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The Black Hawk War


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"If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace.....Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.......Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade....where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty." -Heinmot Tooyalaket (Chief Joseph), Nez Perce




The Mormon Black Hawk War


1865 - 1872

Based on the Book

Indian Depredations in Utah

The Oldest Firsthand Account


Black Hawk War Utah Indian Depredations Peter Gottfredson



Peter Gottfredson Black Hawk War Utah

Peter Gottfredson



"The Secret War of the Mormons"

by Phillip B Gottfredson

"The following views and opinions expressed herein are my own, and may not necessarily represent those of the Native American Indian. I do not represent any group or organization and I personally take full responsibility. I have made every effort to ensure that the information herein is accurate as far as is possible. Sources for this material has been taken from interviews, personal diaries, journals, news paper articles, and historical accounts many of which were written by Mormon scholars."



"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."- Blaise Pascal 1623 - 1662

The Mormon's Black Hawk War of the 1800's evolved into the bloodiest battle in Utah history, and doubtless the western United States. The American Ute Indian suffered unimaginable injustices. They were forced onto desolate reservations. They were demoralized, and dehumanized. They were blamed for mass murders they didn't commit. They were beheaded, tortured, raped and murdered. As shocking the grizzly massacre at Mountain Meadows has been to thousands of people, there is no other event comparable to the trail of tears left behind in the aftermath of the Mormon domination over the Native American Ute Indian in Utah which became known as the Black Hawk War. One saint offered this explanation, "In those early days it was at times imperative that harsh measures should be used. We had to do these things, or be run over by them. It was a question of supremacy between the white man and the Indian." (Please see account of John Lowery also Ute Account)


How much do you know about the Black Hawk War, the Ute, Paiute, Goshute, Indians of Utah, or the "Secret War of the Mormons?" If your answer is nothing or very little you are among the majority. Historians say, "less than 1% of the people of Utah know about the Black Hawk War." They have no knowledge thousands who died in a matter of a few years, or that the blood soaked earth they walk upon was once sacred ground for a vigorous and ancient dynasty. They are unconscious of the human injustices then and now, and it is this way because for decades this aspect of Utah's ill-famed history has been "deliberately ignored and left out of school curriculum." It is apparent that the decimation of Utah Indians men, women, and little children, is of little importance to Utahan's. However for those people, whose ancestors' names are written upon the road signs and decaying monuments along the way, for these people, the signs and markers are painful reminders of the personal agony that their forgotten ancestors suffered only three life times ago.


Five years of research reveals a profound human tragedy. Prior to this time I was only aware of an all too familiar sanitized version, that the saints peace-making efforts had failed to "save the man and kill the Indian," because of the unwillingness of the Native people, and their so called "savage" ways resulted in war wherein a loving God, whom I was taught loves all equally and unconditionally, but according to the victors history God favored the Mormon people as victors over the "loathsome" Indian as their Manifest Destiny.


Believing in the lies my teachers told me, it has been astonishing to learn the truthful events of the Black Hawk War, and to recognize the bigotry and confusion that has developed in society as a result of sidestepping the controversies and difficulties of our Mormon past. How doing discriminates against the American Ute Indian while inaccurately portraying them as savage and brutal. The facts are while they fought for their lives some were, but most were not. How doing has created the illusion that early Mormon leaders were innocent of any wrong, when again the facts are some Mormons were also savage and brutal and some were not. And how doing actually undermines the faith of the Latter-day Saints who evangelize being "honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men." And who say "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may," yet historical accounts stand in testament that the opposite was true, as Native Utah Indians were forced to submit to the Whiteman's ways or suffer harsh consequences.


The children of the Utah Indian were forcibly taken from their families and placed in boarding house schools. They were not allowed to speak their own language, if they did they were severely punished. The children were not allowed to visit their families for periods as long as six years. Many children died at the schools, and were buried on school grounds.  


Not surprisingly, the Native Indian people traditionally believed in and practiced what they refer to as the "seven virtues" long before any whites appeared on their land. Love, honesty, kindness, integrity, respect, courage, and wisdom, but very few know and understand this because unless a person has learned from the Native people their side of the story consequently one's own perspective of the Native Indian is going to be biased. Keeping in mind that the vast majority of people's understanding of the Native Indian is based upon what little information is taught school, and most assuredly such education is deliberately skewed by the victors biased opinionated version.


Our chilling story of the Black Hawk War, is based upon the oldest firsthand account Peter Gottfredson's book titled "Indian Depredations in Utah." The life story of Chief Black Hawk and the people he gave his life for brings attention to the many serious human injustices early Utah pioneers imposed upon the sixteen tribes of the Ute, and their derisive relationship with them. In 1890 Peter Gottfredson began to compile firsthand accounts of the Black Hawk War, motivated by his own personal friendship with the Ute people during the war.


