More than 200 people of all ages attended a 154th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony to remember the Bear River Massacre and the 450 Northwestern Shoshone who were killed along the Bear River, near what is now Preston, Idaho, in perhaps the largest massacre in United States history.
Chief Bear Hunter’s band of Northern Shoshone spent the cold months in Utah Territory where they and other Shoshone bands gathered for winter games and the Warm Dance to urge the return of spring. Food was plentiful, the weather was mild, and children played along the river. There was plenty of wood for fire and natural hot springs—the people were content.
Settlers started making Utah home in the 1840s, intruding on Shoshone land and resources, which resulted in skirmishes between the tribe and settlers over the coming years. With the discovery of gold, violence against the Shoshone increased. The violence culminated in the massacre on January 29, 1863 when Army Colonel Patrick Edward Connor and his men viciously attacked.
His men did not discriminate when they killed—men, women, and children were all slaughtered that day.
Northwestern Shoshone elder Mae Parry recorded oral traditions of the Bear River Massacre, through the testimony of 13 survivors of the band of Chief Sagwitch.
“It was their intention from the very beginning to kill every living person and destroy the Indian camp from the face of the earth,” Parry wrote. “The Indians tried to defend themselves, but what was an arrow and tomahawk against the rifles and side arms of the soldiers. The Indians were being slaughtered like wild rabbits. Indian men, women, children and babies were being killed left and right. No butcher could have murdered any better than Colonel Connor and his vicious California volunteers.”
As Laine Thom read the names of the fallen during the 154th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony, each one ended in “nop,” or deceased. Rios Pacheco held a smudging ceremony during the Bear River Massacre memorial ceremony.
Tom Bunn shared the following images of the 154th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony on Facebook, and with ICMN.