The Walker War in the year 1853, was fueled by previous events that unfolded at Battle Creek, and Fort Utah when Chief Wakara’s kin were brutally attacked and beheaded. Mormon religious leader Brigham Young had given the order to EXTERMINATE the Timpanogos which set the stage for unparalleled trauma for the Timpanogos Tribe that eventually led to the Black Hawk War in 1866.
Timpanogos Chief Wakara
Pana-carre-quinker aka Wakara was the principal leader of the Timpanogos Nation during the 1850’s. Wakara was born c1808 near the Spanish Fork River in Utah, an area which had long been the home of his family and kin located in the central area of Utah. The Timpanogos Nation are Snake-Shoshone. The Snakes are an ancient band of the Shoshone.
The name 'Wakara" in Shoshoni means Hawk. Wakara would learn from an early age the necessary skills of hunting, horsemanship, and leadership. He was chosen by his people as their Chief to carry on his family's long legacy of legendary leaders going back centuries. He was one of seven sons of Moonch. Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen were all brothers and Moonch was the son of Turunianchi.
Wakara spoke Spanish and English, necessary to carry on with the tribes' enterprise trading in furs, horses, silver, jewelry and tanned leather goods. They had long-established a trade route; from the Columbia River to the Gulf of Mexico dating back as far as the mid-1700s.
There are different spellings of Wakara's name depending on which Whiteman's account you read, for example, Walker, and Walkah. However, according to his living descendants, they prefer Wakara. When Wakara was baptized into the Mormon church he was given the name Joseph Walker and was known as Chief Walker and Joe Walker thereafter.
Chief Wakara was honorably chosen as leader by his tribe because he exemplified the traditions and beliefs of his ancestors. He was groomed by his family to be a leader and warrior.
Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. Humility to the Native peoples meant no one person was above all others. Every individual was respected equally. Family and community were inseparable and cohesively bound together in an environment of Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. Animals and all things Creator created were seen by Native peoples as having a purpose, and each possessing special gifts and talents.
When decisions were made within Native communities everyone had to agree before action was taken, it was the honorable way to live. Within the communities each family took on particular roles, for example, medicine people, warriors, weavers, hunters, and gatherers, etc. were the responsibility of individual families respectfully. Elders, who were the old and wise, had the greatest influence in the community because they earned their respect. They were the spokespersons, teachers, and keepers of wisdom.
This is the way Wakara was groomed to become a great leader of his people. As a representative of his people, he could speak on their behalf. He understood he was responsible for their security and well-being. He was responsible for their cultural integrity.
He has been described in several accounts being over six feet in height, a large man. Peter Gottfredson described him as, "...one of the shrewdest of men. He was a natural man; read from natures books."
“He was loved and respected by his people,” said Mary Meyer who is a direct descendent of Arapeen who was a brother of Wakara. “He took care of his people. He was patient and kind, but he was not a person to be pushed around.”
There are some really round-the-bend bizarre stories that Mormon’s talk about, that are not at all based in fact. It is a gross misrepresentation that Mormons make when they say Wakara stole children from other tribes and made them slaves. That he and his men would raid Paiute bands and take women and children prisoner. He would sell the slaves to Spanish or Mexican traders and explorers, who would take them back to New Mexico to work in the mines or as domestic servants. In return, Wakara would get guns, ammunition, and other goods. It is alleged that he sold children to the Mormon settlers, threatening to kill the children if he couldn't sell them. These are slanderous accusations not only of Chief Wakara but of the Native peoples of Utah. The Mormon's have their own documented history of indentured servatude i.e. the survivors of the Circleville Massacre.
The Paiutes were Wakara's blood relations, his people. The Timpanogos Nation, and more importantly direct descendants of Wakara, have never been allowed to tell their side of the story. They told me in person more than once that it is absurd to think Wakara would do such a thing. “Our ancestors loved their children. For him to steal children from his blood relations would have brought shame and disgrace upon himself and his tribe. Wakara was chosen to be their leader because he exemplified the highest standards and ideals of his people.”
The Timpanogos explained, "When the Mormons arrived and fighting broke out our people scattered in all directions for safety. Our children whose parents were killed, Wakara rescued them and took them to our people for safety, and so they wouldn't end up in Brigham Young's custody. Brigham would take our children, those of our leaders for his own protection knowing we wouldn't attack his home where our children were."
More fallacious stories; This one about Wakara's burial. It is said that Wakara was buried in a sepulcher of stone on the rugged eastern hillside above this little community of Meadow. His grave was located up Dry Canyon, the first canyon north of Corn Creek. There are many conflicting accounts as to where exactly Wakara was buried and how he was buried.
Here’s where the story goes off the rails. “It is alleged on the day of his burial his two wives and some Paiute children were offered up as a sacrifice. Besides his weapons, trinkets, presents, the two women, two girls, a young boy was fastened alive to the pedestal beside Wakara's body. It is presumed the grave was robbed by whites in 1909." "I don't believe that," said Mary Meyer.
