Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review: Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder 1822-1887

Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftan, Mormon Elder, Scott R. Christensen, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 1999.
I found the story of Sagwitch to be fascinating.  This book gave a better idea of the traditional migration of the Shoshone, from West in the autumn chasing the pine nut, and then wintering generally in Bear River Valley for Sagwitch's group, North for salmon and other game in the Spring, and then East to join Washakie in the buffalo hunt in the summer.  Sagwitch was never a violent man, but somehow, his people crossed the ire of the military stationed in Salt Lake City.  This had to do not only with conflict in Cache Valley, but was also retribution for events perpetrated by Chief Pocatello and his men on the Oregon Trail.  However there had been some incidents in  Cache Valley, with stealing of cattle, a shot out up near Providence Canyon with Bear Hunter and his men, and other incidents.  Colonel Patrick Connor lead the American forces at the Bear River Massacre.  He was not interested in negotiation, but went strait to carrying out his mission of death and punishment.  He caught the Shoshone poorly prepared, although they had made some breastworks.  Chief Sanpitch, Sagwitch and Bear Hunter were wintering just north of Preston, close to the Bear River.  Sagwitch and Sanpitch would both survive, Bear Hunter would not.  Connor had orders to arrest these three men.  However he reported they had all been killed.  However Sangwitch and Sanpitch had been wounded, but escaped.  Sanpitch came upon the ruins after the attack.  One of his wives had been killed.  Two of his sons were wounded.  He left an infant son on the field, with the hope he would be taken in by a White family.  Another son he gave to the Warner family, and he was raised by them.  It was a difficult season, as their food stuffs had been destroyed, as well as their shelter.  Sagwitch had been shot twice in the hand.
He slowly recovered.  However he was taken prisoner a couple years later, and while under army protection he was shot by a citizen.  He again recovered.  At this time he became friendly with the Mormons.  He embraced the Mormon  faith, to the point he became and Elder and visited the Endowment House in Salt Lake.  He  did considerable work for his ancestors.  George Washington Hill was called as a missionary to the Indians.  He helped them establish a city.  The first tried a place without good water, then a place close to Corinne, Utah.  The residents of Corinne took a negative stance, and spread rumors that the Mormons were colluding with the Indians to kill them all.  They were forced to move, and they started again along the Malad River, farther north.  Rumors continued to flow out of Corinne, but people could see they were  unfounded.  The also established a community, Washakie in the same Bear River Valley area.
Many Mormon missionaries were called to help the native Americans.  Some performed their job well, and others not so well.  They worked with the Native Americans at making houses and improving the land to fulfill their Homesteading contract.  They also dug a canal to bring water.  The community prospered slowly, but was hampered by fire, grasshoppers and soil conditions.  Sagwitch actually took a homestead in a new community called Washakie, near the original homestead site.  He also had a residence at Fort Hall.  there was a period of many converts among the native Americans, which riled the BIA agents and the residents of Corinne.  The Mormons had to walk a tight rope in their dealings with the Indians.
The Shoshone were great supporters of the Mormon Temple in Logan.  They spent many hours in working on the stucco of the building's interior.  Sagwitch was one of those who worked.  He also worked in the temple performing vicarious work for his ancestors.
Sagwitch, in a way, succumbed in the end to persecution.  Isaac Zundel, their bishop and missionary at the time, was pursued because of his practice of polygamy.  Sagwitch accompanied him into the mountains and they planned to live in tents to avoid the federal marshals.  He contracted pneumonia and died trying to get to medical help at Washakie.
From Sagwitch's posterity come many people firm in the faith.  The  first Native American bishop was his grandson.  He also had a descendant who served a mission to Bulgaria.

1 comment:

  1. Jolynn Cornia: Very interesting

    Lois D. Kidd: Learn something new everyday...........

    Darrin Smith: I just saw Scott today! He'll be at the car show on Sat. I'll be talking to him some more then! He did some profound research. He's a good friend of mine.

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