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.
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 These rocks had a significant historical reference to the family that submitted them.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.