Timpanogos Chief Antonga Black Hawk Born c. 1830; died September 26, 1870
The Utah Black Hawk War; Settler-Colonialism
The Utah Black Hawk War began in 1848 when Brigham Young wrongly accused a small band of the Timpanogos Nation of stealing his horses. The Timpanogos recall the horrifying Battle Creek Massacre at Pleasant Grove in 1849 when Captain John Scott's all-Mormon militia murdered three unarmed men and took young Antonga Black Hawk hostage. In 1850, Colonel George D. Grant, Dr. Blake, and "Wild Bill" Hickman savagely decapitated 70 of their ancestors at Provo, Fort Utah, in 1850 and sold their heads to science for profit.
Though the Timpanogos had helped Young and his followers survive their first winter in Utah a couple of years before, the conflict between Mormon settlers and the Timpanogos continued for 24 tumultuous years and spread throughout the Great Basin. Exploring the Biography of the Timpanogos Tribe, we encounter their tragic fate. We confront the truths that shatter the romanticized facade of Mormon benevolence of performing kind and charitable acts, laying bare the gritty realities of conflict, life, and death.
Settler colonialism is the definitive cause of the Mormon's Black Hawk War in Utah. According to Cornell Law School, "Settler Colonialism can be defined as a system of oppression based on genocide and colonialism, that aims to displace a population of a nation (oftentimes indigenous people) and replace it with a new settler population."
To understand the cause of the Black Hawk War in Utah, we must acknowledge that our European ancestors were descendants of the European mentality of white supremacy and subjugation. Peter d'Errico, Legal Studies Department, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, wrote, "Papal authority is the basis for United States power over indigenous peoples." The Doctrine of Discovery, a five-hundred-year-old decree by Catholic monarchs during the 14th century, was a law based upon Christian doctrine, believing that their religion and culture were above all others, giving Christians and governments a legal and moral justification to invade and occupy Native American land.
An example of settler colonialism is Andrew Jackson's systematic Indian Removal Act of 1830 that opened the way to the forced relocation of Native Americans. It became known as "the Trail of Tears." The 1832 Supreme Court Ruling declared the Indian Removal Act unconstitutional, but the damage already caused to First Nations was irreversible. In time, the Doctrine of Discovery would become Manifest Destiny to justify Settler Colonialism and Race further.
When the Civil War ended in 1865, the Mormon's extermination order of the Timpanogos in the Great Basin, known as order #2, had resulted in over 40 bloody encounters. The Mormon war on the Indigenous inhabitants of Utah was at its peak and raging everywhere. The United States government also called for exterminating tribes who resisted giving up their land, and the Government turned its attention toward Western expansion and the U.S. military to 'Indian' fighting.
Highly publicized massacres of 'Indians' brought the attention of philanthropic groups. American humanitarians proposed a new solution to the "Indian problem" by eliminating Indianness through acculturation. Christian reformers argued that 'if Indians were assimilated, the Indian problem would vanish.'
In the 1860s, the U.S. adopted a Peace Policy, gradually shifting toward a more peaceful approach, and genocide of Native Americans was officially discouraged. The Peace Policy meant forcing Native tribes to reservations and boarding house schools to assimilate them into white culture, thus eliminating Native peoples bloodlessly. The intended effect of the Peace Policy was to prevent the rampant slaughter of Native Americans.
"Race was a fairly new concept among early colonists," wrote Sean P. Harvey, Ph.D. author of Native Tongues. "The concept of 'Race' that took hold in the 1800s created physical and cultural divisions in humanity. It is essential to understand that it was crucial to early American settler colonialism. It provided the foundation for the colonization of Native Land and the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans."
What was the significance of Utah's Black Hawk War? The LDS Church grabbed any excuse to dehumanize Indigenous people of the Great Basin and justify their extermination, i.e., 'they stole Mormon beef, were hostile, were savages and heathens, murdering marauders, engaged in slavery, had dark skin, worshiped the sun.' Mormon accounts either ignore or marginalize how colonization destroyed the lives of the Timpanogos or how settlers forced them to leave their ancestral homeland without any compensation or legal agreement and forced them onto reservations. Truth be told, they were victims of a white man problem. The point is that there never was an "Indian problem" until the whites became a problem.
"After they stole our land, they gave us a book that said, Thou Shalt Not Steal."