Peter spent most of his time in the Indian camps and witnessed the exploitation that surrounded he and the people he loved. As Peter reflected over the past he asked, "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?" This was an important question 116 years ago, and it is no less important now as the answer to this intriguing question still remains a mystery.


Being a product of the time the book Indian Depredations in Utah is a testament to the proclivity of the early Mormon pioneers and is highly respected by noted historians as being a reliable account. To the honor of Peter Gottfredson authors, historians, researchers, journalists, scholars and academia's have cited his work in countless publications, articles, and books for decades, underscoring the importance of his time-honored account. Most recent is historian John Alton Peterson's award winning book titled Utah's Black Hawk War wherein Gottfredson's account is cited numerous times. The Salt Lake Tribune noted in 2002, "...the book [Indian Depredations in Utah] reports any number of white depredations that would otherwise be unknown, and  like the Iliad, the losers are often more courageous and noble than the victors." - Historian Will Bagley (These books and many others are available on this site.)


The Mormon's Black Hawk War


Chief Black Hawk's Ute name was Noonch, named in honor of his family, he belonged to the Laguna band. He descended from a long line of legendary leaders on both sides of his family dating back centuries of time. He and his family were the 'Royal Bloods' of the Ute Nation, and leaders became Chiefs by succession. The Ute dynasty once ruled over 260,000 square miles of land from western Utah to eastern Colorado.


"Black Hawk" is not a Ute name. The Ute call themselves Noonchee, which means "people of the shinning mountains." Noonch went by another name also which was "Antoñgua," which is Spanish, and is believed to been given him by early trappers before the Mormons entered Utah territory. Brigham Young named Noonch "Black Hawk." The name "Black Hawk", it is easy to conclude, and perplexingly bizarre, that Brigham Young barrowed from a Illinois Sauk chief of the same name. The Sauk occupied Illinois and fought in a war which also became known as the "Black Hawk War," which was during the time Brigham Young and the LDS people were in Illinois in the early 1830's and prior to them coming to Utah in 1847.  (See the lineage of Noonch) 

The Black Hawk War of Utah in itself was not a single incident. Over 150 bloody altercations and battles took place over a seven year period throughout Utah territory and spread into Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, and Arizona while tens of thousands of Mormon Pioneers poured in at the rate of 3000 a month. The Navajo, Hopi, Jicarilla, Shoshone, Apaches and all 12 bands of the Ute were all affected.


The completion of the Transcontinental Rail Road in 1869 at Promontory Point sealed the fate of the Utah Indian guaranteeing an even greater increase in the white population and the final decimation of the Ute, who's well organized society and traditional ways had spanned 100 centuries.




Black Hawk War Website Here come the Momons


1865 - Brigham Young told his followers; "Seek out the murdering Indians and slay them... do your duty and say nothing to any man," he ordered.  Utah's Black Hawk War by John Alton Peterson.


1847 is the year the first Mormon pioneers arrived. Following years of assaults upon the Ute.

Events at Fort Utah in 1850 would haunt the Mormons for many decades to follow, even to the present day. Dr. James Blake who was a surgeon among the Stansbury company, led by Gen. Wells, was greatly influenced by Bill Hickman's trophy of Old Elk's head that he had hacked from his frozen corpse during the Mormon militias foray into Rock Canyon, located today above the LDS temple in Provo. Jim Bridger had offered $100.00 for the head of Old Elk.


Blake then ordered the Mormon Militia to go out and behead each of the frozen corpses laying about in the snow following a battle that lasted two days and resulted in over 70 deaths. Dr. Blake told them he "wanted to have the heads shipped to Washington for scientific examination." Blake and his men then acquired as many as 50 heads. They placed them in open boxes in view of Black Hawk who was barely in his 20's, and his traumatized kin who were innocent of any wrong doing. The captives were tortured as they were forced to view the heads of their kin place before them for a period of two long and excruciating weeks. When the heads began to rot, the men at the fort burned them.


The ludicrous intent behind this heinous act was to "teach them [the Indians] a lesson." No record of what became of 50 headless corpses. And no one was held accountable by Brigham Young or any of the church leaders or members.


Black Hawk, it shall be noted, had previously witnessed the brutal murder of his family at Battle Creek, above Pleasant Grove, and placed in captivity by Mormon militants only a few months prior to this event at Fort Utah.


Chief Wah-Kara, the uncle of Noonch (Black Hawk) had been in leadership of the Ute when he suddenly died in 1855.

(See Wah-Kara) Wah-Kara's brother Yenewoods (aka Jake Arapeen) became Chief by succession, and continued in his role until 1865 when Noonch took command as Chief.


