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Artist Carol Pettit HardingShout-out to artist Carol Pettit Harding THANKS!

"As the artist that created the art for the cover of Mr. Gottfredson's book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace...I felt a deep and spiritual completely changed my life." Learn more


Gravesite of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk Spring Lake, Utah 

Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk Born c. 1830; died September 26, 1870


The Utah Black Hawk War; Unpacking the Truth

by Phillip B Gottfredson, author Black Hawk's Mission of Peace.

Settler-colonialism caused Utah's Black Hawk War. The war spanned 24 years from when the Mormons' arrived in the upper Great Basin in 1847. To the removal of the Timpanogos Tribe from the Wasatch to the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1871. Our timeline documents over a hundred and fifty vicious attacks on the Timpanogos, which resulted in an astonishing 90% decrease in their population. It's an example of American colonization and the Old West— at its worst. "It has nothing that celebrates our noble ancestors. It's the gritty realities of history, conflict, life, and death," said historian Will Bagley.


LDS Church leader Brigham YoungFollowing the assassination of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith and ever-increasing hostility, in 1847, Mormons departed from Illinois. They migrated westward to the Rocky Mountains of the Great Basin in Utah. Led by Brigham Young, they sprawled out into the ancestral land of the Timpanogos Nation at some three thousand a month, upsetting the natural order of all living things for the 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 polluted water sources that Tribes solely depended upon for food, medicines, and life-sustaining necessities. With the rapid increase in Mormon population, agricultural development, and barbwire, the Timpanogos soon ran out of territory for sanctuary.

Historical photo of wagon train.

Mormon settlers arrived on the Wasatch Front of the Rockies during the Mexican-American War. The Shoshone was the largest tribe, occupying a vast area from Oregon to Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. 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 story is the Timpanogos Nation that Spanish explorers Domingus and Escalante describe in their journals, who spoke the language of the Snake-Shonshoni and comprised of several bands, i.e., the Paiute, Shivwits, Koosharem, and Goshute.

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War. The United States agreed to recognize 'Indian' land holdings and allow 'Indian' people to continue their customs and languages. Despite their treaty rights, LDS Church leaders ordered the Timpanogos "exterminated" and spent a million dollars, the equivalent of $35+ million today, in Church funds to get rid of them. And they, Timpanogos Nation, haven't forgotten the decades of Mormon depredations while living in fear of land-hungry colonists.

See Site Menu for our extensive collection of Black Hawk War Topics & Stories, Timeline, war veterans, biographies, videos, commentary, and archives.


Phillip B Gottfredson's quest for truth began with research on the Utah Black Hawk War in 1989. Most accounts of the Phillip B Gottfredson looking at his book My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace. war described confrontations between the "Timpanogos-Ute" Tribe and Mormon colonists. However, going deeper into the history revealed these accounts are biased and replete with contradictions, ignoring that the Timpanogos and Ute are two distinctly different tribes. (See Source Material for more information.)

Fact: After the Black Hawk War ended in 1872, in 1879, the Colorado Ute Tribe killed a corrupt U.S. Indian agent Nathan Meeker. As punishment for the Meeker Massacre, Congress in 1881 forced the Colorado Ute Tribe to leave their home and assigned them to the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war." Eighteen years previously, President Abraham Lincoln had created the Uintah Valley Reservation for the Timpanogos sent there in 1873. 

Another myth in Utah's history is the "Uinta & Ouray Reservation" referred to in any number of documents. Only Congress has the authority to create Indian reservations, yet there is no record describing Congress having created a Uinta & Ouray Reservation. For more on these topics, please read The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron page.

Also absent from the Mormon narrative is the Timpanogos Tribe, and it is odd that scholars and authors never asked or cared what they had to say. Nor did they ask how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have a different version of the Black Hawk War and the sufferings it caused them.

Some say Mt. Timpanogos got it's name from an legendary Indian maiden. The Mt. Timpanogos artist Carol Pettit Harding Timpanogos Tribe acknowledges there is some truth to the romantic legend, but that is not how it got its name. In 1776, Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante named the mountain 'La Sierra Blanca de Los Timpanogos' (translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos) in honor of the 'Timpanogoitz' Nation.