Mary Meyer and I attended the Circleville Massacre monument dedication in April of 2016, and on the way home we visited the Wakara exhibit at The Territorial Statehouse and State Park in Fillmore that describes Wakara's burial. After carefully reading everything at the exhibit she said, “I don’t believe any of this.” She found the exhibit very offensive and disrespectful of her ancestors and Tribe. Mary’s brother Perry Murdock whom I lived with for a couple of months, I asked him if his great-great-grandfather was buried with two children, he was puzzled. "I can tell you we would never do such a thing, that's not our tradition. No, that wouldn't happen. we have sacrificed a horse sometimes so the person's favorite animal would be with him, but we would never treat our women and children that way." He went on to tell me that Wakara's body was exhumed by tribal members shortly after and reburied to a secret location where his remains would be undisturbed by grave robbers.
Last, but no less important, Mormon writers claim Wakara was a horse thief. Interesting, but hypocritical in their judgment of Wakara. When the quorum of the twelve apostles and church leader Brigham Young order the extermination of the Timpanogos. They then steal their land, water, and timber on their land. They then try to take away from them their religion, language, and freedom.
Personally, I too was offended by the Fillmore State Exhibit, these slanderous one-sided stories only serve to dehumanize and demoralize the aboriginal peoples of Utah for public amusement, it is absolutely disgraceful.
I also asked Mary, “has there ever been any historian from the LDS Church or any one come to you or the Tribe and ask about your history? Her answer was a straight up “No, never, you’re the first.”
Prelude To The 'Walker War'
Chief Wakara's Interview With Indian Agent M. S. Martenas
In 1853 Timpanogos leader Wakara (Black Hawk's uncle) told interpreter M. S. Martenas, "He (Wakara) said that he had always been opposed to the whites set[t]ling on the Indian lands, particularly that portion which he claims; and on which his band resides and on which they have resided since his childhood, and his parents before him—that the Mormons when they first commenced the settlement of Salt Lake Valley, was friendly, and promised them many comforts, and lasting friendship—that they continued 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, but many were much abused and this course has been pursued up to the present—sometimes 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." - STATEMENT, M. S. MARTENAS, INTERPRETER Great Salt Lake City, July 6 1853 Brigham Young Papers, MS 1234, Box 58, Folder 14
LDS Archives - Will Bagley Transcription (See: Wakara Talks About Injustices at the Hands of Mormon "Saints")
When the Timpanogos heard what happened at Battle Creek and Fort Utah they were stricken with fear, enraged, and hearts were broken and they scattered in all directions. And as with any leader Wakara's honor was being threatened for the extreme trauma his kin experienced at Fort Utah, and for the murder of Old Bishop, the murders of old men, women, and children who were innocent of any wrongdoing.
Following the year of 1847-46, the Mormon population grew at the rate of some 3000 per month as the Indian population declined from disease and destruction of food resources, and the seizing every water source along the Wasatch front. Mormon leaders moved to disrupt the Mexican trade in horses thereby undermining the Tribes wealth and power.
On January 31, 1850, Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells of the all-Mormon Nauvoo Legion sent orders to Captain George D. Grant to "exterminate the Timpanogos," known as "Special Order No. 2". Isaac Higbee was the bishop of Fort Utah and he met with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Fort when they agreed that the only way to keep Fort Utah would be to exterminate the Timpanogos. Source: Utah State Archives, State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah Territorial Militia Correspondence, 1849-1863, ST-27, Microfilm reel 1, Document No. 5. Eugene E. Campbell. Establishing Zion
The 'Walker War'
Wakara's vengeance was fueled by the previously described events. Throughout his life among the Mormons, he made every effort to live peacefully with them. According to his descendants, he helped Brigham and his followers through the first winter of '47 with food.
The 1850’s were very terrifying and chaotic for Wakara and the Shoshoni-Timpanogos. The whole of territory of the Rockies and the Wasatch had been set upon by gold miners, the US Army and Mormon colonists attracted to vast amounts land and riches. Spurred on by the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny Europeans poured into aboriginal territory in droves for decades to come. It was overwhelming for not only the Timpanogos but all Tribes throughout the west.
Wakara's reaction to previous events was not immediate. Within less than three months following the massacre, Fort Utah was dismantled and moved a short distance south to the newly formed community of Provo. Wakara met with leaders from the various bands of the Timpanogos Nation and advised them that the Mormons were a kind of people who lie about being believers in God, though their way was to live in peace in a loving way. That he had mistakenly trusted the Mormons when they swore no harm would come to them and their lands would not be taken from them. Wakara quickly learned they were people who could not be trusted. They did not walk their talk. They would say one thing and do another.
Wakara kept his promises, he had helped them through the winter, now he regretted helping them, feeling betrayed and confused he had to answer to his Tribe.
