“The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History”– a Conversation with Darren Parry

11.16.2020 (Season 2: Episode 6) Speak Your Piece podcast. Above illustration: Looking eastward from [the presumed] Indian Camp, circa 1930s; photographer Charles Kelly. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

Part One and Part Two Combined:

Podcast Info: On 29 January 1863 Col. Patrick Connor and his California Volunteers (US Army, Camp Douglas, Great Salt Lake City, Territory of Utah) rode down a snow covered bluff (see the above photograph) and attacked a Northwestern Shoshoni winter village–on the Bear River, in the far northern section of Cache Valley, 1.6 km from the present Utah and Idaho boundary line—killing over 400 Shoshone men, women and children.

In the middle of the Civil War (1861-1865) this horrendous event became “lost” or perhaps better said suppressed ot justified by some white settlers as God’s will. This band of the Shoshone Nation, whose base camp was Cache Valley, save less than a hundred survivors, was annihilated.

Enter Mae Timbimboo Parry (1919-2007), grandmother of Darren Parry, who was the Northwest Band of the Shoshone’s matriarch, record keeper and historian. A granddaughter of massacre survivor Pisappih or Red Oquirrh (aka Yeager Timbimboo, born circa 1848, died 1937), Mae heard and felt the painful stories from her grandfather. She not only heard Red Oquirrh’s stories, she also listen to and recorded the stories of other survivors; she spoke, presented and lobbied in Boise, Salt Lake City and in Washington, D.C.; and she advised other historians, including Brigham Madsen and Scott R. Christensen (both listed in the recommended readings section). And like her grandfather, Mae told her stories to her children and grandchildren.

Mae, as Darren Parry describes her, “ran out of time,” and was unable to take her notebooks and do her final work, that is publish her accounts, her people’s stories, their perspectives, their knowing, regarding the massacre. Darren Parry speaks to senior public historian Brad Westwood, about his book, his loving story of his grandmother, the Timbimboos and the Parrys, and most importantly, about his people who died, and those who survived, the massacre on January 29, 1863 on Boa Ogoi.

Bio: Darren Parry is the former chairman of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation. He is the driving force behind the proposed Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center. Parry served on the boards of the American West Heritage Center (Logan, UT) and the Utah State Museum Board. He has also served on the Advisory Board of the Huntsman Cancer Center (SLC, UT). An educator by training, in secondary education with an emphasis in history, Darren graduated from Weber State University (Ogden, UT). During the last year (2019-2020) he ran for election, unsuccessfully, to the U.S. House to represent Utah’s 1st Congressional District. In 2017 he was a receipent of the Esto Pepetua Award from the Idaho State Historical Society, for one who has preserved and promoted the history of Idaho.

TOPICS DISCUSSED:

(1) The Timbimboo and Parry families, especially Darren’s grandmother Mae Timbimboo Parry,
(2) NW Band of Shoshone’s conversion to Mormonism in 1873,
(3) Why Parry wrote this book,
(4) Description of the Shoshone Band prior to the 1863 massacre,
(5) Mormon colonial setters in Cache Valley, UT prior to the massacre,
(6) US Army Colonel Patrick E. Connor and the story of Camp Douglas (east of SLC, UT),
(7) The 1990s corrective: making the “battle” into what it really was, a “massacre,”
(8) Parry’s personal insights and efforts in the telling the story, Alligning with his third great grandfather Sagwitch’s ways and beliefs.
(9) The story of the January 29, 1863 massacre,
(10) This massacre (1863) in relationship to the Sand Creek Massacre (1864) and the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890),
(11) Discrepancies in accurately counting the Native American dead,
(12) The story and the plans related to the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation’s Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center,
(13) How and why the landscape of the massacre site has changed since 1863 (railroad construction, floods prior to mid-20th c, river course shifting, and canal building)
(14) Financial pledges towards the center by the LDS Church, Utah State Legislature and the Idaho State Legislature,
(15) Changes to the 2021 January 29th commemoration program due to COVID-19 (it will be streamed on-line) and
(16) The back story of the “Battle of Bear River” plaques installed in the 1930s and 1950 (the latter by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers -DUP) and the DUP 2020 decision to remove and replace the plaque in 2021.

Schematic design, floor plan, Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center, AldrichPears Associates (Vancover, B.C.) exhibition designers

Recommended Readings and Audio Sources:

Pick up a copy from your local library, or purchase a copy on Amazon The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History by Darren Parry, (SLC: By Common Consent Press, 2019)

Brigham D. Madsen, The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1985).

Scott R. Christensen, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887, Utah State University Press, 1999. See USU Digital Commons.

Natalie Larsen, “Washakie Township: The Mormon Alternative to Fort Hall (November 23, 2020) Intermountain Histories, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU.

Gregory E. Smoak, “The Newe (the People) and the Utah Superintendency [ethnohistorical essay],” in Dale L. Morgan, Shoshonean People and the Overland Trails: Frontiers of the Utah Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1849-1869; edited with an introduction by Richard L Saunders; Utah State University Press (Logan, Utah) 1907 p. 33-57.

Read and listen to the podcast What’s Her Name: The Storyteller: Mae Timbimboo Parry (MAY 11, 2020) What’sHerName women’s history podcast is hosted and produced by Dr. Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle.

Read and listen KUER Daysha Eaton’s reporting of Speak Your Piece guest Darren Parry, and U of U professor Paul Reeve and Cultural/Natural Resource Manager for Northwestern Band of Shoshone, Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, regarding the massacre and the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Interpretive Center (Boa Ogoi Center) to be located near the massacre site outside of Preston, Idaho: “Forgotten Shoshone Massacre Story Will Soon Be Told On Grand Scale” (January 31, 2019)

Also listen and read BYU-Idaho Radio’s “Honoring the Past and Building the Boa Ogoi Center — Plans Underway for Interpretive Center at Bear River Massacre Site

Architects rendering of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center; GSBS Architects, Salt Lake City, Utah

Do you have a question for comment? Please write to “ask a historian” at: askahistorian@utah.gov.