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
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