By 1865 the white population had dramatically increased to about 50,000. At the same time the Ute population is estimated to have been 15 to 20 thousand. White settlers brought with them measles, smallpox, tuberculosis, cholera, and scarlet fever, of which spread epidemically among the Indians. The environment was drastically altered from logging, and the introduction of thousands of head of cattle and horses; farming and reckless hunting rapidly depleted the Utes only food source causing hundreds of Native people starved to death. Therefore it followed the Utah Indians only choice was to "steal [Mormon cattle] or starve." The famous quote of Brigham Young, "It is better to feed them [Utah Indians] than fight them," was noble in thought, but the Rocky Mountain News paper also quoted Brigham Young saying, "You can kill more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder," and "If you want to get rid of the Indians try and civilize them."


Regardless, the truth remains that thousands of Utah Native Indians died of starvation and disease. And essentially the conflict was about who would control the land and who would survive. It was not about religion, only to the extent that religion was the Mormon's manifest to dominate and subdue the Utah Indian.


Is it just coincidence that we have not heard of the Battle Creek Massacre (4 killed) in 1849, the Walker War 1850, Fort Utah (70 killed) 1850, the Mountain Meadows Massacre (129 killed) 1857, the Bear River Massacre (280 killed) 1863, the Black Hawk War 1865, the Grass Valley Massacre (10 killed) 1865, the Diamond Battle (1 killed) 1866, Circleville Massacre (26 killed) 1866, and over 100 other altercations, which stand in testament of the circumstances of which I speak? There are 587 recorded deaths of Native Ute People who died at the hands of Mormon saints between 1850 and 1872 and a 125 whites.


Thousands more Utah Indians died hideous deaths from disease and starvation, spread by the whites, and at times intentionally. 1500 Ute Indians were driven from Colorado at gun point and placed on one of the most desolate regions of Utah and again many more died from hunger as a result. According to historical records the Native Ute population in the region of Utah at the time of the arrival of the whites is estimated to have been 15,000 to 20,000 as previously stated. Some estimates say the Indian population could have been as high as 40,000. 1909 government census reported the population of the Native Ute had dramatically declined to 2,300. The question we have to ask is what happened to 10 or perhaps 15 thousand Native American Ute Indians? Why did the Paiute population decrease by 90%? And why has this been ignored, left out of school curriculum and church cannon? This is why historians have dubbed it "The secret war of the Mormons" So I say, there are at least 15000 reasons why this story must be told.


Post War Relations


The Mormon relations with the Ute was shamefully divisive at best. Imagine, if you will, having the corpse of your leader and grandfather disrespectfully unearthed by church members, then for some strange reason put on public display in the Church museum on Temple Square as a mere curiosity. I personally remember seeing his remains on display there when I was just a young boy. The family of Black Hawk had no legal or political recourse until 86 years later. In 1996 under the protection of federal law, the family of Ute leader Chief Black Hawk were at last able to rescue his mummified remains found in a storage box in a basement room at BYU. They reburied their beloved grandfather at Spring Lake, Utah. Gratitude goes to a young Boy Scout who in 1993 elected to earn his Eagle Badge by getting Black Hawk registered with the Forest Service NAGPRA. For weeks no one could locate his remains, according to news paper articles. "I thought it was weird that no one had records on him," the young Scout remarked to reporters.


So I say that to judge the Indian as "loathsome" is simply hypocritical. Turn it around, if the remains of your grandfather, or Brigham Young for example, were dug up and put on public display, would there be anger? Would you feel demoralized? Would you perhaps feel rage? Suppose all your anger fell upon deaf ears and you were told there is nothing you can do about it and you had to wait 86 years before you are granted legal right to the remains of your own family member? Yet truthfully this has been the experience of the living descendants of Chief Black Hawk. Then why is it ok to apply a standard for one people and not equally? Are we all children of God, or just some?


And it shall be noted that like the burial site of the victims of the Mountain Meadows massacre is owned by the LDS Church, so is the burial site of Black Hawk owned by the church. Ignoring the pleas from family descendents of the survivors of the Mountain Meadows massacre, the LDS church refuses to turn over the Mountain Meadows property for federal management saying, "It is not in our best interest." It is said, "It's like Lee Harvey Oswald owning the gravesite of John F. Kennedy." (See Secret of the Bones


The Black Hawk War in Utah took place only three live-times ago. Over a 130 years have passed and shamefully there has not been a memorial, or any recognition given to the Utah Indian respectfully acknowledging them for the tremendous contribution they have made to Utah and America.


(Please see Truth in Education)

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Website Content


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Mission Statement




Chilling Accounts Of The War:



Wah-Kara War



Battle Creek



Fort Utah



Cause of the War



Political conditions lead to war.



Updated! Circleville Massacre



Grass Valley Massacre



Diamond Creek Battle



Gravely Ford Battle


End of Black Hawk War



Excerpts from Book

War Related:



Peter Gottfredson in the Indian Camps



Black Hawk War Map



Names In IDIU Book



Ute Names & Facts



Biography of Peter Gottfredson

 Post War Commentary:



Synopsis of War



Truth in Education


Secret of the Bones



Another Tea Pot Dome


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