The Bear River Massacre was the single largest mass killing of Native Americans in U.S. history. It was a culmination of the disruption of the Shoshone’s way of life, the pioneer settlers who colonized the land and a lack of understanding between the two cultures. This from a flyer that is promoting a new cultural and interpretive center at the site of the massacre northwest of Preston, Idaho. Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern band of the Shoshone Nation, was a guest Wednesday on KVNU’s For the People program. Parry said in another era he might have a different title.
“Well I’m the chief today but it’s not because I did a lot of great things as a youth, it’s more of an elected position today. But I’ve served as Chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. The big ‘so what’ with that is we’re indigenous to this area,” Parry explained.
“This was our home land. We lived here when the Mormon pioneers first came to the valley. The first white settler that Brigham Young sent was Peter Maughan to Wellsville. Our people were here waiting and actually greeted Peter Maughan as he came into the valley late September that first year.”
Parry was recently at the forefront of the controversial Sham Battle which had been a feature of Wellsville’s Founders Day celebration every year. The mock battle depicting men dressed as Indians fighting against early settlers has been modified to be shown more sensitivity to native people and more accurately portray historical events.
“What I found was there were other Native American groups that are activists that took that story and got loud with it,” Parry said. “At that point I felt I had to say something because getting loud is not the way I do things. And so I called the activist groups and said, ‘look, I appreciate your support, but this is ours. This is our story, this is our people. Let me take the lead on it.’“
He had what he described as a cordial but tough meeting with Wellsville officials where he didn’t yell or accuse but kindly explained how the depiction made his tribe feel.
Now his efforts are focused on creating an interpretive center to be built on the site of the Bear River Massacre, which occurred on January 29, 1863. The tribe has recently purchased the land where the massacre took place. You can get more information on the planned interpretive center and how you can donate at www.boaogoi.org.