Part 1 of 4

Ute Indians Black Hawk Productions

1849 - 1873

The story of the west is a mix of pride and shame. Emigrants came from abroad seeking freedom, led by a belief that as Christians they had a right to take possession of discovered countries, provided those countries were inhabited by non-Christians. Christian supremacy rationalized the decimation of the American Indian culture, saying they didn't believe in God and the Bible, and are therefore "heathens" and "savages".

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 story of the Black Hawk war in Utah is brutal and bloody—one of the most inhumane wars in American history.

In 1853 Timpanogos Tribal leader Walkara (Black Hawk's uncle) told interpreter M. S. Martenas, "He (Walkara) 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

The Shoshone were first called the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there was three divisions, the Chickimec became the Nokoni, the Aztec, and Hopi (Moki). The Nokoni became the Shoshoni Nation which split into four bands, the Snake, Bannock, Comanche and Paiute. The Timpanogos descend from the Snake. Early explorers referred to the Timpanogos as the Eutahs. The term "Eutah" derives from an Arapaho word E-wu-ha-wu-si meaning "people who use grass or bark for their lodges." All Indians living in grass lodges or bark structures would fall into this category. The shortened version Ewuha or Eutah are terms used by early trappers and explorers who traveled the Utah area when referring to the Native peoples they encountered who spoke the Snake-Shoshone language.

Following the invasion of the Conquistadors who robbed them of their gold and enslaved a good number of them, then came the fur trappers. During the years of the 1700's to the early 1800's trappers would all but empty the rivers and streams of Oregon, Idaho and Utah of the beaver population. Literally millions of pounds of pelts would be shipped to Europe making fur merchants wealthy beyond belief.  During this time and subsequent years to follow the British, French and Americans would divvy up Indian land, waging war against each other when necessary to gain control.

Through it all the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos would emerge victorious having survived wave after wave of Euro-invasions. Mormons arrived in 1847 and settled in the arid Salt Lake valley the valley had long become the crossroads of the west as trappers, explorers and the like passed through on their way to Oregon, and California. An old medicine man Wuna Mucca had prophesied the coming of the missionaries decades before their arrival. And come they did, to worship God almighty, to save the heathens from hell, and get rich.

The Timpanogos people didn't have any particular animosity toward early Mormon pioneers only that they were invading their land,  whereas, according to the Book of Mormon, the church believed they had a divine obligation to convert Utah's Shivwits IndiansAmerican 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 "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins. Ezra Booth wrote the following in the early 1800's: "In addition to this, and to cooperate with it, it has been made known by revelation, that it will be pleasing to the Lord, should they form a matrimonial alliance with the Natives; and by this means the Elders, who comply with the thing so pleasing to the Lord, and for which the Lord has promised to bless those who do it abundantly, gain a residence in the Indian territory, independent of the agent. (meaning government Indian agents)" Note: November 8, 2007 LDS Church leaders make a change in the Book of Mormon. (see The_LDS_Church_has_changed" here) (also see Vitiligo and skin disorder here

Recent DNA studies of the exact origin of the American Indian people have scientifically proven that they came from northeast Asia. Over 150 Indian tribes and 6000 individuals have been tested. Dr. David Glenn Smith University of Calif., Dr. Dennis O'Rourke University of Utah, Dr. Stephen L. Wittington, and LDS Church anthropologist and scholar Thomas Murphy have publicly stated that there is no archeological evidence, no historical evidence, no linguistic evidence and no DNA evidence that proves the American Indian people are descendents of Israel, and that would prove that the Book of Mormon is not a history of the American Indian

But who ran over whom? Many white settlers couldn't care less about the Indians, and rarely acknowledged that they were intruding upon their land. Native people were plundered to near extinction.

 Changing the conditions in which the Indian people thrive was a key element in taking over Indian lands. It meant logging, constructing forts and towns, diverting streams, introducing thousands of domesticated cattle, plowing and fencing vital grass lands and planting domesticated crops, massive slaughter of buffalo herds, which devastated the Timpanogos’ precious resources. These settlers were less dependant upon natural sources for their food because of farming techniques, while the Indian people were forced to travel greater distances, requiring greater effort, to find food, leaving the Timpanogos with no choice other than to prey upon the settlers’ cattle, or die of starvation. Another example  recorded is that, in just one day alone, 6790 fish were taken from the Provo River with gill nets and sent to Salt Lake as tithing, ignoring the present and future needs of the Indigenous people.

