On January 29, 1863, Colonel Patrick E. Connor led a group of California Volunteers from Fort Douglas (Salt Lake City) in search for a Northwestern Shoshone band responsible for raids on settlers. The Indians had been pushed out of more and more of their lands in northern Utah, and some of them reacted by attacking settlers. In the early morning darkness, the soldiers attacked the winter camp of Chief Bear Hunter on Battle Creek, trapping them in the ravine, and slaughtered at least 250 men, women, and children. Native oral tradition says the amount is closer to 400 people. It was the worst massacre of Native Americans in the West, but received little attention. For many years the only commemoration of the event was a few historical markers on US Highway 91 outside of Preston ( Idaho )
The Bear River Massacre is not a pretty story, but it is a story that should be told.
On the night of January 27, 1863 , Tin-Dup, a Shoshone elder and visionary foresaw the calamity which was about to take place. In his dream he saw his people killed by the soldiers. He told the Shoshones of his dream and told them to move out of that area. Some families believed his dream and moved, thus sparing their lives. Even chief Pocatello gathered most of his people and left the camp on January 28. .
The Shoshone camp was warned too by a white friendly settler, but the leaders did not belive „that the army would fire first and not ask any questions" . Unfortunately, this proved to be a fatal fallacy....
Every year, members of the tribe commemorate this terrible event.
Here you can see and hear a audio slideshow of 2013 :
THANK YOU very much for providing all the information on this massacre Cinemo. I will include this event in my own personal ceremony called "Prayers Of The Evening Light". Each time that I do it, I begin that ceremony by taking time to pray for victims of terible massacres such as this one, and the deep human problem of hatred and bigotry.
I will check the links that you gave. It would be nice to obtain a list of all the Shoshone people who died in the Bear River Massacre. That way, we can pray for them individually as well.
The following article was written by Laverne Beech, she is a member of the Shoshone – Bannock tribes.
Note : I would post this on January 29. already ( 152. anniversary ), but a disease prevented my intention
A tribute to Brigham Madsen
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are forever indebted to the Utah author and historian who once called Pocatello home and made the documentation of Shoshone-Bannock history his life’s work. In his 96 years, Brigham D. Madsen wrote six exceptional history books about the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, including “The Northern Shoshoni,” “Chief Pocatello: the White Plume,” “The Bannock of Idaho,” and “The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre.” Madsen wrote these books despite being told by a university professor that we would be wasting his time if he chose to research the Shoshone-Bannocks for his doctoral dissertation in college.
As a tribal member, I am grateful that Madsen ignored the professor and pursued his passion for documenting the tribes’ history anyway. His life’s work is the reason why the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes now have authoritative resource materials about the history of the tribes during the early contact years. His life’s work is the reason why Sho-Ban School students have a history book about the struggles of their ancestors, their great leaders and about what early life was like on the Fort Hall Reservation.
His life’s work is the reason why the Battle of Bear River near present-day Preston is now remembered more accurately as the Massacre at Bia Ogowaide (Big River) — where accounts say up to 500 Shoshone died on that bitter cold day of Jan. 29, 1863 — by far the largest Indian massacre in U.S. history. This small but significant wording change goes beyond the history books and the National Historic Landmark marker placed at the Bear River site in 1990. Acknowledging what really happened at Bear River is as healing as the prayer ties and offerings hanging on a tree near the site in remembrance of those who died there.
The details of a people’s history can easily be forgotten without a written account that is backed up by detailed footnotes and appendixes as in Madsen’s books. His research on the Shoshone-Bannocks took him to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the regional federal archives in Seattle, Wash., the Mormon archives in Salt Lake City, the state historical societies in Idaho, Montana and Utah and the local Indian affairs agency in Fort Hall to gather documentation about the early contact days.
It would have been easy to say that documentation about the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes is too spread out to be worth one’s time and effort to gather, yet he persisted. He sought out others interested in documenting and preserving the tribes’ history. He went the extra mile to gain the tribes’ perspective on matters of the day. He listened to the calling that the true story of Bear River needed to be told for the healing of the land and the healing of the people. Thank you Mr. Madsen. You will always be remembered by the Shoshone-Bannock people for your tssan dann daiboo’ degaigwan’nna (good written materials in English).
Cinemo - thank you! That was a very powerful tribute. You are correct, very few people in Mr. Madsen's years - ever collected the essential history. His efforts are remarkable. So much was lost when the oral traditions of the tribes were destroyed by war and genocide. But those efforts that were made ... are a shining light.
You are also right - MANY prayers for healing are needed. Many. The loss of so many innocent lives - is huge. I will put this place on my destinations when I make the journeys to the NORTH. I will remember to stop and PRAY.
I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I am looking to obtain some information on an Indian called Two Feathers. I believ that he and his people where involved in a Massacre but have been unable to find out anything about him. Not sure if he was a Medicine Man or a son of a great Chief.
Also what does two white lines painted on the left side of the face starting around the nose just under the eye and going down the left cheek bone mean?
I am new to this site, if you have any ideas or where I might find this information would be great.
jack198 I don't know that name or that symbol. I am no expert though. I am just learning like many other people here. The Lakotas sometimes used lines in the shape of the claw marks of bears, or the claws of the bear, to symbolize the strength of the bear. This symbol, for them, was that the Bear was their animal spirit. But I have not seen those lines done in white. The Apaches used white line, but not in the way that you described.
It would be helpful for you to provide more details. Old photos of the facepaint design. And for Two Feathers ... his location and the years when he was alive.