“It’s a story that needs to be shared.” Lehi mural commemorates Bear River Massacre

A mural by Utah artist Rick Kennington commemorating the 1863 Bear River Massacre will be unveiled Saturday at the Hutchings Museum and Institute in Lehi.

LEHI – The unveiling of a commemorative mural in Lehi Saturday will be part of this year’s observance of the 158th anniversary of the Bear River Massacre.

The grand opening for the historic mural, created by Utah western artist Rick Kennington, will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Hutchings Museum and Institute in downtown Lehi. For that event, museum manager Leah Stutz will be joined by Kennington and Darren Parry of Providence, representing the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

The artwork’s unveiling will be open to the public, with the usual coronavirus precautions in effect. The event will also be streamed live on the museum’s Facebook page.

“I am excited about this Bear River Massacre artwork,” Stutz explains, “because it is part of Utah’s history that goes unrecognized or ignored. It’s a story that needs to be shared about the people that lived here originally.”

The Bear River Massacre took place in present-day Franklin County on Jan. 29, 1863, when a cavalry detachment of California Volunteers attacked Shoshones encamped where the Bear River and Battle Creek meet, near the current site of the city of Preston. Hundreds of Shoshone men, women and children were killed in that largely one-sided engagement.

After decades of being inaccurately recorded as the Battle of Bear River, activism by descendants of Shoshone survivors of the massacre resulted in the little-known event now being recognized as possibly the deadliest slaughter of Native Americans on the U.S. frontier.

Stutz said the Hutchings museum commissioned the mural by Kennington as a way to artistically highlight “the lesser known side of the massacre.”

A native of West Valley City, Kennington developed a love for western lifestyle while visiting his grandfather’s ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming as a youngster. After college, Kennington continued his artistic education by studying with established artists Jason Rich and Grant Redden, both members of the Cowboy Artists of America.

“It’s about us being able to tell our story from our unique perspective,” Parry says in praise of Kennington’s powerful and thoughtful artwork. “When you give people a voice – especially marginalized communities – that voice is really powerful.”

Parry is a former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation who ran as a candidate in Utah’s 1st Congressional District in 2020. He is also the author of a historical monograph entitled Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History.

“Art has a powerful way of communicating to the human soul, more powerful than words in many cases,” Stutz adds. “When people look at this painting, I hope that they will ask questions about the actions of the past and about how we can make a better future for all people.”

The Hutchings Museum and Institute was established in 1955 with artifacts donated to Lehi City by John and Eunice Hutchings, who were amateur collectors and naturalists.

The museum’s exhibits include a large range of displays and artifacts from Native American culture, rocks and minerals, a veteran’s memorial, local history and more.

The Hutchings Museum and Institute is located at 55 North Center Street in Lehi.

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