The following is a biography of Timpanogos war Chief Antonga Black Hawk and the circumstances that led to the Black Hawk War of Utah. In his youth, Black Hawk witnessed the worst of man's inhumanity to humankind. Yet, he remained faithful to the sacred teachings of his ancestors that gave him the courage and wisdom to become a pivotal leader of the Timpanogos Tribe.
When the war peaked in 1865, under Black Hawk's uncle Chief Tabby's leadership, Tabby called upon Black Hawk to be the Tribes War Chief. In just 15 months, Black Hawk nearly succeeded in driving Mormon colonists out of Utah territory. In 1870 Black Hawk died from a gun-shot wound he received while in battle at Gravelly Ford a year earlier.
Phillip B Gottfredson author, "Black Hawk's Mission of Peace"
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark, arrived in Utah territory in 1857 and lived among the Timpanogos during the Utah Black Hawk War. Before he became War-Chief of the Timpanogos Nation, Peter was a friend to Black Hawk and was invited into his camp on numerous occasions. They were roughly the same age. Peter points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Nation ruled the entire Wasatch in the territory of Utah. Peter wrote: "It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March 1848 permitted the first white settlement on Provo River," he said.
Oddly, very little is written about Antonga Black Hawk, his personality, or his spiritual beliefs. Just short blurbs, a sentence here and there. I began saving all I found, and eventually, by putting all the bits and pieces together, Black Hawk began to appear. For example, I read an account that quoted Black Hawk saying, "To find the best obsidian, you have to sneak up on it." It wasn't until years later when I was living with the Shoshone that I grew to love their dry sense of humor, and then I understood Black Hawk's comment and the context in which he said it. For those who may not know, obsidian is Volcanic glass and is the preferred material to make arrow and spear points from, and the best obsidian is indeed hard to find.
After searching all the libraries and special collections, I realized that I had to turn to the aboriginal people of Utah to hear their personal recollections of the War. It followed that I spent two decades living with First Nation people in Utah, Oregon, and the Shoshoni, and many others throughout the western United States. One thing led to another when I eventually lived six months with the Maya in Guatemala.
While my quest was to find anything that would give me insight into the life of Black Hawk. And the most significant takeaway I found remarkable is the shared beliefs they share that is consistent among them. Moreover, these beliefs and lifeways go back in time thousands of years. Why would it be any different for the Timpanogos and Chief Black Hawk?
All this time and research, and no one ever mentioned that the Timpanogos lived on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah, not historians, scholars, or even the Ute Tribe I spent a couple of years with, and they live on the same reservation. Was my great-grandfather wrong about the Timpanogos, or was he talking about the Utes?
Since 1989 I had been on the trail of Black Hawk. Then in 2013 that I finally met the the Timpanogos Tribe. It was serendipity when I was contacted by the Chief Executive of the Tribe, Mary Murdock Meyer . In a phone conversation, she explained to me that she has been following my website. "The history you got right," she said, "but you have the wrong Tribe. The Utes weren't even in Utah until after the war. Have you never heard of the Timpanogos?"
Completely blindsided, I had not found any document or account that pointed out that the Utes and the Timpanogos are two distinctly different Tribes in language, customs, and origin or that they even existed. I was stunned to learn that Mary Murdock Meyer was a living descendent of Arapeen, Black Hawk's uncle.
The Story Begins in 1765
The Timpanogos are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1765 and later on by Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. They describe having come in contact with "the bearded ones" Eutahs, who spoke the language of the Snake-Shoshone and called themselves "Timpanogostzis," who lived by a lake the Timpanogostzis named "Timpanogos."
Dominguez and Escalante describe the Timpanogos as a loving, kind, and hospitable people.
Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 descendants of the 'Royal Bloodline' living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah; when they permitted me to write a detailed summary of their lineage, I titled The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron.
Following the Conquistadors' invasion, who robbed Aboriginals of their gold and enslaved a good number of them, the fur trappers came. During the years of the 1700's to the early 1800's trappers would all but empty the rivers and streams of Oregon, Idaho, and Utah of the beaver population. Millions of pounds of pelts would be shipped to Europe, making fur merchants wealthy beyond belief. During this time and subsequent years to follow, the British, French, and Americans would divvy up Indian land, waging war against each other when necessary to gain control.
