"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
by 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
one was held accountable by Brigham Young or any of the church leaders or
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.