Black Hawk Productions

 
 

Commentary by Phillip B Gottfredson

 

Black Hawwk War Project

April 20, 2008

Our goal, the Black Hawk War Project, is to reveal the true story of the Black Hawk War in Utah. To honor those who this day morn the past in silence because they have been forgotten. For some reason we have not found a common language where through mutual respect we can begin a healing process based upon a spirit of equality, balance, and compassion. We need to stop blaming each other, and look upon the past as a human condition. To simply ignore this tragedy is to be disrespectful and bigoted toward those whose ancestors died defending their rights, and to their many living descendants who have never understood why. To say "that's all in the past, and we should just forget about it," is to say that the lives of our ancestors are unimportant and have no relevance to anyone. This is the very stuff that causes anger, hate, discrimination, and hence racism. Explanations empower us with the tools to bring about change toward a more humane and compassionate society.

A couple days ago I visited the town of Ephraim, Utah for the purpose of investigating a story about Black Hawk that occurred in the year 1868. The story goes that a Mormon who was prominent in the community at the time by the name of Canute Peterson had learned that Black Hawk had been wounded in battle at Gravely Ford. Canute and his wife sent food and medicine to the ailing Timpanogos leader, a kind gesture, an extraordinary gesture considering this was at  the same time the war between the Mormons and the Timpanogos was at it's apex.

Upon receiving the gift from the Peterson family, Black Hawk paid a visit to Canute and his family to show his gratitude for their kindness. He then asked the Peterson's to accompany him to a nearby place where stood a Juniper tree next to a small creek. There Black Hawk asked if Canute if he would share in a prayer for peace. Black Hawk then filled his pipe with sacred tobacco and during the ceremony Black Hawk made a promise to Canute and the people of Ephraim that he would forever be their friend for as long as the stream ran. Today, one hundred and sixteen years later, the stream still runs, and the old Juniper tree stills stands. And the people of Ephraim... some still remember the bond that was made that day between two caring people.

It was an memorable day for me, one I shall never forget. When I arrived in Ephraim I first went to the city building, then to the Snow College to inquire if anyone knew where the place may be located, or if it even still existed. It wasn't long when I was given directions to the very spot.

I can't say enough to congratulate the town of Ephraim for caring enough to preserve this place. There in a beautiful little park the old Juniper, though barely alive now, stands tall. I sat on a bench next to the tree and tried to imagine that moment, trying to get a glimpse of that day in 1868 in my minds eye.

What is important to me about that story is that it speaks to the humanity of both Black Hawk and Canute, and certainly the same for the people of Ephraim. It says that Black Hawk was a man of heart and not the "savage" and heartless warrior who went on a murderous rampage. And too the story teaches us that Canute, a Mormon leader, thought well of the old Chief, well enough to care for him.

I hope the folks of Ephraim will continue in their efforts to preserve the "Peace Treaty Tree" next to the stream for many generations to come, that it may continue to stand as a witness to the best of virtues of humankind.

See The Old Juniper Tree click here.