The valley of the Great Salt Lake had long become the crossroads of the west as trappers, explorers, and the like passed through on their way to Oregon and California. An old medicine man Wuna Mucca had prophesied the coming of the missionaries decades before their arrival. And come they did, "to worship God almighty, to save the heathens from hell, and get rich." This European mindset would eventually destroy the Timpanogos Nation resulting in thousands of deaths and the destruction of a vibrant and thriving culture. The Timpanogos would emerge victorious through it all, having survived wave after wave of Euro-invasions until the Mormons arrived in 1847 and settled on their land along the arid Wasatch front.
On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young, along with a party of 143 Mormons, emerged from the mouth of Cottonwood canyon on a hill overlooking Salt Lake valley of the Wasatch Front, thus concluding a thousand-mile journey taking 111 days by horseback and covered wagons. Brigham seeing the valley, said, "It's enough, this is the right place, drive on." The Mormons made their camp in the heart of the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos Nation. The Timpanogos Indians would soon confront Brigham Young and his followers for trespassing on their ancestral land.
Born c1838, Black Hawk was just in his early teens when the Mormons arrived. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was living at Spring Lake, Utah at this time, the place of his birth.
The Timpanogos leadership of seven brothers, namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen, and eventually Antonga Black Hawk, the son of Sanpitch. These seven legendary leaders are referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every clan and village along the Wasatch. Their population was at least 70,000 and more. They were the ruling Tribe that occupied the entire territory comprised of some 250,000 square miles.
Let's also consider that when Mormon settlers arrived in 1847, a year later, the Hidalgo Treaty of 1848 was signed wherein the United States agreed to "recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages." Settlers ignored the treaty with impunity. Utah territory bordered the northern section of Mexico at this time. And it should be noted, the Hidalgo Treaty has never been abrogated or diminished and remains intact.
When Chief Wakara, the principal leader of the Timpanogos, confronted Brigham Young shortly after they entered the valley, he made it clear they were not welcome to settle on their land. Brigham assured Wakara that they were only passing through on their way to California. They had made a long journey, lost many of their people along the way, and were short on supplies, that they needed to spend the winter there and would move on in the spring. Wakara understood and generously helped the Mormons survive through the winter. When spring came, the Mormons began to clear-cut the timber and built barns, houses, and fences.
And after that, more Mormons began to arrive in large numbers at the rate of some 3000 a month. Mormons begin seizing Timpanogos' land, water holes, and timber.
In 1849, trouble began when a company of 35 Mormon militia, under the leadership of Colonel John Scott, left Salt Lake City in pursuit of a so-called “renegade band of Indians” who Brigham Young falsely accused of taking horses belonging to Mormon leader Brigham Young. So it followed that war with the Mormons began in earnest on February 28, 1849, with the first of six massacres at Battle Creek in the foothills above Pleasant Grove, Utah.
Under orders from Brigham Young, Scott and his men met up with a Timpanogos they referred to as Little Chief on the Provo River. Little Chief regretfully led Scott to an encampment of Timpanogos Indians who allegedly had been doing some stealing. Moreover, it seems unlikely Little Chief would have betrayed his people in this way; more likely threatened, he gave in. The trail took the company of soldiers to the mouth of a canyon above Pleasant Grove. Scott and his men split into four groups and surrounded the camp and opened fire on the unsuspecting people sleeping there in their teepees. It is written that the "battle" continued for a couple of hours, highly unlikely since most took shelter and then were trapped in a nearby ravine, standing in freezing water. They had only one gun, while the surrounding army pelted their victims with rocks as they immerged from cover unarmed while troops shot them repeatedly. A Timpanogos elder named Kone, unarmed, was shot in his back as he came out of his teepee.
A brave girl about 16 emerged from cover and pleaded with Colonel Scott not to harm her brother. Scott ordered her to bring her brother to him. Terrified of Scott, she got from the thicket her younger brother, who bravely stood face to face with Scott and said, "Go away, what are you here for? Go away. You kill my father, my brother for what? Go away, let us alone."
"Joshua Terry, a pioneer of 1847, and a mountain man who married into an Indian tribe, once told the writer (Howard R. Driggs) that this Indian boy became the warring leader Black Hawk. When peace came, after the Black Hawk War of the later eighteen sixties, this Chief, Terry declared, told him that he was this same boy taken after the fight on Battle Creek. He could never understand why the white men had shot down his people. It put bitterness in his heart; and though he lived for some time with the white people, his mind was ever set on avenging the wrong. That is why he later made war against them."