Hiding or distorting the truth is deceitful, mocking what it means to be honest and respectful of others' lives and history—leading to racism and bigotry. It sets an awful example for our children, who are the future of our nation. See Truth in Education

Indigenous to the Wasatch and the Great Basin, the Timpanogos Tribe today are the direct living descendants of famous Chiefs Black Hawk, Wakara, Tabby, Arapeen, Sanpitch, Grospeen, Kanosh, and Ammon. Who were brothers and figured most prominently in all the histories of the Black Hawk War. Sanpitch was the father of Black Hawk.

Early historians referred to these legendary leaders as "the privileged blood." Notorious for their leadership, they ruled every clan and village along the Wasatch Front. They were a powerful and prosperous nation highly respected by all in the Great Basin. They had long maintained impressive trade routes from the Columbia River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Wakara was the principal Chief of the Timpanogos when Brigham and his followers arrived. Wakara's nephew Black Hawk who later had a pivotal role in the war, was barely in his teens and wouldn't become War Chief until 1865, when Tabby became the Nation's principal Chief. (See Timpanogos Tribe Biography for more detailed information.)

Colonization, Conflict & The Black Hawk War:

As Mormon colonizers settled among the Timpanogos and began having control of their land, 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."

Moreover, the most devastating blow to indigenous people was loss of land, violence, starvation, and the spread of disease due to colonization. Epidemics of smallpox and cholera resulted in untold numbers of deaths. Mormon settlers stole their land and destroyed their culture over a twenty-one-year timeframe, which resulted in a staggering decrease in their population. "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," said LDS church leader Brigham Young. Educated estimates and Indian Agency records indicate that the indigenous population was seventy-thousand or more.

The Timpanogos recall the horrifying massacre at Battle Creek above Pleasant Grove in 1849 when Captain John Scott's all Mormon militia took young Black Hawk hostage.

They remember Colonel George D. Grant, money-hungry Dr. Blake, and "Wild Bill" Hickman. Who heinously decapitated 70 of their ancestors at Provo, Fort Utah, in 1850 and sold their heads for profit?

In the Bear River Massacre of 1863, over 400 Shoshoni were slaughtered, led by the remorseless Colonel Patrick Edward Connor. Brigham young supplied Connor's troops with 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.

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, "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? Historians have never asked us about our history or our ancestors. People are wrong when they say we are Ute. We are Shoshoni. The Ute Tribe came from Colorado."

University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool Ph.D., (Political Science). "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."

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. See Brigham Young Discourses

Firsthand Accounts:

Firsthand accounts of the Black Hawk War underscore the 'extermination' of theAbout the book Indian Depredations in Utah by Peter Gottfredson Timpanogos by LDS authorities who proclaimed they had no right to the land of their ancestors they had lived upon since time immemorial. Examples are Peter Gottfredson's events documented in his book Indian Depredations in Utah. For twenty years he was a bishop of the LDS church in Glenwood, Utah, until he retired. He was a friend of Chief Black Hawk and spent much of his time in their camps. He compiled any number of tell-all reports of early Mormon racism and cold-hearted brutality that happened over more than a decade. Please take a few minutes and read some excerpts from his book.


There has never been any reconciliation. The Timpanogos were catapulted into near extinction by Mormon colonization and Brigham Young's extermination order No.2 in 1850. Ironically, the Timpanogos Nation has since been completely ignored and left out of history, favoring the Colorado Utes. The legacy of the Black Hawk War has caused tremendous obstacles. Scholars have said "they are the most documented Tribe in Utah," yet they have fought for Federal Recognition for decades. They have survived severe economic issues and sovereign and aboriginal rights violations that the United States Tenth District Court has warned the State of Utah on numerous occasions. "They take whatever they want," said Tribal members living on the Uintah Valley Reservation, "The war over treaty rights never ends."


Intoxicated by their inculturation, the LDS church believes they have a divineBaptizing the Shivwit Indians obligation to convert 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.

