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Monument in the Killing Fields (Part 7 of 9)

158 years ago today, hundreds of Shoshone Indians were massacred on this site.  Author Darren Parry takes us to the killing fields where many of his ancestors perished.  Darren is fundraising to build a monument on this site to tell the story of the tragedy.  We’ll tour the site and listen as Darren tells more about that awful, cold day of death.

Darren:  Where we’re standing today is where the Interpretive Center building is going to be. Just behind us will be the building just off to my left here. This kind of gulley will be an amphitheater built into the side of that hill. And why here? Why here is because just straight out in front of us is the killing field. That’s where all the bodies lie, still today.

Darren:  None of the bodies were buried in 1863, the ground was frozen solid. The bodies were left there to rot.

GT:  Because it was below zero that day, so they will probably would have just frozen.

Darren:  Yeah, and you couldn’t dig a grave. Some of the pioneers said they tried to throw a few of the bodies into the Bear River, which is right there. Later on in the day, it was flowing again, it wasn’t frozen. They said that that was too much of a big task because of the number of bodies that were there. Just straight down here in this big open field is where the lodges were, where almost all of the killing took place. So here on the Bear River, and if you can see down here, you can actually see a little steam coming up, but it’s warm enough now that you can’t see it very well. But right on that bend of that river, you can see where there’s a cutout in the side here. The hot springs come out of that and flow down into the river. So that little, tiny ravine right there at the apex of that circle is where the hot springs are located.

GT:  Oh.

Darren:  That whole geographical area. So the lodges were around it and everywhere close to it. They camped here because of the hills to the north, it protected them from the north winds in the wintertime. Then there were plenty of willows down there. The Russian Olives have taken over today, but there were plenty of willows used for baskets and winnowing and water jugs, and all types of things like that.

Darren:  The initial assault that the troops came across the river and attacked the Shoshones straight on. That’s where almost all the soldiers died.  They pulled back and then half the group went where the white home is there up around that way. The other half came around this way down to the river and pinched them on the river. So they can either jump into the river to try to escape, or turn and fight. Almost all of the bodies, the 400 bodies would have been down in that area.

If you would like to donate to the center, please go to boaogoi.com or send a check to the Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, 707 North Main Street Brigham City, UT 84302.

Darren Parry is trying to raise $6 million for monument & cultural center to be built in the killing fields of Bear River Massacre.  Donate at boaogoi.org

Check out our conversation….

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Turning Massacre into Model for Peace (Part 6 of 9)

Hundreds of Shoshone Indians were killed in January of 1863.  Despite what happened, many of the survivors joined the LDS Church just a few short years after the Bear River Massacre, some being baptized in the river where their family perished.  We continue our tour of an Idaho monument commemorating the Bear River Massacre, and author Darren Parry talks about how this can be a model for peace.

GT:  I know, there was another story you told, which was horrible. It kind of goes back to that nit’s make lice comment.  The soldiers are running out of ammunition. To save ammunition, what did they do?

Darren:  Yeah, this is brutal. We found this in a U.S. soldier’s journal. The decision was made halfway through the massacre that they were worried about running out of ammunition, because that’s how much they had expired. So it was decided to kill the infants and the children, to grab them by their heels, and to swing them around and bash their heads out on rocks, or any hard surface that they could find. So part of that testimony was given in Washington, D.C. by my grandmother. The National Park Service always called this area, the Battle of Bear River, until she started testifying in front of Congress and showing these journals and telling the story about the atrocities. Because of her, the whole site was renamed to reflect what it was, the Bear River Massacre. But it was because of her finding journals like these, that she was able to change all of that.

GT:  This was Jane Hull, or somebody else?

Darren:  No, this was my grandmother finding these journals and testifying in Congress, about the atrocities that these soldiers committed, and actually wrote about in their journals.

GT:  So,  there’s another reason to believe that it was more than 250.

Darren:  Yes, there was another reason.  Killing the babies by bashing their heads out on rocks is– that’s hard for me to talk about. That’s horrific. It’s really hard to hear. But people can do anything, I suppose in the name of religion or sense of duty. I don’t know.

GT:  Well, and I know that you said, these events are tragic, but it’s important that we move on and I’m amazed because you seem like you really have a forgiving heart.

Darren:  I do. I think I’m wired a little bit more like Sagwitch would have been.  Sagwitch had witnessed the entire destruction of his people, almost. But yet, 10 years later, he ends up joining the Church, of a group of people that probably caused it.  So, I just, the older I get, the more I realize that we live in a world that’s not fair. We live in a world that things happen to people every day, bad things, at no fault of their own. It’s just important to me that I honor the story and I honor those people that died that day. I think they need a voice.  They have a God-given right to be heard. Their story needs to be told. But I think I would not serve the story of them well, if I didn’t tell the rest of the story and that’s one of forgiveness.

Darren:  That’s one of who I am today, how we can learn from tragic events and make this world a better place going forward. I could dwell on the negative part of this and be bitter and angry, and hold people accountable, and want that side of it. Or I can say, “Look, this is what happened. We need to recognize it and talk about it. But at the end of the day that shouldn’t define us, and that doesn’t define who we are today. We’ve moved on. We’ve moved past. We will always remember. We will always forgive, but it doesn’t mean we will need to forget.”  So, that’s who we are. I think that story plays so much better, and especially in the world we live in today that’s so divided. I think there are lessons to be learned about how bad things can happen to people, but it shouldn’t define them, and how we can all move forward together to make the world a better place.

Check out our conversation….

Darren Parry says the reconciliation between Mormons & Shoshone Indians is a great model for peace.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Darren!

484: Idaho Monument to Shoshone Massacre

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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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