The first monument to what happened on January 29, 1863 appeared in 1932 in southern Idaho.  Author Darren Parry of the Shoshone Tribe describes how the Daughter of Utah Pioneers agreed to change the monument from commemorating a battle to what is now known as a massacre of Shoshone Indians.

GT:  We’re close to the site of the Bear River massacre.  In 1932, the pioneers that lived in this area and the local Mormon settlers, decided they wanted a way that they could really remember the events that took place here. It was a community event. The lady that organized it thought she would do a rock collecting exercise and all she asked of the citizens was, “We want your families to bring one rock and submit a written history. It doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with the rock, but we want a written history of your family. This rock collecting campaign started. Some of these rocks are from the Nauvoo temple site.

GT:  Wow.

Darren:  There’s rocks from all over from when the pioneers came west. These rocks had a significant historical reference to the family that submitted them. From that, this monument was developed. The first plaque that you’re looking at today, right now, was erected in 1932. It was the Battle of Bear River. It pretty just factually laid out things the way they thought it happened. Troops attacked an Indian village, 18 military died, 230 Shoshone died.  It talks about the women and children combatants in this, to justify why they could kill so many women and children, I suppose. But this was how the Saints wanted this place to be remembered, by this plaque. Twenty years later, in 1952, they erected another plaque that’s on the other side. It was almost like the pioneers probably thought, “Well, that doesn’t really reflect our role and how our pioneer women took care of the soldiers.” So on the other side of the–we can walk around here, but on the other side, in 1952, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers put this second plaque in honor of the Pioneer women. It just said attacks by the Indians on the peaceful inhabitants in this vicinity led to the final battle here.  It’s still called a battle. “On January 29th, conflict occurred in deep snow and bitter cold. Scores of wounded soldiers were taken from the battlefield to the Latter-day Saint community of Franklin. Here pioneer women trained through trials and necessities of frontier living, nursed back the wounded until they could be removed to Camp Douglas, Utah.” They go on to say two women and their children found alive after the encounter, were given homes in Franklin. So the locals, the Saints that grew up in this area, this is how they wanted what happened here to be memorialized. My grandmother, Mae Timbamboo Parry was very instrumental in going back to Washington, DC, more than 10 times, with journals from soldiers and other historical writings that she’d found over the years that really described it more as a massacre. Because of Mae Timbamboo Parry, the National Park Service, ended up putting the plaque here on the site and calling it what it is. It’s really the Bear River Massacre. So, for years, the Park Service referred to this as the Battle of Bear River. But because of my grandmother’s doggedness, and trying to change the way [it was described], in 1990, the Park Service reversed course, and quit calling it the Battle of Bear River and started calling it the Bear River Massacre.

The state of Idaho donated land for a monument so the Shoshone Tribe could tell the story of the Bear River Massacre.  Author Darren Parry gives us a tour of this second monument to the tragedy that happened January 29, 1863.

Darren:  I love bringing people up here because the State of Idaho helped us develop the seven kiosks here to tell the story of our people from our perspective. That’s the first time we’ve been able to do that.  Newe, N- E-W-E {pronounced “Knee-wah”} means “the people.”  That’s how the Shoshones refer to themselves. That’s who they’ve always called themselves. Sometimes the pioneers called us the Snake Indians.[1] We’ve been referred to as other things, but to us and the Shoshone people were always Newe [knee-wah], that’s how it’s pronounced, beautiful people. There’s a picture, that top left one is of Little Soldier.  Little Soldier hung out in Tooele. But when he was up in this area, he spent his time along the Weber River. He actually carried a poster, a sign in the Ogden City Parade that said ‘the Thousands of Manasseh’. It’s funny, I’m sure he had no idea what that meant, or he couldn’t even read English. The fact that the Saints thought that that the Shoshone people were from the Tribe of Mannasseh spoke volumes.

GT:  That’s funny.

Darren:  Yeah, it’s quite a heritage there. He probably wouldn’t have done it had he known. They were taking advantage of him.  But really, it’s just who we are, how we live there and such an important part of how we traveled, what we ate, our hunter gatherer lifestyle, where we hunted buffalo, that cyclical travel pattern to collect food was always a big part [of their life]. When I bring Chinese tour groups and other groups to this beautiful site, it’s just important that they get, from our perspective, who we are, how we lived, and how we lived in this environment and what it all meant and stood for.

GT:  I’m trying to remember, it seems like when we were talking about this last time, you had mentioned something along the lines of, there were no fences. Shoshones didn’t build any fences. So, when they came across, like cattle and things, they were like, “Hey, that looks like food to us.”  They [Shoshones] didn’t recognize the fences at all, right?

Darren:  No, there were no fences and the pioneers brought fences and cabins and everything else. To the Shoshone people, it was always–everybody’s land was everybody’s land. There wasn’t, “This is ours. That’s their’s.”  The whole community shared in whatever they needed to survive, and you’re only as strong as…  A community is your most vulnerable people within that community. We lived a sense of taking care of one another.

GT:  Now, I think at this point, you were talking about somebody coming over, was it…

Darren:  Connor’s Overlook is what I was referring to.  There’s a group of trees over there on that bluff, that’s where Connor and his men first appeared, on the bluff. They were led by a Mormon scout named Porter Rockwell. He knew where the Shoshones were camped and for $5 he was hired by the troops in Salt Lake to bring them to that point. The village would have been over there more to the right. But that’s called Connor’s Overlook today.

GT:  You said it was below zero, and so  there was moving fog where the horses were.

Darren:  Yeah, there was more than four feet of snow that day from pioneer’s journals. They said it was probably the coldest winter in Cache Valley in some time.

[1] Snake Indians refers to them living near the Snake River in Idaho.

Darren tells a lot more stories about the massacre, including an Eagle Scout project that references a Shoshone child left hanging in a tree in hopes that white settlers would rescue the child. The rescued baby lived into her 90s.

Next week we’ll visit the actual site of the massacre. Darren is trying to raise $6 million for a cultural center on the site. If you are interested in contributing, you can donate online at or you can send a check to

Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation
707 North Main Street
Brigham City, UT 84302

Were you aware of the massacre? What are your thoughts?