Christian crusaders' mandate was to convert the Indigenous people and believed it was their divine duty to save their souls from Hell—to have dominion over them, their land, and so its riches. The Black Hawk War of Utah is a classic example of a model of systematic conquest—one which had evolved over the centuries since Columbus that I call: "The 12 Steps of Conquest." 

Step #1 Dehumanize them.

Step #2 Demoralize them.

Step #3 In the chaos, exploit them.

Step #4 Build forts and take control of their land.

Step #5 Interrupt their food supply.

Step #6 Take control of the people, using violence when necessary.

Step #7 Ban their culture by forcing their children into boarding schools.

Step #8 Remove them from the land and place them on reservations.

Step #9 Extinguish all their rights, making them wards of government.

Step #10 Assimilate them in to western culture.

Step #11 Sanitize history, make the decimation of the American Indian amusing tales of the Old West, with half-truths, platitudes, and omissions; placing all the blame on the victims. Grant amnesty and exonerate the perpetrators as being innocent of any wrongdoing.

Step #12 Take away their reservations.

Besides superior weaponry, the settlers had another weapon—disease. Measles, Smallpox, Tuberculosis, Cholera, and Scarlet Fever spread epidemically from the settlers among the Indians and, at times. intentionally. There were times disease-contaminated blankets and food were given to the Indians. Quoting from the book Violence Over the Land by Ned Blackhawk, "Colorado Governor David Meriwether, in 1854, had engaged the help of the Mouche band of Colorado Utes to participate in a manhunt for a suspected murder. Being paid each with a gray cloth coat... decorated handsomely with red and yellow braid. These Ute leaders returned home fashionably attired in tailored officer's clothing." The book goes on to say, "They had also contracted smallpox, and many came to the conclusion that the Superintendent was the cause of the disease being among them...everyone that received a coat died." This is one of many accounts that attest to a kind of bio-warfare against the Utes.

Interesting side note, an English physician, Edward Jenner, in 1796, took the fluid from a cowpox pustule on a dairymaid's hand and inoculated an 8-year-old boy. Six weeks later, he exposed the boy to smallpox, and the boy did not develop any symptoms. Jenner coined the term "vaccine" from the word "vaca" which means "cow" in Latin. By 1800 about 100,000 people had been vaccinated worldwide, which could have been shared with the Indian people but of course wasn't.

War records can account for only a fraction of the Indian deaths that were due to battles. A few accounts testify to the poisoning of food, water and germ warfare. Brigham Young is quoted as saying, "You can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour, than a keg of powder." Just how many did he get rid of?

Brigham Young acknowledged an alarming rate of decrease of the Indian population. He was pleased when he was quoted in a Denver newspaper saying: "Just three out of three hundred Indians remain from the time we first arrived in the valley."

A 1909 government census bore testament to Brigham's observances. By 1865, when the Timpanogos gave into war, the white population had dramatically increased to about 60,000. According to historical records, the Timpanogos population of Utah at the time of the arrival of the Euro-settlers is estimated to have been 50,000 to 70,000. But, a 1909 government census reported the Indian population had dramatically declined to just 2,300! The question we have to ask is, why has this been ignored, and left out of school curriculum and church cannon? This is why historians have dubbed it: "The Secret War of the Mormons." This is a colossal human tragedy, and one that should not be ignored or forgotten. It would be criminal to do so.

"We forget that our ancestors, both Indian and non-Indian, lived close together—that our children grew up with each other. And that's what makes this story so difficult to talk about and remember. But if we are going to understand who we are, then we have to understand and remember the Black Hawk War." -Historian Will Bagley

White people say, "We have given the Indians every chance to succeed, yet they choose to live off the government, and live in poverty. It's their own damn fault."

