History of the First Nations of Utah In Review


Historian Phillip B Gottfredson | Author Black Hawk's Mission of Peace

It's a curious business the history of First Nation People of Utah. Our Mormon ancestors came from abroad seeking freedom in America. Here the indigenous were already free and had been for thousands of years. Then our ancestors took from the First People their freedom, and they have been struggling ever since to be free again.

Over the past two decades as I have sifted through the now silent ashes of their lives, as the haunting words of my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson who spent much of his life in the Timpanogos camps during the war, keep echoing in my mind "I have often queried; why should those conditions be forgotten, and why has so little interest been taken in keeping memoranda's and records of events and conditions of those early and trying times." He was of coarse referring to the Black Hawk War. It was over a 100 years ago when Peter wrote these words, and the answer still remains a mystery to me.

It is deeply disturbing that the tradition has been for most historians and writers to trivialize, and underrate the agony of the First Nation people in Utah, those who suffered the greatest loss in terms of land, culture, lives, and dignity. It is criminal to ignore their history, and it is time their story be told truthfully.


"Why has so little interest been taken in keeping memorandas and records of events and conditions of those early and trying times" my great-grandfather pondered in 1884. It would be inaccurate to suggest the settlers were without conscience, as many accounts attest to their remorse. But memories of the past were short lived as the promise of prosperity unfolded before their eyes. The end justifying the means giving birth to the words, "the past is the past, we just need to forget about." And forget they did, 150 years have passed and but a handful of people know anything about the war. But for the First People of Utah the story is quite the opposite.


It's common knowledge Euro-Americans have for centuries forced upon the First People their views, opinions, cultural and religious beliefs. "The Mormons brought with them a moral code, a new technology, and an economic system. Mormon's inability or refusal to accept Indian culture on its own terms is a conflict repeated countless times throughout the west. Coexistence, with each culture intact, was impossible; compromise seemed unattainable, for the cherished ideals of one culture were the unpardonable sins of the other,"said The Other 49ers. "Mormons brought the ways of civilization with them in their minds. Contrary to their desire for a enlightened sacred way of life, they gave way the very kind of discrimination that they ran from."


Today it's also the little things that add insult to injury that go unnoticed. For years anMassasoit State Capitol Utah Indian statue by renowned artist Cyrus Dallin has adorned the grounds of the Utah state capitol, which to many has came to symbolized the First People of Utah. The fact the figure in the statue is that of Massasoit who died circa 1662, and that Massachusetts was named after him, or that Dallin employed a African-American model from whom he sculpted the Indian figure, this irony doesn't seem to matter to the non-Indians of Utah, but most assuredly the Indian people of Utah are less than amused. For never has there been a monument or memorial built in honor of the First People, much less a statue accurately representing Utah American Indians. Is it anti-Indian or anti-Mormon? Actually it's both. A paradox considering the thousands of Native Americans who are or were members of the LDS church."  


Native American holding a photo of a white woman that says Back To The Reservation for U.

The arrogance and attitudes of supremacy toward the First Nations people of Utah has prevailed since before the Black Hawk War, and few have had the courage to stand up and say, enough, we must defend a person's right to live a decent life. I am astonished that they have had little or no voice, ignored, shunned, kept out on the fringes of society and denied access to even most the basic fundamentals of equality and human rights. That they live in fear of telling their story, their truth, that there may be retribution for exercising their legal right of free speech. That non-Indians have been made to feel they have no obligation to own the past. I often wonder is the Black Hawk really over, or has discrimination simply morphed and become institutionalized in a Caste system?


What is the true story of First People of Utah? The only people who can intelligently and accurately answer that question are the indigenous people. But has anyone ever asked them? Twenty-six years of Utah history has been ignored and left out of school curriculum. Twenty-six years of Utah Indian history that more than 90% of Utah's population never heard of. A quarter of a century of the history of 40,000 lives has been tossed aside, forgotten, and made a mockery of.


See: Timpanogos of the Wasatch - Biography