There are many myths that surround Chief Wakara, many of which are blatant fabrication of the truth. Here we will dispel some of those lies.
Wakara was leader of the Timpanogos Nation. Born 1808 near the Spanish Fork river in Utah, an area which had long been the home of his family and kin located in the central area of Utah. He was a member of the Timpanogos Nation. The name 'Wakara" is Shoshoni by origin means Hawk. Walkara would learn from an early age the necessary skills of hunting, horsemanship, and leadership. He would be chosen by his people the Timpanogos to carry on his families long legacy of legendary leaders. He was one of seven sons of Moonch. Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen were all brothers. Moonch was the son of Turunianchi. Wakara spoke Spanish and English, necessary to carry on with the tribes commercial enterprise trading in furs, horses, silver, jewelry and tanned leather goods. They had long established a trade route; from the Columbia river to the Gulf of Mexico dating back as far as the mid 1700's.
There are many different spellings of Wakara's name depending on which whiteman's account you read, for example: Walker, Walkara, Walkera, maybe some others. However according to his living descendents they prefer Wakara. They also say Wakara's Indian name was Pan-a-Carre. The different spellings becomes problematic for internet searches since the most popular version is Walker. This spelling is obviously the English version, whereas Wakara is most certainly not Native American. Indian names have always been spelled phonetically by whites, which explains why all the different versions. In the Orval Cox Sutherland Journal, Orval says Wakara was born in 1814, he saying he was a friend of the Chief gives a phonetic spelling of his name as "Yaw-kerraw." I would say this is as close as we can get to the sound of his Indian name. But, seriously, when are we going to get past using the European name "Walker?"
The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshone. Back in ancient times the Shoshone were first called the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there were 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. The Snake figured prominently in Oregon history and were the most feared by early trappers. 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 more recent 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. (Also see: The Tinpanogos and Ute Origins)
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 People of the Rock water carriers (referring to rock salt), whose leader was Turunianchi. Turunianchi had a son named Moonch. Dominguez named Mt. 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. So it follows when the Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young arrived in Utah territory in 1847, the Native peoples they first encountered were the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Indian Tribe led by the seven grandsons of Turunianchi Tabby, Wakara, Arapeen, Sanpitch, Grospeen, Amman, and Sowiette. Sanpitch was the father of Black Hawk. (See Black Hawk War)
Chief Walkara Interview
In 1853 Timpanogos 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
"However, the Mormon population grew and the Indian population declined
through disease and destruction of food resources, and seizing every water source along the Wasatch front. Mormon leaders moved
to disrupt the Mexican trade in horses and people
thereby undermining the Tribes wealth and power." (Note: The territorial legislature were all Mormons)
In July 1853, Walkara was camped on Spring Creek
near Springville, when a Mormon
settler killed a Timpanogos 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's vengeance was also fueled by previous events that unfolded at Battle Creek when his kin were murdered, and Fort Utah where his kin were brutally attacked and beheaded. Throughout his life among the Mormons he made every effort to live peacefully with them.
"Although it is well known among historians of the Walker War that Wakara sued for peace during the conflict and that he was among the Navajos for most of the fighting, previous authors have never explored what it means that Wakara was hardly even involved and constantly sought peace during the war that now bears his name. Despite the fact that the war was waged by Wakara‘s band, the war has been mislabeled as being Wakara‘s war." - The Walker War Reconsidered by Ryan Elwood Wimmer
Chief Walkara of the Timpanogos is in power at this time. He has been honorably chosen as leader by his tribe because first he was groomed by his family to be a leader and warrior who themselves were all leaders going far back in time.
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 Wakara was groomed to become a great leader of his people when the time came. As a representative of his people he 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. When the Timpanogos heard what happened at Battle Creek and Fort Utah they were stricken with fear, enraged and hearts were broken and scattered in all directions. And as with any leader Walkara's honor was being threatened for the extreme trauma his kin experienced at Fort Utah. For the murder of Old Bishop, the murders of old men, women, and children who were innocent of any wrong doing.
Walkara's vengeance was not immediate. 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 Nation 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. They would say one thing and do another. Whereas Walkara 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, Arapeen, 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 Church scholars 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. Walkara and his brothers were a men of honor, and would find any means possible to avoid the shedding of innocent blood.
Yet another fallacious story 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. 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 Wakara's own blood relations, his own people. The Timpanogos Nation, and more importantly direct descendents 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 Wakara 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. Wakara was chosen to be their leader because he exemplified the highest standards and ideals of his people. Living descendants of Wakara 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 Wakara 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."
All Timpanogos leaders came from the same bloodline dating back centuries, whether they were the warriors, the spiritual leaders, weavers, medicine men, etc., each family bloodline maintained individual traditions all of which contributed to the well-being of the community.
CAUSE AND ORIGIN OF THE WALKER WAR. By Geo. McKenzie.