What kind of choice have they been given—to conform to Christian beliefs or walk knee-deep in the blood of their people? To give up their land, children, culture, traditions or die? Clearly, our education system has failed us miserably in teaching the truth. Educators, historians and authors need to break the habit of over-simplifying, trivializing and denigrating the tragic past of the First People of Utah. One sad fact is that up until the year 1950, 150 thousand Indian children were forcibly taken from their homes and placed in boarding schools.

The truth regarding the history of the Black Hawk War has since been cloaked in brilliantly managed rhetoric to discredit the Native people in every conceivable way. Twenty-six years of Utah's Indian history has been ignored and left out of school curriculum. The decimated lives of some 70,000 Native people has simply been swept aside.

Meanwhile, during the 1850-60's when the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon culture, the settlers’ response was to, as Mormon leader would say, "get rid of them." The Timpanogos were not given a choice. No one asked them if they wanted to give up their culture and embrace the ways of the white man. Indeed, if they had had a choice, I am certain they would have chosen to keep their own way of life.

Peter d'Errico, Legal Studies Department, University of Massachusetts/Amherst wrote:

"Papal authority is the basis for United States power over indigenous peoples but this fact is not generally understood, even by lawyers who work with federal Indian law. This is due in large part to the sophistry of John Marshall, one of the greatest figures in the pantheon of the U. S. Supreme Court in 1801. Marshall borrowed from Papal Bulls the essential legalisms needed for state power over indigenous peoples. He encased Christian religious premises within the rhetoric of "European" expansion:

JOHNSON v. MCINTOSH, 21 US 543 (FEBRUARY, 1823) -- On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all; and the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendancy. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new, by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity.

Steven T. Newcomb Indigenous Law Institute said it succinctly:

"Indian nations have been denied their most basic rights ... simply because, at the time of Christendom's arrival in the Americas, they did not believe in the God of the Bible, and did not believe that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah. This basis for the denial of Indian rights in federal Indian law remains as true today as it was in 1823.

Johnson v. McIntosh has never been overruled. "Christian discovery" remains the legal foundation for United States sovereignty over indigenous peoples' lands. But it is concealed, as most foundations are, because Johnson v. McIntosh acts as a laundromat for religious concepts. After Marshall's opinion, no lawyer or court would need to acknowledge that land title claims in United States law are based on a doctrine of Christian supremacy. From that time on, in law and history books, "European" would be substituted for "Christian," so that schoolchild and lawyer alike could speak of the "age of discovery" as the age of "European expansion." - by Peter d'Errico, Legal Studies Department, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, American Indian Sovereignty: Now You See It, Now You Don't.

I listened to Indian elders who said: "The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct, living descendants of Creator.” Chief Joseph said, “We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything. When we are together we are one. Nothing can break it (the connection).” This is the same message Chief Sitting Bull conveyed when he said, “The heart knows not the color of the skin. This is an ancient traditional teaching. It still lives among our true traditionalists everywhere. The power of forgiveness is greater than hate; love vanquishes condescension and discrimination. That is the power our elders, our true traditionalists hold."

Historical accounts tend to look right through the sacred and humanitarian teachings of Indigenous people. What they wrote of the Native peoples specifically was often scant, brief, and disingenuous. They did not ask or care what the Indians they studied had to say about their work, nor did they ask how they would analyze, interpret, or if they had their own version of the particular story they were writing about. And that's what this website is about, to remind us of a human tragedy that should never be forgotten. "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." -Indian Depredations in Utah.

The Year of 1847

When the first party of Mormons arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847, they were greeted by timpanogos leaders among them Walkara. It was not unusual for white travelers to camp in the valley passing through, and the Mormons assured Walkara that they were just camping for a few days. As time passed by and it became apparent to Walkara these people were not just passing through tensions began to mount between the new arrivals and the Timpanogos Tribe. At first, Mormon pioneers settled in a region of Utah known as Salt Lake, that belonged to the Goshute, one of the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos bands, but was considered by Shoshoni a no-man's land. The arid conditions of the Great Salt Lake Valley were not suitable to sustain a large population. Settlers soon moved 30 miles farther south into a lush and fertile valley, knowing beforehand it was prime land in the heart of Timpanogos territory, Mormon militia soon demonstrated to the Timpanogos their prowess as a ruthless people who had every intention of robbing them of their land.

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