The Old Peace Treaty Tree

Ephraim, Utah


Peace Treaty Tree at Ephriam Utah

Of all the Black Hawk War monuments there are in Utah, one, in particular, stands above all others, which is the Peace Treaty Tree in Ephraim, Utah. It stands above others because it recognizes the greatness of the human spirit. A place and time where two men with vastly different backgrounds make a sacred vow to one another to look beyond their differences and end the bloodshed. A story of the Black Hawk War that should be remembered and never forgotten.

During the Black Hawk War, Antonga Black Hawk was wounded while in battle at Gravely Ford near Richfield. He was trying to rescue a fallen warrior when he was shot in the stomach.

In 1866 Canute Peterson of Ephraim paid a visit to the ailing Timpanogos leader Black Hawk, taking gifts of sugar, hams, bread, beads, molasses, tea, coffee, tobacco, flour, medicines, and clothing. The Chief was grateful for the presents, and a friendship developed, which partially ended the hostilities. Five important chiefs called upon Canute Peterson's home to express their respect and appreciation. As they talked, Sarah Peterson prepared a meal of the good things that could be brought from the cellar and pantry. After a good meal, Black Hawk and Canute smoked the pipe of peace under the old juniper tree, now referred to as the "peace treaty tree." The old Juniper tree still stands on the south bank of the creek. There they agreed that they would not fight as long as water continued to run in the creek. A Black Hawk Peace Treaty marker was erected there in 1987. And, by the way, water still runs in that creek.

The Juniper is a sacred tree to the Native people. It's a medicine plant that has healing properties. The symbolism then is powerful. Black Hawk chooses the Juniper to smoke the sacred pipe under and to make their promises. The Chief being true to ancient traditions honored their friendship and commitment to each other. Both were acknowledging their connectedness in spirit; they were making a sacred vow to live in harmony. Does this not demonstrate the humanity, virtue, and compassion of Antonga Black Hawk and his friend Canute? Just a kind heart-felt gesture from Canute Peterson, and Black Hawk willingly offers the sacred pipe to honor his kindness and compassion. In contrast, Brigham Young spends millions in church funds to exterminate the Timpanogos at Fort Utah. Perhaps all that was needed was a little unconditional love and respect.

Not all Mormon colonists conflicted with the Timpanogos Nation. I recall another exciting story that Benjamin F. Johnson of Spring Lake(1855) wrote of his Timpanogos friend named Guffick the following: "I saw someone moving in the brush at the foot of the mountains, and thinking it might be Guffick, I started in that direction. Seeing me (Guffick) hurriedly came, clasped me in his arms and wept. I asked him with his family and friends, to come and live with me through the war. I would give my life for his did anyone kill him or his. He said he could not, for if the Mormons did not kill him the Indians would, should he do so. His grief of the war then going appeared extreme, and at parting he again hugged me and wept as before. Such was his integrity to me, and our mutual confidence and love for each other that to but a few would I have entrusted my life sooner than with him."

Tribal elders, my Native friends said this to me when I was researching my book My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace: "The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct, living descendants of Creator." Chief Joseph says, "We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything. When we are together, we are one. Nothing can break it." This is the same message Chief Sitting Bull conveyed when he said, "The heart knows not the color of the skin. This is an ancient traditional teaching. It still lives among our true traditionalists everywhere. The power of forgiveness is greater than hate; love vanquishes condescension and discrimination. That is the power our elders, our true traditionalists, hold. They are treasures; they are the most beautiful people on Earth." And I believe that was Black Hawk's message too.

I most sincerely congratulate the people of Ephraim City for having preserved the old Peace Treaty Tree honoring the friendships that were made a hundred and sixty years ago between Timpanogos Chief Antonga Black Hawk and Canute Peterson. It is extraordinary to think that a promise made so long ago is still remembered. Thank you, Ephraim City, and may you always be blessed with beauty and prosper. - Phillip B Gottfredson


See: The Black Hawk War Project