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Idaho Monument to Shoshone Massacre (Part 5 of 9)

The state of Idaho donated land for a monument so the Shoshone Tribe could tell the story of the Bear River Massacre.  Author Darren Parry gives us a tour of this second monument to the tragedy that happened January 29, 1863.

Darren:  I love bringing people up here because the State of Idaho helped us develop the seven kiosks here to tell the story of our people from our perspective. That’s the first time we’ve been able to do that.  Newe, N- E-W-E {pronounced “Knee-wah”} means “the people.”  That’s how the Shoshones refer to themselves. That’s who they’ve always called themselves. Sometimes the pioneers called us the Snake Indians.[1] We’ve been referred to as other things, but to us and the Shoshone people were always Newe [knee-wah], that’s how it’s pronounced, beautiful people. There’s a picture, that top left one is of Little Soldier.  Little Soldier hung out in Tooele. But when he was up in this area, he spent his time along the Weber River. He actually carried a poster, a sign in the Ogden City Parade that said ‘the Thousands of Manasseh’. It’s funny, I’m sure he had no idea what that meant, or he couldn’t even read English. The fact that the Saints thought that that the Shoshone people were from the Tribe of Mannasseh spoke volumes.

GT:  That’s funny.

Darren:  Yeah, it’s quite a heritage there. He probably wouldn’t have done it had he known. They were taking advantage of him.  But really, it’s just who we are, how we live there and such an important part of how we traveled, what we ate, our hunter gatherer lifestyle, where we hunted buffalo, that cyclical travel pattern to collect food was always a big part [of their life]. When I bring Chinese tour groups and other groups to this beautiful site, it’s just important that they get, from our perspective, who we are, how we lived, and how we lived in this environment and what it all meant and stood for.

GT:  I’m trying to remember, it seems like when we were talking about this last time, you had mentioned something along the lines of, there were no fences. Shoshones didn’t build any fences. So, when they came across, like cattle and things, they were like, “Hey, that looks like food to us.”  They [Shoshones] didn’t recognize the fences at all, right?

Darren:  No, there were no fences and the pioneers brought fences and cabins and everything else. To the Shoshone people, it was always–everybody’s land was everybody’s land. There wasn’t, “This is ours. That’s their’s.”  The whole community shared in whatever they needed to survive, and you’re only as strong as…  A community is your most vulnerable people within that community. We lived a sense of taking care of one another.

GT:  Now, I think at this point, you were talking about somebody coming over, was it…

Darren:  Connor’s Overlook is what I was referring to.  There’s a group of trees over there on that bluff, that’s where Connor and his men first appeared, on the bluff. They were led by a Mormon scout named Porter Rockwell. He knew where the Shoshones were camped and for $5 he was hired by the troops in Salt Lake to bring them to that point. The village would have been over there more to the right. But that’s called Connor’s Overlook today.

GT:  You said it was below zero, and so  there was moving fog where the horses were.

Darren:  Yeah, there was more than four feet of snow that day from pioneer’s journals. They said it was probably the coldest winter in Cache Valley in some time.

[1] Snake Indians refers to them living near the Snake River in Idaho.

Darren tells a lot more stories about the massacre, including an Eagle Scout project that references a Shoshone child left hanging in a tree in hopes that white settlers would rescue the child.  Check out our conversation….

An Idaho monument contains 7 kiosks to tell the Bear River Massacre from the Shoshone perspective.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Darren.

483: How a Battle Changed to Massacre

482: How Mormon Pioneers Changed Native Life

481: Native Life Before Pioneers

480: Darren Parry for Congress

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How a Battle Changed to a Massacre (Part 4 of 9)

The first monument to what happened on January 29, 1863 appeared in 1932 in southern Idaho.  Author Darren Parry of the Shoshone Tribe describes how the Daughter of Utah Pioneers agreed to change the monument from commemorating a battle to what is now known as a massacre of Shoshone Indians.

GT:  We’re close to the site of the Bear River massacre.  In 1932, the pioneers that lived in this area and the local Mormon settlers, decided they wanted a way that they could really remember the events that took place here. It was a community event. The lady that organized it thought she would do a rock collecting exercise and all she asked of the citizens was, “We want your families to bring one rock and submit a written history. It doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with the rock, but we want a written history of your family. This rock collecting campaign started. Some of these rocks are from the Nauvoo temple site.

GT:  Wow.