Having been requested by State commander J. M. Westwood of the Utah Indian War Veterans Association to write up the cause of the ' l Walker War, ' ' having been a resident of Springville at the time, and being well acquainted with James Ivie, who was the principal actor in the drama that caused the war, I submit the following as told to me by Ivie at the time, and on several occasions since the war. Walker, the war chief of the Ute (Timpanogos) nation, with his braves and their families were camped on Spring creek about one mile north of the present town of Springville, (Utah Co., Utah) all at peace with the white settlers, spending their time fishing and hunting, and trading and begging from the people. James Ivie, at that time had built a cabin, and was living in it with his wife and one child about half a mile north and west of where the Indians were camped. In the forenoon of July 17, 1853, an Indian and squaw came into Ivie's cabin. The squaw had three large trout which she wanted to trade to Mrs. Ivie for some flour. Flour being very scarce at that time, Mrs. Ivie called her husband in to get his views on the trade of that kind, he being at work digging a well. When he saw the trout, he said "They look mighty good to me," and suggested that Mrs. Ivie might give three pints of flour for them, if the squaw would trade that way. He then went out of the cabin to resume his work. Just after Ivie left two more Indians came into the cabin, one of whom seemed to be the husband or had some kind of claim on the squaw who had closed the trade with Mrs. Ivie. When this Indian saw the three trout, and the small amount of flour received in exchange, he became enraged and began beating the squaw, knocking her down, kicking and stamping her in a brutal manner. While this assault was being committed, Mrs. Ivie ran and called her husband, Mr. Ivie came to the cabin, and while the Indian was still beating the squaw he took hold of the Indian and pulled him away, the squaw lying prostrate on the floor. Ivie tried to push the Indian out of the cabin. When the Indian came, he left his gun standing by the door, and as Ivie pushed him out he grabbed his gun and tried to get in position to shoot Ivie. Ivie got hold of the muzzle of the gun, and in the struggle the gun was broken. The Indian retaining the stock and Ivie the barrel. When the gun broke, Ivie dealt the Indian a hard blow on the head with the barrel of the gun. The Indian fell to the ground, apparently dead, but did not expire until some hours later. The other Indian who came to the cabin the same time as his companion drew his bow and arrow and shot Ivie, the arrow passing through the shoulder of Ivie's buckskin hunting shirt. At this Ivie struck the Indian a violent blow and he fell unconscious by the side of the prostrate body of the other Indian. Just as Ivie got through with this second Indian, the squaw that he had been trying to protect came out of the cabin door with a stick of wood in her hand which she had picked up by the side of the fire in the cabin. With it she struck Ivie a blow in the face cutting a deep gash in his upper lip, and the scar showed plainly from that time until his death. Ivie again used the gun barrel to defend himself and struck the squaw. She fell unconscious by the side of the prostrate bodies of the two Indians. At this stage in the drama Joseph Kelly one of the foremost settlers of Springville, came upon the scene, and while looking at the three Indians lying apparently dead he was told by Ivie what had taken place. Kelly took a bucket of water that stood in the cabin and poured it on the Indians, trying to restore them. He then sent the Indian who first came to the cabin with the squaw for another bucket of water to try to restore the Indians to life ; this Indian having taken no part in the trouble.
Kelly told Ivie to take his wife and child and go into town before the Indian camp was notified of the trouble, which he did.
The Indian that Kelly sent after the water went to the Indian camp and told of what had taken place at the Ivie cabin. The news of the trouble soon spread through the camp and the settlement of whites. Intense excitement reigned, both in the Indian camp and the settlement.
Bishop Aaron Johnson, who was chief magistrate in all civil and military affairs at Springville, took immediate steps to protect the settlement. He ordered Caldwell's cavalry and Parry 's infantry to be mustered in and be ready for action at call. All the other male citizens over sixteen years of age were enrolled as a home guard. Johnson with his interpreter, Wm. Smith, tried everything in their power to settle the trouble with Chief Walker, by offering ponies, beef, flour, and blankets, but Walker refused to settle unless Ivie was given up to be tried by the Indians, which Johnson refused to do.
The next day (July 18th) Walker broke camp and went to Payson; joined his brother Arapeen, and together they went into Payson canyon, killing Alexander Keele who was on guard at the outskirts of Payson, saying, that, the war would last until the white people were all exterminated. The Indians then went into the mountains east of Sanpete Valley and left their families in a place of safety.
The Indians returning 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 Timpanogos were killed; some of the troops and horses were shot, but none mortally.
1855, January 29th. Walkara was a patriot, who had so long defended his people and land, was poisoned by members of the Mormon Church, history scholars have told me, and died at Meadow Creek, in Millard County, and was succeeded by his brother Arapeen. Among his final words he admonished his his tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them.
More fallacious stories, this one about Wakara's burial for example "Walker was buried in a sepulchre 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 descendent of Wakara, 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 Wakara'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.