The Black Hawk War: Utah’s Native American Tragedy

Published on March 4, 2013 by Carol

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Utah’s Native American tragedy brought an end to a sacred time for them — a time that must be remembered, honored, and never forgotten. The harsh reaalities of the Black Hawk War is one of pride and shame as Mormon emigrants from abroad seeking freedom, where led by a belief that as Christians they had a right to take possession of discovered countries, provided those countries were inhabited by non-Christians.

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A wise old medicine Chief Wuna Mucca of the Ute Indian Tribe had prophesied the coming of the missionaries decades before their arrival. And they came in droves to worship God almighty, to save the heathens from hell, and get rich.

Depredations of the Native Americans Indians of Utah began in 1849 with the first of six massacres at Battle Creek (Pleasant Grove) and it continued on for over 21 years between Mormons, the US Government, and all seven tribes of Ute Indian Nation. Their once vibrant society numbered in the tens of thousands, and it is astonishing to find that during the years of 1849 to 1870 their population steadily declined by 90%! The victors accounts rush by these facts, that they were subjected to every conceivable and inconceivable torture, mass butchery, rape, and death, death to others, and death to animals and plants, to the waters and the land, while Indigenous men, women, and children were left to wonder in a land they believed belonged to them for eternity, a people who in their final agony cried out “we are human too.”

This land was their heritage, their birthright that they would defend against all odds. You may Judge them and their way of life if you must, but do so by their standards.

I come from a perspective that better reflects Utah’s Native American Indians view because for over a decade now it has been my honor to live with them, and my g-grandfather also spent most of his time in their camps during the war. But more importantly, they are the other half of the Black Hawk War story that no one has ever written about. I will say, with both pleasure and humility, I have a deep appreciation for their generosity, that they share their most painful stories with me. However, if the true story of the Indian peoples of Utah is ever to be told, I say respectfully, it is they who will need to tell it.

The devil is in the details of Black Hawk War accounts. Because many of these accounts are one sided and often misleading. For example, the man they called “Chief Black Hawk”, actually his Ute name was Nuch, I’ll explain further on. He was a clever man, and a highly respected leader whom history has mistakenly overlooked and unjustly demonized. In his childhood he was educated in the schools of the whiteman. Then in his mid teens Nuch (“Black Hawk”) witnessed with extreme agony the senseless murders of his family at Battle Creek, and the gruesome beheadings of his kin at Fort Utah. Years later he was honorably chosen by his tribe to be a sub-Chief of his brother Chief Tabby. He accepted the challenge. Out numbered and against all odds of ever winning, he, his fellow warriors, his communal tribe, and neighboring allies, with incredible skill and cooperation commanded a formidable counter-attack that effectively held back white expansion into central and southern Utah territory, their most valued homeland, for nearly a decade! Much has been said about Black Hawk “stealing Mormon beef” and little emphasis on Mormon theft of Native lands. Because Nuch understood the Mormon’s economics he managed to undermine their economy causing cattle markets to collapse and the abandonment of some 70 Mormon villages. The so called “treaties” made between the Mormons and the Ute had no legal basis, only the Federal Government had the power to negotiate treaties, therefore they were only agreements of which Brigham Young failed to honor even one.

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