It was as big day Tuesday for the Shoshone Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation. For the first time anyone can remember an Idaho state official showed. Governor Brad Little attended, spoke and signed a proclamation recognizing the significance of the event and location.
“How we honor the past is a good predictor of how we prepare for the future,” Governor Little said. “This is an official Proclamation that January 29, 2019 as a day of remembrance to the Bear River Massacre.”
On a bitterly cold morning of January 29, 1863, Col. Patrick Edward Conner and about 200 California volunteers attacked the winter camp of the Northwest Shoshone in the area near Preston along the Bear River. More than 300 men, women and children were killed, homes were burned, supplies and horses were stolen. The Bear River Massacre was the single greatest loss of Indian lives in American History.
Chairman of the Northwest Band Tribal Council Darren Parry conducted the meeting and addressed the group. He reminded them of the progress they have made buying the property in and around the massacre site.
“We purchased 35 acres 25 years ago with the help of a foundation from New York. They bought it and turned it over to us,” he said. “That’s when we started having the memorial services.”
Since then, the tribe has continued to buy property used by their ancestors for generations to gather during the cold of winter.
“Last January we bought another 550 acres, then another 27 acres,” Parry said. “We recently closed on another 100 acres.”
“We are the only tribe that was not given land for a reservation,” Parry said. “Other tribes are federally recognized and were given land for reservations.”
He also introduced his plans for a future Interpretive Center and marked the spot where it is going to be built by erecting his personal tepee.
Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes also spoke of the importance of remembering the past and how he, as a Hawaiian, is also a Native American so he related to some of the same struggles.
“I come in the spirit of sharing. I want to share with you a vision that I have,” Reyes said. “This is such an impressive gathering of people to come and support our friends and our brothers from the Northwest Band and the other nations.”
He was impressed with the number of people that showed to show their support of the people that had gone before. He called them the First Nation brothers and sisters.
“There are so many of you here, but what you don’t see, or what you may not see, is what I see and that’s countless spirits here beyond us gathered here,” he said. “Some who lost their lives in this very site, but many others who are our ancestors and who are our forefathers who have come to pay tribute today.”
He told those in attendance to take a moment to look around and he promised them there are spirits gathered in multitudes all around them.
Reyes said he thought it was important that the Shoshone language be remembered. He said there was a time in Hawaii their language and culture was being lost but there was a movement to keep it alive. He thought that it was important for the Shoshone to do the same.
The final speaker was Lanny Thom who read names of some tribal members who passed during the massacre. The names came from records from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Logan Temple, names that Chief Sagwich had done temple work for early on.
Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, the cultural resource manager for the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation, said she thought the memorial was a nice tribute to their ancestors.
“I think it went really well; the attendance was overwhelming,” she said. “It gets bigger every year. I think we had well over 300 people in attendance.”