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Davis Journal

Descendants of Native Americans and early pioneers share stories of the past

Apr 05, 2021 01:48PM ● By Karmel Harper

What do the intricate beadwork on Native American tanned hide gloves and a Utah pioneer quilt have in common? Both involve a multitude of patterns and colors harmoniously working together to create a beautiful work of art. Just as a single bead on the gloves does not complete the design, a single square on the quilt does not complete the blanket. However, when all elements come together, in both cases, masterpieces are created. 

History is often told using the tools of only a single bead or a single quilt square. To understand and learn the full scope of the stories of the past, perspectives from all voices must be heard and shared.  

Darren Parry, councilman at Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, and Fawn Morgan, curator of “Our Kaysville Stories” Facebook page, are collaborating to create a more complete narrative of the relationship and stories of the Northwestern Shoshone Native Americans and Utah Mormon pioneers in the mid-1800s. 

The Facebook group, “Our Kaysville Stories,” is a community of local residents who collect and submit stories and photos of Kaysville/Fruit Heights history. When Parry heard the group is currently collecting these stories (which were primarily of Shoshone natives in the area), as told by the current residents’ viewpoints sourced from their pioneer ancestors’ journals and archives, he was excited about the project because one of his life’s missions is to share the same narrative as told by his people’s viewpoint, which is often overlooked, white-washed, or completely erased from American history classrooms.  

Author of “The Bear River Massacre, A Shoshone History,” Parry dedicates his life to sharing what happened on the early morning of January 29, 1863, where nearly 400 Northwestern Shoshone men, women, and children were slaughtered by the U.S. Army in Franklin County, Idaho, which is near present-day Preston. In that battle, 23 U.S. soldiers were killed. 

This was the largest Native American massacre west of the Mississippi, but because it happened during the Civil War, the event received little attention even though the event was significant in opening up the land for more settlement. The early public attention it did receive, however, is in the form of monuments dedicated to the event – but monuments not erected by the Shoshone people. 

A monument at Fort Douglas, Utah, honors Colonel Patrick Connor, who led the attack and was promoted to Brigadier General because of it. Yet the monument that stands at the Bear River Massacre site itself is more telling of the bias in history. Two plaques on the monument, both erected by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (“DUP”), display the contrasting viewpoints of a single event and the evolution towards a more complete account.

The first plaque erected in July 1953 reads: “Attacks by the Indians of the peaceful inhabitants in this vicinity led to the final battle here January 29, 1863. The conflict occurred in deep snow and bitter cold. Scores of wounded and frozen soldiers were taken from the battlefield to the Latter-day Saint community of Franklin. Here pioneer women, trained through trials and necessity of frontier living, accepted the responsibility of caring for the wounded until they could be removed to Camp Douglas, Utah. Two Indian women and three children, found alive after the encounter, were given homes in Franklin.”

The new plaque which was unveiled on the 158th anniversary of the massacre on January 29, 2021 reads:  “In memory of the estimated four hundred men, women and children of the Northwestern Shoshone Nation who were brutally massacred in this vicinity January 29, 1863, by the United States Army California Volunteers from Fort Douglas, Utah, under the command of Colonel Patrick E. Connor. The attack took place in the early morning hours against a group of people with limited defense and without peaceful means first being sought when a conflict arose. 23 soldiers died. Chief Sagwitch and other survivors joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, established a thriving farming community known as Washakie, and many helped build the Logan Temple.”  

Although the DUP offered to remove the 1953 plaque due to its bias and inaccuracies, Parry said, “I wasn’t so much for the removal of the plaque but was for putting up another one to give the historical perspective.”

As a more complete narrative of the Bear River Massacre has emerged thanks to the efforts of Parry, his grandmother, Mae Timbimboo Parry, and Utah and LDS historians, the irony of the tragedy is profound. Parry said, “The relationship between the early LDS pioneers and the Shoshone tribe was 90 – 95% positive.” Although the cause of the massacre was due to the pioneers’ continued encroachment into Native land and consuming the natural resources which the Shoshone have lived on for centuries, it is reported that the Mormons did not fire a single bullet. In fact, Parry’s great great great grandfather, Chief Sagwitch, massacre survivor and leader of the Northwestern Band of Shoshone, joined the LDS Church 10 years later, launching his descendants’ assimilation into Utah culture and life.  

Countless stories of friendship and collaboration between the Native Americans and the LDS settlers are shared on the “Our Kaysville Stories” Facebook page. The page even includes an interactive Google map marked with clickable geographical markers that reveal Native American anecdotes and accompanying photos.  One story is told by Maureen Ward regarding peaches at the Ward home which is close to what is now North Mountain Rd. in Fruit Heights. Ward said, “Native Americans used to travel along the first bench of the mountains and Samuel Ward made it a practice to feed them and give them a place to stay. When he gave them slices of beef, they hung it over a fire on a stick and cooked it. He told some that ‘they could have peaches off a certain tree, so for years when the peaches were ripe…they would unbutton their buckskin shirts and fill them, then button up again and ride off with their shirts full of peaches.’” (From the history of Samuel Ward).  

Another story describes the John Gailey farm (near present-day Larkin Lane) which was a campground for Native Americans during the winter. John Gailey fed them many winters, including one season, when he slaughtered almost all of his cattle to feed them.

            Recently, Stephanie Kay posted a photo of a Shoshone family that was part of a collection in the LDS Church archives. Parry, in all of his years of documenting and researching his ancestors, has never seen this photo in his grandmother’s collection. To his delight and surprise, he recognized the man as Chief Sagwitch, along with his wife, Be-Wo-Chee, who was widowed at the Bear River Massacre when her husband, Chief Bear Hunter, was tortured and killed. Sagwitch’s wife was also killed. The photo includes children of both sets of parents, conveying a blended family.

“Sagwitch and Be-Wo-Chee later became the first American Indians to be sealed in the endowment house by Wilford Woodruff in 1875,” Parry said. This exemplifies the importance of collaboration from various sources to uncover facts and truths about our past. Parry’s story-telling comes from his grandmother, Mae. She is his inspiration for his continued efforts to share their story. While their story-telling relies largely on oral traditions, LDS archivists document history via written journals and libraries. 

         Each story contributes a bead. Each photo adds a quilt square. Together, a rich tapestry weaves together to tell a more complete story rooted in facts as well as soulful emotion. 

“Only when you look at history through the lens of many different perspectives do you have the possibility of reconciling the past and moving forward to a new and brighter future,” Parry said.

         He is currently raising money to build an interpretative center at the Bear River Massacre site where visitors can immerse themselves in the history of the Northwestern Shoshone. Fawn Morgan also has a vision to establish a monument in the Kaysville/Fruit Heights area to honor the Native Americans who lived on the land. 

“We have monuments to honor the Mormon pioneers locally,” Morgan said. “A monument to honor the first people, the Native Americans, is long overdue.” 

To read more about the Northwest Shoshone history, read Darren Parry’s book, “The Bear River Massacre, A Shoshone History.” To contribute to and read the stories of the Native Americans in the Kaysville/Fruit Heights area, join the Facebook Group “Our Kaysville Story.”