Wakara approaches the situation in an honorable way. He first sat in council with his brothers Sowiette, Sanpitch, Arapeen, Ammon, Tabby, Grospeen, and others to determine the best way to approach the situation. He meets with Brigham Young looking for answers in a diplomatic way. Mormon Church scholars describe this meeting by saying “Wakara begged Brigham to be baptized into the Church,” as though he had surrendered to Brigham Young. No, a man like Wakara would not 'beg' much less surrender. It is more likely Wakara had some respect for Brigham Young as a fellow human being and leader he would have considered making some concessions or compromise for the sake of his people, for Wakara's allegiance was to his people and the land of his ancestors. Wakara and his brothers were men of honor and would find any means possible to avoid the shedding of innocent blood.
CAUSE AND ORIGIN OF THE WALKER WAR. according to Geo. McKenzie a Black Hawk War veteran:
(Please note: In the following story the Indian women are referred to as a "squaw" which is never the case when referring to white women. The term 'squaw' is a derogatory term that refers to a woman's genitalia. Also, McKenzie refers to Walker as a "war chief of the Ute nation." Wakara was not a 'War Chief' rather the principal Chief of the Timpanogos Nation and not a member of the Utes, and never was. The following account is a one-sided perspective from Mormon history.)
McKenzie wrote: Having been requested by State commander J. M. Westwood of the Utah Indian War Veterans Association to write up the cause of the Walker War, having been a resident of Springville at the time, and being well acquainted with James Ivie, who was the principal actor in the drama that caused the war, I submit the following as told to me by Ivie at the time, and on several occasions since the war. Walker, the war chief of the Ute nation, with his braves and their families were camped on Spring creek about one mile north of the present town of Springville, (Utah Co., Utah) all at peace with the white settlers, spending their time fishing and hunting, and trading and begging from the people. James Ivie, at that time had built a cabin, and was living in it with his wife and one child about half a mile north and west of where the Indians were camped. In the forenoon of July 17, 1853, an Indian and squaw came into Ivie's cabin. The squaw had three large trout which she wanted to trade to Mrs. Ivie for some flour. Flour being very scarce at that time, Mrs. Ivie called her husband in to get his views on the trade of that kind, he being at work digging a well. When he saw the trout, he said "They look mighty good to me," and suggested that Mrs. Ivie might give three pints of flour for them, if the squaw would trade that way. He then went out of the cabin to resume his work. Just after Ivie left two more Indians came into the cabin, one of whom seemed to be the husband or had some kind of claim on the squaw who had closed the trade with Mrs. Ivie. When this Indian saw the three trout, and the small amount of flour received in exchange, he became enraged and began beating the squaw, knocking her down, kicking and stamping her in a brutal manner. While this assault was being committed, Mrs. Ivie ran and called her husband, Mr. Ivie came to the cabin, and while the Indian was still beating the squaw he took hold of the Indian and pulled him away, the squaw lying prostrate on the floor. Ivie tried to push the Indian out of the cabin. When the Indian came, he left his gun standing by the door, and as Ivie pushed him out he grabbed his gun and tried to get in position to shoot Ivie. Ivie got hold of the muzzle of the gun, and in the struggle the gun was broken. The Indian retaining the stock and Ivie the barrel. When the gun broke, Ivie dealt the Indian a hard blow on the head with the barrel of the gun. The Indian fell to the ground, apparently dead, but did not expire until some hours later. The other Indian who came to the cabin the same time as his companion drew his bow and arrow and shot Ivie, the arrow passing through the shoulder of Ivie's buckskin hunting shirt. At this Ivie struck the Indian a violent blow and he fell unconscious by the side of the prostrate body of the other Indian. Just as Ivie got through with this second Indian, the squaw that he had been trying to protect came out of the cabin door with a stick of wood in her hand which she had picked up by the side of the fire in the cabin. With it she struck Ivie a blow in the face cutting a deep gash in his upper lip, and the scar showed plainly from that time until his death. Ivie again used the gun barrel to defend himself and struck the squaw. She fell unconscious by the side of the prostrate bodies of the two Indians. At this stage in the drama Joseph Kelly one of the foremost settlers of Springville, came upon the scene, and while looking at the three Indians lying apparently dead he was told by Ivie what had taken place. Kelly took a bucket of water that stood in the cabin and poured it on the Indians, trying to restore them. He then sent the Indian who first came to the cabin with the squaw for another bucket of water to try to restore the Indians to life ; this Indian having taken no part in the trouble.
Kelly told Ivie to take his wife and child and go into town before the Indian camp was notified of the trouble, which he did.
Note: It's hard to believe that a few fish and a little flour was the cause of war.
1855, January 29th. Wakara was a patriot, who had so long defended his people and land, was poisoned by members of the Mormon Church Utah history scholars have told me and died at Meadow Creek in Millard County. He was succeeded by his brother Arapeen. Among his final words, he admonished his tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them.
See: The Tintic War