Portrait of Wakara.Artist Carvalho, Solomon 01.1578. 1854. Tulsa: Gilcrease Museum

Timpanogos Chief Wakara 1808-1855
Carvalho, Solomon. Portrait of Wakara. 01.1578. 1854.
Tulsa: Gilcrease Museum


Timpanogos Chief Wahara Misrepresented

The writer is Indigenous Day Award recipient Phillip B Gottfredson, the author of My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace.

Today's Living descendants of Timpanogos Chief Wakara talk about their ancestors in a discussion with Phillip B Gottfredson. They explain that Wakara is misrepresented in Mormon history. The Walker War in 1853 was the result of previous events such as the massacres at Battle Creek Canyon, Pleasant Grove, Utah, and Fort Utah. Chief Wakara's kin was brutally attacked and beheaded, setting the stage for unparalleled trauma for the Timpanogos Tribe and leading to 24 years of brutal conflict and became known as the the Black Hawk War.

Timpanogos Chief Wakara Autobiography

Pana-carre-quinker, aka Wakara, was the principal leader of the Timpanogos Nation during the 1850s. Wakara was born in c1808 near the Spanish Fork River in Utah. This area had long been the home of his family and kin, located in the central region 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. His people chose him as their Chief to carry on his family's long legacy of legendary leaders. 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 to the mid-1700s.

When the Mormon church baptized Wakara, he was given the name 'Joseph Walker' and was known by Mormons as Chief Walker and Joe Walker after that. Wakara's name has different spellings depending on which Whiteman's account you read, such as Walker and Walkah. However, according to his living descendants, they prefer Wakara.

Chief Wakara was honorably chosen as leader by his Tribe because he exemplified the traditions and beliefs of his ancestors.

Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. Humility to the Native peoples meant no one person was above all others. Every individual was equally respected. Family and community were inseparable, bound together in an environment of Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. Native peoples saw animals and all things Creator created as having a sacred purpose, and each possessed unique gifts and talents.

When decisions were made that affected the Tribe, everyone had to be in mutual agreement before taking any action. It was the honorable way to live. Within the communities, each family took on particular roles; for example, medicine people, warriors, weavers, hunters, gatherers, etc., were the responsibility of individual families respectfully. Elders, the old and wise, had the most significant influence in the community because they earned their respect. They were the spokespersons, teachers, and keepers of wisdom. From childhood, Wakara his family groomed him to become a great leader. He understood he was responsible for his Tribe's security and well-being. He also was responsible for their cultural integrity.

In several accounts, he has been described as 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, a direct descendent of Arapeen, 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."

Stories of Child Slavery

There are some round-the-bend bizarre stories that Mormons talk about that are not factual. It is a gross misrepresentation that Mormon historians make when they say Wakara stole children from other tribes and enslaved them. Or that he and his men would raid Paiute bands and take women and children prisoner. Or that he sold the enslaved people 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. He allegedly 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 Timpanogos of Utah.

The Timpanogos has never been allowed to tell their side of the story that the Paiutes were Wakara's blood relations. The Tribe has said to me 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 his people's highest standards and ideals," they said.

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."

Wakara's Burial

There are many conflicting accounts about the location of Wakara's grave and details about his burial. Mormons say Wakara died in 1855 and was buried in a "sepulcher of stone" on the rugged eastern hillside above this little community of Meadow, south of Fillmore, Utah. And that his grave was located in Dry Canyon, the first canyon north of Corn Creek. 

Here's where the story goes off the rails. Mormon accounts alleged that Wakara's two wives and some Paiute children were "offered up" as a sacrifice on the day of his burial. Besides his weapons, trinkets, and presents, the two wives and a young boy "were fastened alive to the pedestal beside Wakara's body." "I don't believe that," said Mary Meyer.

Mary Meyer and I attended the Circleville Massacre monument dedication in April of 2016 in Circleville, Utah. On the way home, we visited the Walker exhibit at The Territorial Statehouse and State Park in Fillmore, Utah, which describes Wakara's burial. After carefully reading everything at the exhibition, she said, "I don't believe any of this." She found the exhibit very offensive and disrespectful of her ancestors and Tribe. I lived with Mary's brother, Perry Murdock, for a couple of months. I asked him if his great-great-grandfather Wakara 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." Perry further explained that Wakara's body was exhumed by tribal members shortly after and reburied in a secret location where his remains would be undisturbed by grave robbers.

