, who is a direct descendant of Chief Arropeen (aka Arrapeen), generously 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. I am genuinely humbled by Mary's help, one of the greatest honors in my life to work with Mary.
Phillip B Gottfredson with June, Mary Meyers mother - 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. (See: Timpanogos Nation website)
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.
Honored that 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.
Utah historians mistakenly assume about the Black Hawk War, or refuse to accept, or just ignore, is that the Mormon's Black Hawk War was with the Ute Tribe - is simply incorrect. All seven bands of the Confederated Utes were in Colorado during the time of the Black Hawk War which was between the years 1849 and 1872. "But, Mr. Gottfredson, all the histories say it was the Utes." Correct! Histories written during the 1900's all say so, and they are wrong, as the Confederated Ute Tribes were not in Utah until 1881. Utah's history of the Black Hawk War needs to be corrected...
FACT: Following the 1878 Meeker Massacre in Colorado when the Utes killed an unprincipled Indian Agent Nathan Meeker, the United States Government declared "the Utes must go" and enacted the Ute Removal Act of 1880, and in 1881 four of the seven bands of the Colorado Utes were forced on to the Uinta Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war", and are known today as the Northern Utes.
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 constitutional name of the Ute Tribe. The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is a only a constituional name NOT A RESERVATION and NEVER WAS A RESERVATION. The reason I emphasize this fact is that today we see the media and others using the constitutional name of the Ute Nation when referring to the Uinta Valley Reservation adding even more confusion, making my point how inaccurate and confusing Utah's history has become. The Northern Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as does the Timpanogos Nation. 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, and not to be disrespectful... 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 Ute people who among them are the direct descendants of notorious Chiefs of the Black Hawk War, for example, Walker, Sanpitch, Tabby, Antongua, or Arrapean... they didn't know. But they knew they were not Ute leaders. See: Ute Tribe
The Ute Mountain Ute Nation:
The Ute Mountain Utes, or Southern Utes as they are also called, are federally recognized and have their reservation in Ignacio, Colorado. The three bands of 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 benefitted 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. See: Ute Mountain Utes
Phillip B Gottfredson with Kenny Frost - Ute Mountain Ute
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 Colonel George D. Grant. Or exonerating questionable heroics of soldiers in Brigham Young's private but illegal militia like John Lowry, Niels O. Anderson, Dimmick Huntington, 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 and want to heal from the past.
In closing, I am reminded of what great-grandpa Pete wrote in the preface of his book in 1919, 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.