Review of the Ute Indians Version of the Black Hawk War

Published on March 4, 2013 by Carol

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Salt Lake City

“There was a time when our people were happy and content living in the majestic mountains and fertile green valleys of Utah. Then the Mormons came, and our people were killed—the old, the young, the children, women—and many taken to reservations where many more would die.” – A Member of the Ute Tribe

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“We took from them almost all of their land–the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly we tried to take from them their freedom. And what is so amazing about this whole story is that we failed. We failed after hundreds of years of trying to take everything from American Indians. We failed to do that. They are still here and there’s survival; that great saga of survival is one of the great stories of all mankind.” – Professor Dr. Daniel McCool University of Utah

This vibrant nation of American Indian inhabitants had occupied their ancestral land in Utah for some 20,000 years. Whereas, non-Indian people, namely fur traders, came and went. There were several native American tribes living in the area at the time the Ute, Paiute, Goshute, Shoshoni, and Uncompahgre, and they were understandably in sharp disagreement with Mormon settlers who steadily forced their way upon them at the rate of some three thousand new immigrants a month for over two decades! Understandably the negative impact upon Native peoples rights, the land and resources provoked a series of disastrous clashes causing unnecessary untold thousands of deaths. The Black Hawk war in Utah, in reality, was an act of genocide upon the Native American Indians in the west.

In 1853 Ute leader Walkara (Black Hawk’s uncle) told interpreter M. S. Martenas, “He (Walkara) 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

“When the Ute failed to assimilate into Mormon culture, the answer was to exterminate them.” – Historian Robert Carter

In 1850 Mormon apostle George A. Smith, cousin to Church founder Joseph Smith, declared that the Indian people “have no right to their land” and he instructed the all-Mormon legislature to “extinguish all titles” and get them out of the way and onto reservations. Smith was 33 years of age when making decisions affecting the lives of thousands of Native peoples.

LDS Church President Brigham Young’s victory was perhaps a hollow one for, in order to fulfill his dream, he had to destroy a civilization. He complained it was “cheaper to feed them than to fight them,” as he was spending millions in church funds equipping his private army to war against them. Brigham paid his Generals from the church tithing fund as much as $300 a month while some 3000 soldiers were being paid some $16.00 a month each. Then in 1866 the United States government reimbursed Brigham some 1.5 million dollars for military expenses. (See Memorial of the Legislative Assembly of Utah)

Young’s long-time admonition to the members of his church was to “Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals.” Many “saints” were spending time in the Indian camps (my g-grandfather among them) and occasionally inviting Indian people into their homes, to which Brigham responded, “If the inhabitants of this Territory, my brethren, had never condescended to reduce themselves to the practices of the Indians, (as few of them have), to their low, degraded condition, and in some cases even lower, there never would have been any trouble between us and our red neighbors.” – (See Brigham Young Discourses)

Brigham Young was quoted by the Denver Rocky Mountain Newspaper as saying, “You can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour, than a keg of powder”… just how many of the some 70,000 Indians did he get rid of? The gruesome beheadings of some 40 Ute corpses in 1850, heads stacked in boxes, and hung by their long hair from the eves of buildings at Fort Utah, has long been ignored, “You didn’t see the Indians beheading the Mormons.” – Historian Robert Carter Author of Fort Utah

What was the motivation behind such barbarianism? Money? Indeed, the severed heads were shipped to Washington and sold for “scientific examination.”

The massacre at Bear River occurred January 29, 1863. It ranks third out of six massacres in Utah, but by far the worst ever in U.S. history. Five hundred thirty-one Shoshone were slain by the U.S. army Colonel Patrick Edward Connor—among them, old men, 90 women and children. After the slaughter ended, soldiers went through the Indian village raping women and using axes to bash in the heads of women and children who were already dying of wounds, “many of the Squaws were killed because they would not submit to lie down and be ravished.” Eyewitness William Hull wrote: “Never will I forget the scene, dead bodies were everywhere. I counted eight deep in one place and in several places they were three to five deep; all in all we counted nearly four hundred; two-thirds of this number being women and children. We found two Indian women alive whose thighs had been broken by the bullets. Two little boys and one little girl about three years of age were still living. The little girl was badly wounded, having eight flesh wounds in her body …”

Chief Bear Hunter and sub-Chief Leh i (not a Ute name)both were killed. Mormon troops led by a United States Army Colonel, burned 75 Indian lodges, took possession of 1,000 bushels of wheat and flour, and 175 Shoshone horses. While the troops cared for their wounded and took their dead back to Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City for burial, hundreds of Indians’ bodies were left on the field for the wolves and crows for nearly two years. Brigham Young obliged the federal governments request by suppling Connor with cavalry troops from the Utah Militia. Although the Mormon settlers in Cache Valley expressed their gratitude for “the movement of Col. Connor as an intervention of the Almighty” in their behalf, the Bear River Massacre was a brushed-aside-ignored-history in Utah. – John Alton Peterson Utah’s Black Hawk War – Rod Miller’s Massacre at Bear River

“The Bear River Massacre has been ignored. It was not in the interest of key players—the military and the Mormons—to remember..” – Salt Lake Tribune

On a dark and somber night, April 21, 1866, another heinous crime was being committed in Circleville, Utah, the sixth and last of the massacres that occurred between the years of 1849 and 1866 , led by LDS Bishop William Jackson Allred and his son James T. S.. While Paiutes were being held captive in a below ground shelter, one by one, 26 in all — women, men, and children, their throats were cut. The only crime that historical accounts accuses these innocent victims of is that they were Indian.

The Circleville Massacre was the last, and ranks third behind Bear River Massacre, and then Mountain Meadows Massacre in terms of the number murdered. The six massacres resulted in a total of some 766 deaths. No less important, what is astonishing are the morbid details of the event that defies all logic. Amazing is the fact that three children managed to survive, living descendents of one the survivors shared with me their personal records of that horrible event.

Source: Legendsofamerica Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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