According to Phillip B Gottfredson's research, one thousand one hundred seventy lives were lost, including 932 indigenous people and 238 Mormon settlers, representing only a fraction of the devastation. Starvation and disease further ravaged Utah's Native American population by 90%, which echoes through time, leaving an ugly scar on their collective spirit.
A somber reckoning took place in the aftermath of the Black Hawk War. University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool Ph.D., Political Science noted, "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, and 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."
Our meticulous timeline of the war shows the dire consequences of Utah's Indian Wars and the remarkable resilience of those who endured. It is a ridiculous assumption that the primary cause war was "Indians lust for Mormon cattle."
Mormon colonization made a mockery of indigenous lifeways. The lasting impact of the war and settler colonialism became institutionalized and continues to shape the present, impeding efforts toward reconciliation and acknowledgment of historical injustices.
Why Did The Mormon's Choose Utah?
In 1847, Mormons faced ever-increasing hostilities when angry mobs forced them to leave Illinois—following the assassination of Latter-Day Saint Church founder Joseph Smith, a polygamist having 40 wives, and member of the Masonic Order. Joseph Smith's successor Brigham Young, with 55 wives, led a massive migration of followers to colonize the Great Basin of the Rocky Mountains in Utah. Aligned with the "Chosen People-Promised Land" model of the Bible," Christians believing they were superior and had a God-given right to Native American land.
The grand tale of destiny colliding with reality did not end with the Mormons' arrival in the Great Basin. The land they now call home was not an empty canvas awaiting their righteous brushstrokes. The land was already inhabited by idigenous tribes, whose sacred connection spanned eons of time.
The Timpanogos Nation of the Wasatch
When Mormon settlers arrived near the shores of the Great Salt Lake on July 24, 1847, the "promised Land" was inhabited by numerous Indigenous Tribes. The Timpanogos Nation, for example, comprised several bands, the Pahvant, Paiute, Shivwits, Koosharem, Sanpits, and Goshute. The Shoshone was the largest Nation, occupying a vast area from Oregon to Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and California. Other Tribes surrounding the Great Basin were the Montana Blackfoot, Montana Cree, Colorado Utes, Colorado/Wyoming Arapaho, Southeastern Colorado Kiowa, Arizona Apache, Arizona Navajo, and the Nevada Washoe.
Most significant to our narrative on the Black Hawk War is the Timpanogos, the first inhabitants Brigham Young and his followers encountered upon entering the Great Basin. Scholars have documented their history in the Great Basin to 1776, saying, "the Timpanogos are the most documented Tribe in Utah." Then why have they been erased from Utah's history? Adding insult to injury, misinformation and disinformation about the Timpanogos have developed over time, and people have become deluded into believing that they are Colorado Ute. The Timpanogos are not Ute but Snake-Shoshone and direct descendants of famous Chiefs Wakara, Tabby, Arapeen, Sanpitch, Tintic, Grospeen, Kanosh, and Ammon. Who were brothers and figured most prominently in all the histories of the Black Hawk War. Sanpitch (Tenaciono) was Snake-Shoshone and the father of Antonga Black Hawk. Please read the Timpanogos-Ute Misidentity page for a detailed account of these topics.
Though the Timpanogos were a passive people, they made clear to Brigham Young that they were not welcome to settle in their aboriginal homeland, they extended their hand in friendship because Brigham promised he would "treat them kindly." It followed that Wakara and his people helped Brigham and his followers survive their first winter in the Great Basin. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should have honored the Timpanogos but instead ordered that they be "exterminated."
In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution gave Congress, not the states, the power to make laws that applied to the Indian tribes.
Even though Utah wouldn't become a state until 1896, it should be noted that Mormon settlers arrived on the Wasatch Front of the Rockies during the Mexican-American War. Scholars estimated that some 70,000 indigenous people occupied the Great Basin.
In February 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War. The significance of the treaty is that it preserved certain Indian rights. According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, "Mexican negotiators won from the United States multiple promises that Indian land rights would continue as they had been under Mexican law."
Disregarding their indigenous and treaty rights, LDS Apostle George A. Smith ordered the church's all-Mormon militia to "remove the Indian people from their land," saying Indian people have "no rights to their land." See Battle Creek & Fort Utah for more details.