Last but no less slanderous, Mormon writers claim Wakara was a horse thief. They are hypocritical in their judgment of Wakara. When the quorum of the twelve apostles and church leader Brigham Young ordered the Timpanogos' extermination, they then stole their land, water, and timber on their land. They then tried to take away their religion, language, and freedom.

I was also offended by the Fillmore State Exhibit and embarrassed that I had taken Mary to see how one-sided stories dehumanize and demoralize the indigenous peoples of Utah as a tourist attraction. It is disgraceful. 

Tell us, Fillmore City, where is the "sepulcher of stone," the remains of 50 horses, two women, two children, and Wakara? Tell us that. We did a little math; there would be 1,065 human bones and 10,250 horse bones. That would be a total of 11,315 bones. Please send us that information to: comments@blackhawkproductions.com. 

"These preposterous stories were written by Mormon historians. After 25 years of exhaustive research I found no definitive proof that these stories about Timpanogos Chief Wakara are true," said Phillip B Gottfredson.

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 full document Wakara Talks About Injustices of the Black Hawk War.

Following 1847-48, the Mormon population grew by some 3000 per month. The Indian population declined from disease and destruction of food resources, and seizing every water source along the Wasatch front. Mormon leaders moved to disrupt the Mexican trade in horses thereby undermining the Tribe's wealth and power.

On January 31, 1850, Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells of the all-Mormon Nauvoo Legion ordered Captain George D. Grant to "exterminate the Timpanogos," known as "Special Order No. 2". More information Battle Creek Canyon and Fort Utah

The 'Walker War'

Wakara's vengeance was fueled by previous massacres at Battle Creek Canyon and Fort Utah. Throughout his life among the Mormons, he made every effort to live peacefully with them. He helped Brigham and his followers through the first winter of '47 with food, according to his descendants.

The 1850s were terrifying and chaotic for Wakara and the Shoshoni-Timpanogos. Gold miners had set upon the whole territory of the Rockies, and the Wasatch, the US Army, and Mormon colonists were attracted to vast amounts of 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 the Timpanogos and 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. It moved a short distance south to the newly formed community of Provo. Wakara met with leaders from the various brands of the Timpanogos Nation and advised them that the Mormons were the kind of people who lie about being believers in God. However, their way was to live in peace and lovingly. He had mistakenly trusted the Mormons when they swore: "no harm will come to you, and we will not take your land." Wakara quickly learned Mormons were people he could not trust. 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. 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 that 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, to avoid war. But make no mistake, Wakara's allegiance was to his people, and the land of his ancestors. Wakara and his brothers were men of honor. They would find any means possible to avoid the shedding of blood.


According to Geo. McKenzie, a Black Hawk War veteran:

(Please note: Indian women are called "squaws" in the following story, which is never the case for 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' but rather the principal Chief of the Timpanogos Nation. He was never a member of the Utes. The following account is a one-sided perspective from Mormon history.)

1855, January 29, 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: For me, it's hard to believe that a few fish and a little flour was the cause of war. Wakara was a patriot who had so long defended his people and land. Historian Will Bagley told me in a private conversation that Wakara was poisoned to death by Mormon Church members and died at Meadow Creek in Millard County. Among his final words Chief Wakara admonished his Tribe to live at peace with the settlers and not molest them. Wakara's brother Arapeen became the principal Chief of the Timpanogos Nation.

Brigham Young said, "Allow me to say a word in behalf of Walker. I tell this congregation and the world that "Indian Walker," as he is called, has not been at the foundation of the difficulties we have had. He has had nothing to do with them. Has he done no wrong? I did not say he had done no wrong. He has been angry, and felt at times that he would like to destroy this people; but I do know that he has been held by a superior power. At the very commencement of the fuss, he was not in favor of killing the whites. When Kiel was killed, the Indians were still in the canyon; and when the whites followed them, they could have killed every man; but Walker said, "No—they shall not be killed." See Brigham Young Discources

Donate to the Timpanogos Project Chief Wakara Monument

See Martenas-Walker Statement


Buy Phillip B Gottfredson's book My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace!

Black Hawk's Mission of Peace author Phillip B Gottfredson