Darren:  There’s rocks from all over from when the pioneers came west. These rocks had a significant historical reference to the family that submitted them. From that, this monument was developed. The first plaque that you’re looking at today, right now, was erected in 1932. It was the Battle of Bear River. It pretty just factually laid out things the way they thought it happened. Troops attacked an Indian village, 18 military died, 230 Shoshone died.  It talks about the women and children combatants in this, to justify why they could kill so many women and children, I suppose. But this was how the Saints wanted this place to be remembered, by this plaque. Twenty years later, in 1952, they erected another plaque that’s on the other side. It was almost like the pioneers probably thought, “Well, that doesn’t really reflect our role and how our pioneer women took care of the soldiers.” So on the other side of the–we can walk around here, but on the other side, in 1952, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers put this second plaque in honor of the Pioneer women. It just said attacks by the Indians on the peaceful inhabitants in this vicinity led to the final battle here.  It’s still called a battle. “On January 29th, conflict occurred in deep snow and bitter cold. Scores of wounded soldiers were taken from the battlefield to the Latter-day Saint community of Franklin. Here pioneer women trained through trials and necessities of frontier living, nursed back the wounded until they could be removed to Camp Douglas, Utah.” They go on to say two women and their children found alive after the encounter, were given homes in Franklin. So the locals, the Saints that grew up in this area, this is how they wanted what happened here to be memorialized. My grandmother, Mae Timbamboo Parry was very instrumental in going back to Washington, DC, more than 10 times, with journals from soldiers and other historical writings that she’d found over the years that really described it more as a massacre. Because of Mae Timbamboo Parry, the National Park Service, ended up putting the plaque here on the site and calling it what it is. It’s really the Bear River Massacre. So, for years, the Park Service referred to this as the Battle of Bear River. But because of my grandmother’s doggedness, and trying to change the way [it was described], in 1990, the Park Service reversed course, and quit calling it the Battle of Bear River and started calling it the Bear River Massacre.

Check out our conversation…

Darren Parry tells how the Bear River Battle change to the Bear River Massacre.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Darren!

482: How Mormon Pioneers Changed Native Life

481: Native Life Before Pioneers

480: Darren Parry for Congress

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How Mormon Pioneers Changed Native Life (Part 3 of 9)

Shoshone Indians didn’t have fences.  They shared everything.  Imagine what it was like when Mormon pioneers started shooting deer and buffalo that Native Americans used for survival.  Indians didn’t understand the concept of private property and ignored fences to keep cattle contained.  Darren Parry, the author of Bear River Massacre describes how Mormon pioneers changed life for Native Americans.

GT:  The massacre happened on January 29, in 1863. All those years from Peter Maughan getting here in 55, those eight years saw thousands of pioneers come to the valley and saw the pioneers relocate all of their cattle herd to the Cache valley.  I think they had more than 4000 head of cattle here at one point in those early years, because of the grass and the water.  There was so much natural feed for the animals that they were brought here. Well, that put a damper on a hunting/gathering lifestyle. You needed wild seeds and grasses, you needed the fish that were in the streams and you needed the deer and elk and buffalo that may have been here. I’m speaking about the bison now. But there were deer and elk and other things that were here that the Shoshones had lived on and had no problems ever finding a food source because it was such a rich environment. But now you have thousands of pioneers that are looking for the same food source. The difference is the pioneers had an agricultural lifestyle. They knew how to plant crops. They knew how to do that.

Darren:  The Shoshones had no idea how to plant crops.  They only knew how to hunt and gather. The depletion of those resources really was the big cause of the massacre, that and now you introduce gold in California and Oregon. People from back East were coming.  The California and Oregon trails cut through the very heart of the Shoshone land. Now you’re starting to have depredations and a few other things. But that’s really the environment towards the Civil War– towards 1863. I think the pioneers that were living here–and look, Brigham Young always had the mantra, it’s easier to feed the Indians than to fight them. He said that many times from the pulpit. But he lived in the confines of Salt Lake.  There aren’t any bad things going to happen to him and his family in Salt Lake.

Darren:  But you take a family out here that’s out in the middle of Mendon, perhaps, and there’s not another pioneer family within a mile, and you have a cow or two, and you’re trying to make it as a small family. Now the natives are taking your cattle or stealing or begging for food at your doorstep. That’s a different thing. So to ask them [to follow] it’s easier to feed them than to fight them–for the most part, they had a hard time feeding themselves and their families. So it’s not lost on me why the Saints that were here had a problem with the natives.  They were out in the middle of nowhere, and they had a hard time living themselves. So I’ll cut them a little bit of slack, because I’d want to take care of my family, too. I just don’t think they had enough to take care of everybody. But that starts generating letters from Saints here in the Cache Valley, that ended up to Salt Lake and then ended up to a federal judge, that, “Look, the Indians are causing problems. We’re having a hard time feeding our own families, we can’t feed them anymore.  You got to come take care of the Indian problem”.

Were you aware of how Mormon pioneers encroached on Indian lands?  What are your thoughts on the inevitable conflict over resources?

Mormon pioneers & Indians competed for resources in Cache Valley, leading to inevitable conflict.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Darren!

481: Native Life Before Pioneers

480: Darren Parry for Congress