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Shoshone Sacred Grounds
By Payton Lee
Sunday, August 18, 2002
In October of 1804, a Shoshone named Sacagawea became part of the great Lewis and Clark expedition. Her role in the expedition is now being lauded as important and significant, as well it should. Let us not bring up the fact it was her husband, a fur trapper and she was only one of his many wives, who was paid for the services rendered to the expedition. The fact is Sacagawea was a Shoshone woman who only recently has come to fame after centuries of being a blip in a history text. We place her image on gold coins, stamps, and documentaries are including her. I'm certain there will soon be a made for TV movie, 'Sacagawea' the real story.
While we laud the Shoshone Sacagawea, there is a battle going on in a small location north and west of Franklin, Idaho. It is the northwestern Shoshone nation trying to obtain sacred land. It is the sacred land where 138 years ago a California militia Colonel named Patrick Edward Connor gave his infantry and cavalry of over two hundred orders to 'take no prisoners and remember nits grow into lice.'
This order began a four-hour slaughter at 6:00 a.m. in the morning as the sleepy peaceful people woke at their winter camp at Bear River on January 29, 1863. Nearly the entire camp of 400 warriors, old men, old women, women, children, and babies were obliterated. The undisciplined militia raped the women and young girls. When they were finished with the women, the militia split their heads open with axes or shot them. Any children and babies who were found alive or wounded were likewise clubbed to death, axed, or shot. The militia acted in the most barbarous ways and when the battle was over plundered the camp. The militia took the Shoshone ponies, food, warm skins, and buffalo robes. What this militia could not take with them were scattered and walked upon. The standing tepees were burnt to the ground.
The militias under Connor were not yet finished with their vicious slaughters. The militia had taken Chief Bear Hunter captive and after binding him, the chief was kicked, whipped, and shot. Chief Bear Hunter was a proud and brave chief who did not utter a word or issue a cry of mercy under his torment. This so infuriated the militia; one of them heated a bayonet and thrust it through Chief Bear Hunter's ears.
In the evening, the militia loaded their dead for burial and wounded for care. The slaughtered Shoshone men, women, and children were left on the field for crows and wolves to devour. At night a surviving chief, Sagwitch found his dead wife and two of his four children dead. One child was missing and an infant daughter who survived was placed in a cradleboard and hung on a tree with the hope someone would find her and take care of her. A two-year-old son did survive and lived to tell the story to the young Shoshone.
There were so few survivors of this slaughter; the Shoshone could not bury the dead. Five years later, a cavalry patrol came upon Bear River's field and reported the skeletons of the people, men, women, and children still were scattered upon the grounds.
In 1990, the northwestern Shoshone began requesting the United States Government to return this sacred land. As always the government has been less than fair or even concerned with any Native American requests. The only actions the Shoshone have taken have been peaceful actions; it is the way of the Shoshone. The Lakota took drastic measures and have Wounded Knee. This is not the way of the Shoshone, the way of Sacagawea's people.
In her memory, we should right this wrong. There has never been in recorded history of the United States a larger slaughter of innocent peoples other that the recent World Trade Center or the Oklahoma bombing. Remember how we felt? Support the Shoshone People. It is time for a documentary of the Bear River Massacre, and it is time to make this wrong right!
Please email this to everyone you know. I hope that at least one of the following four will get enough initiative to do something about this travesty.
Please copy and paste this letter with your signature, address, and email address to your Congressional representative, Senator, discovery channel, and history channel.
Friends of the Native Americans of Northern Utah
P.O. Box #225 Garland, UT 84312
Donate $25.00 or $50.00
A note of information: Kerry is a Ranger for the Park Service and is supporting the national monument for the Shoshone people. He has a lot of information on the Bear River Massacre.
Patty Timbimboo Madsen is a direct descendent of the surviving Chief Sagwitch. She is an activist supporting the return of land to the Shoshone People.
A historian named Brigham Madsen wrote a book entitled 'The Shoshone Frontier-Bear River Massacre.' Fortunately, he is still alive and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Now is the time to right this wrong and enter this slaughter in the catalog of American History. Let the Shoshone bury their dead. Hear the cries of the women, children, and babies who want release!
Site: Bear River Spirit
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