Way We Were: Honoring sacred lands, remembering lives lost | ParkRecord.com

Way We Were: Honoring sacred lands, remembering lives lost

Darren Parry, Chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, looks out over part of the site of the Bear River Massacre. The Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation purchased 460 acres of land surrounding the site two years ago to continue to preserve the area and tell the story of what happened there. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.
Photograph courtesy of The Herald Journal

Many of Utah’s residents are unaware of the people who have lived in Northern Utah since before Mormon settlement, and since before the Greater Salt Lake area became one of the fastest growing areas of the United States.

Those people are mainly the Ute and the Shoshone.

More specifically, the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation, a federally recognized tribe separate from other bands of the Shoshone, has called northern Utah part of their home for generations.

At the time that Mormons began to settle in the Utah Territory after their escape from persecution in the Midwest, three main bands of the Shoshone occupied northern Utah, southern Idaho and southwestern Wyoming – including the people who would make up the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation.

According to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, which serves tribes recognized in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, “what became the Northwestern Band of Shoshone were parts of those groups who traveled largely on foot living off the land in a delicate balance. The expression So-so-goi means ‘Those Who Travel on Foot;’ this expression was used to describe the band.”

The Utah Division of Indian Affairs notes that the Northwest Shoshone “traveled with the seasons.” They fished in Idaho in the fall, hunted big game in Wyoming in the fall and winter, then came to Idaho and Utah for the spring and summer, where the Wasatch Mountains “provided small game and important seeds and plant roots for the bands.” They also mention that Mormons arrived and California Gold Rush travelers worked their way through the area in the late 1840s and early 1850s. These newcomers “wasted Indian food sources” causing many of the Shoshone to starve.

They also discuss one of the darkest moments in the history of the Western U.S.: The Bear River Massacre.

“Not well known in U.S. history is the violent Bear River Massacre, the largest massacre of Indians in the country’s history. On January 29, 1863, the militia of the U.S. Army’s Third California Volunteers under the command of Colonel Patrick Connor massacred around 350 Northwestern Shoshone Indians. It happened at the Bear River, four miles north of Preston, Idaho, and the area was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. After the massacre, settlers moved unopposed into their land, and the Northwestern Shoshone lost their land base and traditional way of life.”

Today, the Northwest Band have their tribal headquarters are located in Brigham City, with a secondary office in Pocatello, Idaho. For a more thorough account of their history, visit their website.

Don’t miss our next lecture, Honoring our Sacred Lands, on Thursday, January 16 from 5-6 p.m. at the Museum’s Education & Collections Center located at 2079 Sidewinder Drive.

Darren Parry, Chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, will share about ancient tribal cultures and their important lessons for the rest of the world. He will explore the principle that all things are connected and the fact that our very existence is dependent upon this natural world that we seem to be destroying.

Darren serves on the Board of Directors for the American West Heritage Center, the Utah State Museum Board, and the Advisory Board of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. In 2017 he became the only person from Utah to receive the Esto Perpetua Award, for his efforts to preserve and promote history in the State of Idaho. He attended the University of Utah and Weber State University and received his Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, with an emphasis on History. His passions in life are his family and his Tribal family.

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