Bear River Massacre's unexpected aftermath includes forgiveness and hope
The Washakie ward was one of very few units to register 100 percent compliance in a 1922 churchwide drive titled “Every member a tithepayer,” Christensen said.
After his death in 1887, Sagwitch’s descendants displayed a strong commitment to their LDS faith. Beshup Timbimboo, also known as Frank Timbimboo Warner, the 2-year-old massacre survivor with seven wounds, became one of the first Native Americans to be sent out as a proselytizing missionary. He served three missions.
Soquitch, Sagwitch’s oldest son, served as a priesthood leader in the Washakie Ward for many years. He had a special calling to visit the homes of the Shoshone and give priesthood blessings to the sick.
Yeager Timbimboo, another son who survived the massacre, served in various leadership callings. In 1926, Yeager was invited by President Heber J. Grant to speak in general conference at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. His remarks were translated by his bishop, Elder George M. Ward.
“Since I have accepted this gospel,” Yeager said on that occasion, “I have felt to be a friend to this people, and I have no desire to kill, or do anything wrong that would displease the Spirit of the Lord.”
“Imagine hearing that in general conference today,” Parry said.
In 1939, Yeager’s son Moroni Timbimboo was ordained by Apostle George Albert Smith as bishop of the Washakie Ward — the first Native American to hold that ecclesiastical position. Numerous other descendants have also served missions or filled various positions in the church.
“After everything he (Sagwitch) had been through by one man accepting the gospel, thousands of lives, including mine, were changed,” Parry said. “I couldn’t have done it.”
During World War II, the government drafted several of the young men at Washakie into active service. It also employed a good number of residents as civilian defense workers at Hill Field, the Ogden Air Depot and other nearby military installations, Christensen said.
“The Shoshone people at Washakie had significant skills. They were readily hired because they were such good workers. They weren’t stuck on a reservation so they were available,” Christensen said. “It gave them a completely different future compared to their relatives at Fort Hall. Many were also retained after World War II.”
Prior to the dedication of the Brigham City Temple in 2012, artists Linda Christensen and Mike Malm, with help from Cheryl S. Betenson, painted a mural depicting missionaries and a group of Indians during a baptismal confirmation on the banks of the Bear River in the 1870s.
The colorful mural now hangs in the Brigham City Temple baptistry as a fitting tribute to the American Indians and missionary work.
“The painting is a beautiful work of art,” Christensen said. “It represents the cooperation of two peoples in the settlement of Box Elder County and the establishment of service in the temple in northern Utah. It’s a wonderful, full-circle moment to see that event from the 1870s acknowledged in that temple, which is located just a few blocks from the Northwestern Shoshone tribal headquarters.”
Today there are more than 500 members of the Shoshone Nation living primarily in Box Elder, Weber and Davis counties, Parry said. Considering the high unemployment and suicide rates found on Indian reservations, Parry reiterated his gratitude for the gospel and how events unfolded after the massacre.
“Accepting the gospel, I think, saved our posterity from being raised on a reservation,” Parry said. “The prophecy about the Lamanites blossoming as a rose (D&C 49:24) ... I believe it has started, but greater things are still to come. There is still work to do.”
Rios Pacheco’s ancestor, Sarah Tickpatecky, survived the massacre by hiding in the brush by the river. To keep from being discovered by the soldiers, she was forced to smother her crying baby daughter to death and let her body float away down the river. Her husband was also killed. She eventually remarried and was among those baptized on May 5, 1873.
She persevered through the years despite many hardships, lived an honorable life and endured to the end.
Today, Pacheco honors her and his other ancestors by serving in the church and community. He finds continual strength in the noble examples of his forebears.
“You look into your heritage,” Pacheco said. “They have set that example, that tradition, and you see the work they have done. You find the need to follow that example. You know you can do it because others have done it. A lot of other family members haven’t endured, but you can help them.”
Pacheco also says forgiveness comes in living the teachings of the gospel.
“The church teaches us to overcome hatred. True conversion means finding forgiveness,” Pacheco said. “The family I come from has set that example.”
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