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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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Getting to Know Darren Parry (Part 1 of 9)

I’m excited to have my first congressional candidate on the show, Darren Parry. We’ll talk about Darren’s unsuccessful bid to become congressman in Utah’s 1st Congressional District, but more importantly we’ll talk about his book, “The Bear River Massacre: a Shoshone History.” Darren is the great-great-great grandson of Chief Sagwitch, one of the few people who survived the Bear River Massacre in southern Idaho in 1863. January 29 marks 158 years since the massacre.  We’ll get more acquainted with Darren.

Darren:  My name is Darren Parry.  I’m the former chairman of the Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation. I’m former because I stepped down as Chairman to run for Congress, a failed attempt. A Democrat in the First District isn’t such a good thing. It was a good experience. I won’t do it again, but it was a good experience.

GT:  Let’s talk a little bit about your campaign. It’s probably a painful thing.

Darren:  No, it’s not at all, actually.  I’m a realist. I realized a long time ago that if I was going to run for Congress as a Democrat, there was a great chance, I’m not going to win. But it was important to me to meet people, and give people a choice, a good choice and talk about issues that are important to me and, I think, important to a lot of people that live in the First District, probably not the majority. I felt like we moved the needle a little bit on what’s important. So, in that respect, I ran a really clean campaign. Everything was issue-based. I felt really good about it at the end. That’s why I thought, “Man, I met some great people, too,” that I think will be able to help me with the Interpretive Center and other places that I probably wouldn’t have met, had I not run. So it’s all good.

Darren:  This book [The Bear River Massacre:  A Shoshone History] really came about because of my grandmother. She was our tribal historian. She was a keeper of our sacred records. It was always important to her that she shared her culture with people. I know she wanted to write a book. She got Parkinson’s disease towards the end and she just ran out of time. But she did one thing that really saved our tribe and our culture. She started writing down all of the stories that she’d heard from her grandfather Yaeger. She was a product of the boarding schools. She went to boarding school in California. She used that as an opportunity, though, to get educated and learn the white man way of learning.  She came home, went to Bear River High School, and then on to LDS Business College where she got a degree in English, which helped her to write.  Even though she didn’t get to really publish a book like this, she had all these notes and handwritten notes and typed notes. Back then, it was a typewriter. You’re banging out keys, making the carriage go back. She had just volumes of these notebooks that she wrote about our people and the culture and the stories. I found some stories the other day that I haven’t seen for a long time about how the bald eagle became bald, and how the porcupine got its quills. It’s like, wow! I mean, it was just more information that she’d worked on and she knew her whole life, but she wanted to make sure that when she passed away that it was available for everybody.

Darren:  When I talk and speak to groups, I always make this comment. “When an old Indian dies, a library burns.” When you’re talking about oral history, and oral culture and knowledge that is in our elders’ heads, when that elder dies, if they haven’t written it down, or if they haven’t videotaped themselves, that knowledge is lost to the world. So, the fact that my grandmother had the ability to see what writing down these stories would do, is really remarkable. So, when she died, as I got older, I just got thinking about it, and it was probably her on the other side, prodding me along. But I just felt like I needed to finish her project. So, it’s a book about our people, how they lived, what the coming of the pioneers did to them, and how they tried to get along and how things led to the massacre of Bear River. Not only that, she made a point that she wrote quite a bit about the conversion of the Shoshones to the Mormon religion. All of that serves as a backdrop of what’s in my book, is a lot of her writings, and a lot of my thoughts on the massacre and the conversion of our people and letting people know that we’re still here.  We’re still a tribe, and we’re still alive, and we have a culture that’s rich. We have a language that’s still strong. The story isn’t a really bad massacre of our people. The story is about resiliency. The story is about how we are still adapting today to the world that we live in. We’re still here, and we’re going to be here for a long time.

Check out our conversation….

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Will Bagley about the Bear River Massacre.

452: Bear River Massacre (Bagley)

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How Americas were Populated (Part 8 of 8)

We’re concluding our conversation with Dr. Thomas Murphy.  Last time we talked about why modern Egyptians don’t match current Egyptians.  Dr. Murphy says a similar case arises with Native Americans.  We talk about how Native Americans migrated from Asia, and how long they’ve been in the Americas.

Thomas:  The dating of the entry into the Americas is hugely debated. There’s some archaeological evidence suggesting 130,000 years ago, but the DNA evidence suggests that indigenous people were separated from their closest Asian relatives around 30,000 years ago. Then, we’re finding more and more archaeological evidence pushing that date of the migration back. But our challenge is that not a lot of fossils older than 12,000 years old are in the Americas. There’s some archaeological sites and stuff that we found in the Americas that are older than that. But, the DNA suggests that the ancestors of the American Indians have been here longer than anthropologists typically thought, maybe used to think. So, now we’re much more open to the idea that people were here before the Ice Age. It’s really the ice age that is kind of the controlling factor there.  The assumption of most anthropologists before the rise of DNA evidence, was that people came after the melting of the ice, the end of the ice ages, so that would put it after 12,000 years ago, that the ancestors American Indians came.  Just down the road from me, there’s a mastodon that’s got a stone point embedded in the bone that’s older than the ice ages, 13,000 years old. So, how did it get there if there weren’t people? Most definitely, I think we can say now that people arrived here before the ice ages. That raised the point of how did they get here? Because that idea before was that there was this land bridge and then there was an ice-free corridor between two of the glaciers that opened up, and that people must have come down through that ice free corridor.

GT:  The Bering Strait, right?

Thomas:  Yes. They actually looked at the ice-free corridor and looked at the ecology of it using this environmental DNA work. The plants and animals weren’t there to sustain people early enough for that to be a viable entry point for people into the Americas.  So, from my perspective, that’s been refuted.

GT:  Whoa. There’s not a land bridge? They had to come a different way, not on the land bridge. Is that what you’re saying?

Thomas:  They had to come from Asia, because that’s where the relatives are. But coming through an ice-free corridor, from basically the Beringia through an ice-free corridor into the Americas, we know that’s wrong now.

To hear the last part of our conversation, sign up for our free newsletter at

Dr. Thomas Murphy says the first Native Americans probably didn’t come across a land bridge in Beringia.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Murphy!

473: Possible to Lose DNA?

472: Who Killed the Indians?

471: Strengths & Weakness of DNA Essay/ Comparing Indian & BoM Stories

470: Behind the Scenes of DNA Essay

469: Untold Story of Indian Slavery in America

468: Religious Fights over DNA

467: Native American DNA Scholarship