Book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace by Phillip B GottfredsonTo fully understand the inculturation of early Christian-led colonists who brought devastation to Native Americans of Utah and across the Americas, as Gottfredson describes in his book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace, it begins with the Doctrine of Discovery. Christian Monarchs in the 1200s declared anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah was deemed "heathens," "infidels," and "savages." Christians believed they were entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them "by reason of their idolatry and sin." Followed by Andrew Jackson's systematic Indian Removal Act of 1830 and then Manifest Destiny 1839.

Indigenous Cultural Beliefs:

It is essential to know that Native American culture is a 'culture of values.' In 1850, John C. Cremony wrote, "If you must judge them, do so by their standards." We cannot begin to fully grasp the devastating emotional impact that the war had on Utah's indigenous until we understand the Black Hawk War from their perspective. Mr. Gottfredson explains that "they were 'spiritually connected to the land of their ancestors." How their relationship with our Creator, each other, and all living things is a timeless and profoundly deep spiritual belief.

Colonists failed to see 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, there is no doubt that this was Chief Black Hawk's message Drawing of Timpanogos Chief Antonga Black Hawk by artist Carol Pettit Harding of Utah.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. Chief Black Hawk made an epic hundred-and-eighty-mile journey by horseback from Cedar City in southern Utah to Payson. He spoke to Mormon settlers along the way. He advocated for peace and an end to the bloodshed. This heroic journey was Black Hawk's 'mission of peace,' but it gets left out of Utah's often slanted religious view of history.

Honesty, love, courage, truth, wisdom, humility, and respect were the virtues Black Hawk and his people honored. Being a solid leader came naturally. Black Hawk's charismatic charm befriended people from all walks of life, and his leadership skills aroused people's loyalty with enthusiasm.

Another example is found in the words of Chief Sitting Bull when he said, "The warrior is not someone who fights, for no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is the one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."

"Native American culture is a perfect example of total spirituality without religion," is a familiar saying among Native people. 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. When the Shoshoni invited Mr. Gottfredson to live with their family in Oregon, one of the first things they taught was Indian protocols.

"How do I know these things? I lived with them; I found the truth. These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North and South America. 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, its about the human race, it's about the circle of life. I'm only the messenger," said Mr. Gottfredson.

Post Black Hawk War:

Did the 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. And that is what makes it so hard for people to talk about the Black Hawk War. In 1866 when Chief Black Hawk had been wounded in a battle 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.

In the end, however, members of the LDS Church robbed Black Hawk's grave at Spring Chief Antonga's gravesite Spring Lake, Utah Lake, Utah. 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.


Comments by Phillip B Gottfredson:

Author Phillip B GottfredsonThere is much we can learn from First Nation people if only we would listen. We need to help each other. We need to help each other learn and heal from our history's challenging times. We need to find a pathway to forgiveness and help to build that bridge between our cultures with compassion and mutual respect for humanity.

To paraphrase Sean P. Havey, 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 America. It provided the foundation for the colonization of Native Land and the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans.

If we recognize ourselves as a species, humans are only a small number of a vast array of species, each having a common origin, Mother Earth. We realize that being born human makes us neither superior nor inferior to nothing, as each has a purpose. If we understand that man did not create the circle of life, we are only a tiny thread in the fabric of life. We then begin to understand the importance of equality and justice for all.

The journey to understanding begins with you, knowing who you are and following the path within your heart that gives you purpose and meaning in your life. To walk your path in a good way, for the good of all.

"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.

More Information:

This Months Featured Topics:

Gravelly Ford Chief Black Hawk mortally wounded at Gravelly Ford 1866

Truth in Education True First Nation history needs to be included in Utah's school curriculum, but its not...why?


Your feedback is important as we strive to bring you essential information about the Black Hawk War in Utah.

TREATIES IN UTAH - Phillip B Gottfredson There seems to be some confusion about treaties in the State of Utah that is important to understand.

Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative "Why would they send children to a school with graveyards?"

On This Date:

June 8, 1865 The Spanish Fork Treaty was negotiated with the Timpanogos Nation. However, the treaty would fail ratification as it bore the signature of Brigham Young, thus leaving intact the Uinta Valley Reservation, land belonging to the Timpanogos.

June 10, 1866 Battle at Gravely Ford Black Hawk & White Horse Wounded

Copyright ©Phillip B Gottfredson 2022 All Rights Reserved