The Black Hawk War in Utah began in 1865 and ended in 1872. It was a triangle that involved the U.S. Federal Government, the Mormons and 16 tribes of the Utes. The Federal Government sought to remove the Mormon Church from its dominating role in the political system in Utah. Mormon settlers aggressively fought to maintain their control of what they called "Zion", which in fact was the Ute's ancestral land. The Utes and other Native Americans in Utah had been driven off their land and were starving by 1865.
When Chief Wah-Kara died unexpectedly in 1855, Chief Jake Arropeen (Yene-wood) became chief by succession. In 1865 an attempt was made to reach an agreement between the Utes and the Mormons at Manti, but ended when Arropeen was pulled from his horse by John Lowry, believed to be drunk at the time. Chief Yene-wood had been dishonored before his people and saw it as the final straw in a long series of insults and depredations over nearly 30 years. He rallied the Utes under the leadership of Chief Black Hawk to declare war against the Mormons. This marked the commencement of what the Mormons later named "The Black Hawk War. "Noonch Black Hawk" became chief by succession and was able to rally other tribes, who had also been pushed off their lands to join him. The Mormons received no assistance from the U.S. Government, so they formed militia units and quickly built forts. The Mormon militia had a hard time catching the raiders, but did kill many women and children and destroyed all Ute property they found. The settlers lost thousands of head of livestock by raids and nearly 100 Mormon settlers were killed. Black Hawk signed a treaty in 1867, it was never ratified and raids continued until the U.S. Government sent in 200 troops in 1872.
Historian John Alton Peterson describes Chief Black Hawk as having "remarkable vision and capacity. Given the circumstances under which he operated, he put together an imposing war machine and masterminded a sophisticated strategy that suggest he had a keen grasp of the economic, political, and geographic contexts in which he operated. Comparable to Cochise, Sitting Bull and Geronimo, Black Hawk fostered an extraordinary pan-regional movement that enabled him to operate in an enormous section of country and establish a three-face war. Black Hawk worked to establish a barrier to white expansion and actually succeeded in collapsing the line of Mormon settlement, causing scores of villages in over a half dozen counties to be abandoned. For almost a decade the tide of white expansion in Utah came to a dead stop and in most of the territory actually receded. Like other defenders of Indian rights, though, Black Hawk found he could not hold his position, and his efforts eventually crumbled".
1847 is the year the first Mormon pioneers arrived, and it was not until 1865 when the besieged Chief Black Hawk declared war. The white population had dramatically increased to about 50,000. At the same time the Ute population is estimated to have been 15,000 to 20,000. Measles, smallpox and tuberculosis were spreading epidemically among the Indians. The environment was drastically altered from Mormon farming of domesticated crops and animals, seriously interfering with the Utes' only source of food, as hundreds starved to death.
The Black Hawk War in itself was not a single incident. Over 150 deadly confrontations took place over a seven year period throughout Utah territory and spilled over into Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming as tens of thousands of Mormon Pioneers poured in at the rate of 3,000 a month. Official 1909 government census revealed a huge decline in the Indian population to just 2,400.
Ute history notes that Black Hawk tried to make peace with the "pale-faces" before he died. He visited every village from Cedar City to Payson to plead with the whites to forgive him for the suffering that he and his people had caused them. His dream was that everyone could coexist in peace.
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