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.
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