Mormon Depredations, Conflict, Life, & Death
Brigham Young understood that ultimate domination as a tactic key to taking possession of Native occupied land. At the rate of some three thousand a month, new Mormon arrivals sprawled out into the ancestral home of the Timpanogos, upsetting the natural order of all living things for indigenous tribes. They killed deer, elk, and buffalo and depleted the fish population in the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake (Utah Lake). They diverted and polluted water sources, the environment that First Nations solely depended upon for food, medicines, and life-sustaining necessities. With the rapid increase in the Mormon population, agricultural development, and barbwire, the Timpanogos soon ran out of territory for sanctuary vital to their culture.
As Mormons settled among the Timpanogos, conflict was unavoidable. Quoting from Chief Wakara's Statement to Indian Agent M. S. MARTENAS July 6, 1853. "They were 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—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." See Wakara's Statement.
—A Gottfredson Legacy Spanning 100 Years—
Peter Gottfredson 1919 Phillip Gottfredson
Click on a book for more information!
Despite the Supreme Court ruling of 1832 and the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty of 1848, LDS Church leaders declared that the Timpanogos "have no right to the land." Brigham Young spent over a million dollars in church funds, the equivalent of $35 million today, to "exterminate" them.
"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." - John Lowry
In the Bear River Massacre of 1863, over 400 Shoshoni were slaughtered, led by the remorseless Colonel Patrick Edward Connor. Brigham young supplied Connor with troops and equipment.
At the peak of the Black Hawk War in 1866, Bishop William Jackson Allred led the Circleville Massacre of the Koosharem Paiutes. Twenty-six men, women, and children's throats were slit and buried in a mass grave.
Terrified of the whiteman, the Indigenous fled to other regions for survival and protection. Epidemics of smallpox and cholera resulted in untold numbers of deaths. Census relied heavily on often inaccurate Indian agencies records at the time, educated guesses estimate that the indigenous population was seventy-thousand or more in the Great Basin. Toward the war's conclusion, Brigham Young boasted, "I do not suppose there is one in ten, perhaps not one in a hundred, now alive of those who were here when we came." That being the case, the death toll was staggering.
Perry Murdock, a council member of the Timpanogos Nation and a direct descendant of Chief Wakara, said,
"Every day we are reminded of what our ancestors went through. Our families were torn apart. Children murdered, the old, the women, all those who were brutally murdered and made to suffer and die from violence, then disease, then starvation, our ancestors' graves torn up, the land destroyed, it was genocide plain and simple. Why? What did we do? We didn't do anything. We were living in peace. We were happy. Our children were happy. We loved each other. We cared for each other. And when the Mormons came, we tried to help them. Then they tried to take everything away from us. They wanted it all. They wanted to exterminate us, wipe us off the face of the earth. Why? For our land? For our oil? Now we have nothing."
Mary Murdock Meyer, direct descendant of Chief Arapeen wrote,
"As Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation, I speak for the people when I ask why? We fed you when you were hungry. We helped you when you did not understand our lands. Why then were we forgotten?"
The Timpanogos were catapulted into near extinction Brigham Young's extermination order No.2 in 1850. Brigham and the Quorum of the 12 apostles of the LDS Church ordered the "extermination" of the Timpanogos Tribe, the seizure of their land and resources. All because LDS church leaders believed it was God's will. Matthew 7:15 sums it up perfectly, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
Brigham Young lays all the blame on his followers he described as "stupid, cork for brains and wooden shoes." In his speech in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, on April 6, 1854, he said, "If the inhabitants of this Territory, my brethren, had never condescended to reduce themselves to the practices of the Indians, (as few of them have,) to their low, degraded condition, and in some cases even lower, there never would have been any trouble between us and our red neighbors." See Brigham Young's Discourses.
The Denver Rocky Mountain newspaper quoted Brigham Young saying, "You can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder." Clearly his intention was to "get rid" of the indigenous population. Mormon colonialism was about saving the heathens from hell, and getting rich.
Christianization, education, and cultural development became the means to assimilate tribal peoples so that they could be integrated and absorbed by mainstream society. Example, the LDS church converted many of Utah's Native Americans to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing, the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people." They 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, and the cause was the Lord; the reason that the Lamanites (Indians) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)," and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
"Will civilized people never learn that they are quite as obtuse to understand real Indian nature as the Indians to understand their civilization? If you must judge them, do so by their own standards." -John C. Cremony 1868 Life Among the Apaches.
