Invited speaker Larry Echo Hawk addresses the crowd on January 29.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
PRESTON — The 157th anniversary of the Bear River Massacre was January 29 to remind people of the historic tragedy of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone people where 300-400 of them lost their lives in 1863. The event also celebrates their resilience and future generations.
The welcome was given by Northwest Band of the Shoshone Chairman Darren Perry. He pointed out the presence of the children in the audience and said it meant a great deal to them.
“Because when our children can start hearing the stories and hearing the stories from our perspective, reconciliation happens. Forgiveness happens. They can learn a part of history that’s never really been told before,” said Perry. He later said it is a powerful thing when the youth become engaged with the history of their people.
Perry welcomed all dignitaries in attendance and the audience for coming to the site.
Perry explained the site of the future interpretive center has been moved and they hope to break ground this summer in June or July. The tribe has been raising money to fund the center and they are a little more than halfway to their goal. So far, they’ve raised $3 million of $5 million.
The flag and honor song were done by Shoshone-Bannock tribal members Bird Osborne, Nelson Fred and Lee Juan Tyler, while veterans posted the colors.
Jeff Perry was asked to give the opening prayer.
Perry introduced Brenn Hill to perform a musical number titled “The River Ran Red”, which is a poem composed by author Rod Miller about what happened on the day of the massacre.
Attorney and former United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk was introduced to speak.
Singers Bird Osborne, Lee Juan Tyler and Nelson Fred.
Echo Hawk thanked the musical performer who captured why everyone was there, which was to remember those who lost their lives on that fateful day. He talked about the important history which should be retained. He talked about how he came to learn about the Bear River massacre when he was a young attorney in 1977 practicing law in Salt Lake City. At the time he applied and was hired as the attorney for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. He remembers driving from Salt Lake to Fort Hall and stopping at the site to read the historic monument. It talked about the battle of Bear River. He later came to participate in the memorial service.
He called the battle of Bear River one of the largest massacres in United States history. He said it’s fitting to gather there to commemorate the sad day.
“This is a day of remembrance. It is vitally important that we retain that history because we learn from history. It is vitally important also that we create a new history, different and better chapters of history. So that’s why it’s so important to remember those sad days of the past so that we can do better,” said Echo Hawk.
Janet Gallimore, Director of the Idaho State Historic Society, who works for Governor Brad Little, read a proclamation for a day of remembrance of the Bear River Massacre observed.
Northwest Band of the Shoshone Chairman Darren Perry acknowledged the sacred land they stood upon. He talked about taking care of the earth so she will continue to give and reproduce for generations to come. He said history cannot be changed, but the future can. He said it was time for good people to stand up and make a difference.
“Native American history is American history. My Shoshone people are indigenous to this land. We were hunters and gatherers and we traveled with the changing seasons. We looked upon the earth as something so sacred and special that we called her mother. She was always the provider of our livelihood,” he said, adding to Native people the mountains, rivers and streams stand forever.
In speaking of his people, he said, “We honor their resiliency and the way that we have thrived and continued to adapt.”
He talked about the changing word and how it seems divided, later saying, “We got to be better.”
He encouraged people to keep believing, keep learning and keep moving forward.
Laine Thom, enrolled member of the Skull Valley Indian Reservation from Tooele, Utah read the names of those recorded who lost their lives in the massacre. She explained her family ties to the area were through her great grandmother. She said she was honored to read out the names.
Fort Hall Business Council member Lee Juan Tyler sang a prayer song send everyone off in a good way. Tyler said, “We feel hurt by it too, because a lot of atrocities took place.”
Another musical accompaniment was given by Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation Councilman Michael Gross.
The event concluded with a prayer by other Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation Councilman Brad Perry. A smudge was offered by Northwest Shoshone tribal elder Rios Pacheco, who said he felt good to do the honor and said his great grandmother lost her life in the massacre.
Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy students were in attendance to witness the event to show respect and honor those that have passed on. Educator Sherice Racehorse Gould said they brought the students so they would be able to understand the significance.
Miss Shoshone-Bannock Stormie Perdash was in attendance for the first time at the site and said it is an emotional time for the Shoshone and Paiute people together. She said events like this are important to have to teach the real history not taught in the history books.
Ogden area resident Olivia Musgrave came to the area to leave an offering, it meant a lot to her because she recently discovered she had more than half Native American ancestry. She also felt a special tie to the land in the previous times she’s been to the event.
Shoshone-Bannock elder Benny Dann came with the Elder Nutrition group. He knew some of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone tribal members in attendance. He said the Shoshone Nation is big and it helps to all be together.