On left, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation Vice-Chairman Darren Parry speaks at the 153rd anniversary of the Bear River Massacre. A sign descibes the battle of Bear River at the site.
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
PRESTON – In honor of the 153rd anniversary of the Bear River Massacre, a large crowd gathered at the monument just north of Preston on Friday January 29.
Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation Chairman Shane Warner welcomed the audience to the site. Tribal elder Richard Hasuse gave a prayer.
Bird Osborne and Nelson Fred offered a flag and honor song. Their voices echoed through the hills where between 300-400 Northwestern Shoshone were killed on the same day in 1863.
Gunshots from hunters could be heard in the distance and it was compared to what may have also been heard on that day.
The American West Heritage Center and Joan Higley were recognized for helping the tribe and were gifted with a Pendleton blanket with a tribal seal on it.
They have a partnership with the American West Heritage Center and have two tribal members on their board. Joan Higley is the great-great granddaughter of George Washington Hill, a Mormon missionary who baptized survivors of the tribe.
Tribal Historian Patty Timbimboo Madsen expressed she was touched by the presence of everyone in attendance.
“What had occurred 153 years ago was tragic. We’ve gone through generations of fear, hurt and many other feelings that our people had to live with, but as we stand here now, together – to me, we are a testament of people that have come together when 153 years ago things were bad,” said Timbimboo Madsen.
She explained the place was once somewhere the people gathered, at that time it was for the warm dance. She sees that effort continue today, although not to dance but still to see friends and make new friends.
Darren Parry, Vice-Chairman for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, explained the history of the massacre and how Col. Patrick E. Conner and his command of California volunteers from Camp Douglas, Utah descended on a sleeping Indian village and slaughtered men, women and children.
He said the events that took place on that cold morning have long been forgotten by most, maybe guilt or remorse have silenced all of those who one day wanted to know the truth. His hope was the new generation would have the desire to listen and to learn, not because they’re looking to have things made right but because those who sacrificed so much, have a God given right to be heard.
“Their voices cry from the ground, their stories need to be told,” said Parry. “The massacre at Bear River does not define us. We have forgiven, as I’ve heard Patty say many times but we’ll never forget.”
Today the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation has over 540 members, with the vast majority living along the Wasatch Front. They currently own 30 acres of land but would like to acquire more in the future.
A closing prayer, followed by smudging and lunch concluded the ceremony.