One of the most compelling aspects of Phillip B Gottfredson's book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace is his detailed description of indigenous people and their deep sacred connection to each other and Mother Earth. "Native American culture is a perfect example of total spirituality without religion," is a familiar saying among Native people. "While living with the Shoshoni and several other Tribes, the Elders invited me to participate in numerous sacred ceremonies. It was life-changing. The spiritual experiences I had profoundly changed my understanding of Native American culture," said Phillip. Understanding Native culture and time-honored traditions are essential when establishing meaningful relations with Native American peoples, especially for educators with Native students in their classrooms. See Native American ethics and protocols.
Honesty, love, courage, truth, wisdom, humility, and respect are ancient traditional virtues and values that Black Hawk and indigenous people have honored throughout their history.
Scholars ignore the age-old message of Indigenous America is 'connection, relationship, and unity.' All people are one. All are the direct living descendants of our Creator. Lakota Chief Joseph said, 'We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything." After decades of exhaustive research Phillip wrote, "there can be no doubt that this was Chief Black Hawk's message when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world in peace." He was in severe pain, dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach at the Gravely Ford Battle. In the final hours of his life, Chief Black Hawk made a painful hundred-and-eighty-mile journey by horseback from Cedar City in southern Utah to Payson. He advocated for peace and an end to the bloodshed. This heroic journey was Black Hawk's 'mission of peace.' Still, colonialists were too arrogant to see what it means to be human. Chief Black Hawk died on September 26, 1870. He was buried at Spring Lake, Utah.
Stereotyping and Denial
"You have a situation where true Native American history is left out of Utah's school curriculum and people are confused. It is the most overlooked topic causing significant, and sometimes consequential inaccuracies in our histories, leading to baseless conclusions, and false assumptions about Utah's Native American culture and history," said Gottfredson. See Truth in Education
Did Mormons try to help the Timpanogos? We forget that many of our ancestors had deep and meaningful relationships with the Timpanogos, and we need to acknowledge that. In 1866 when Chief Black Hawk had been wounded in battle at Gravely Ford, Canute Peterson of Ephraim paid a visit to the ailing leader Black Hawk—taking sugar, hams, bread, beads, molasses, tea, coffee, tobacco, flour, medicines, and clothing. Sadly, important stories such as this get buried in all the rhetoric. See The Old Peace Treaty Tree.
In the end, however, members of the LDS Church robbed Black Hawk's grave at Spring Lake, Utah in 1919. His mortal remains were on public display in the window of a hardware store in Spanish Fork, Utah, and for amusement later was moved to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades.
Suppose you were Indian and lucky enough to survive the war. In that case, you are confined to a reservation and made to depend on government-run Indian agencies for scarce and sometimes contaminated commodities to survive. Your children are taken away and sent to boarding house schools with graveyards, all under the slogan "Kill the Indian, and save the man." There has never been any reconciliation, remorse, or even an apology from those who believe God led them to a promised land, and call themselves latter-day saints.
The Legacy of the Black Hawk War has caused tremendous obstacles for indigenous people living in Utah. History ignored the Timpanogos Nation, leaving them out of Utah's historical narrative in favor of the Colorado Utes. They have survived severe economic issues, sovereign and aboriginal rights violations, and boarding house schools. According to the July 10th, United States Tenth District Court ruling of 2016, the State of Utah has no jurisdiction over the Uinta Valley Reservation whatsoever. Still, "they take whatever they want," said Tribal members living on the Reservation, "The war over treaty rights never ends."
There is much we can learn from First Nation people if only we would listen. We need to help each other. We are all interconnected and interdependent upon one another. We need each other to survive and live. We are all in a relationship with each other. And each becomes a relative by relationship. We need to help each other learn and heal from over a century of fake history. We need to find a pathway to forgiveness and help to build that bridge between our cultures with compassion, honesty, and mutual respect for humanity.
"I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life, and the whole earth will become one circle again." -Chief Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota.
"How do I know these things? I lived with them for over 25 years; I found the truth. These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North America, and the Mayan in South America. I am proud to say I voluntarily and willingly assimilated into Native American culture, without shame or regrets. It has been the best years of my life. History is not just the study of the past; it's also the ethnology of indigenous people, present traditions, rituals, and legacies. But it's not about me, it's not about you. It's about all of us, the human race, the circle of life. I'm only the messenger," said Mr. Gottfredson. ~
This Months Featured Topics
Congressional Acts Governing First Nations There was a series of congressional acts designed to diminish tribal lands, or reservations, the Dawes Allotment Act 1887, the Reorganization Act 1934, the Termination Act 1953, Then came the boarding schools and the LDS Church Indian placement program 1954. The Self Determination Act 1970, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act 1978.
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