‘We remember’: Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation marks 150th anniversary of Bear River Massacre
Preston, Idaho • For more than a century, the hundreds of men, women and children slaughtered along the Bear River were remembered as anonymous Indians, their names known only to their closest kin, now long dead.
That changed Tuesday, when, for the first time, the names of 40 Shoshone likely killed in the Jan. 29, 1863, Bear River Massacre were read aloud.
"Anno-tz-do-bey. Tabby-Woot-te-gwa. Co-ro-boits-e," read 11-year-old Brooklyn Timbimboo, who joined her grandmother, Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, in reading the recently discovered names of some of those presumed killed that January day, 150 years ago.
Members of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone, headquartered in Brigham City, gather every year at the historical marker, three miles northwest of Preston on U.S. 91, to remember the deadliest of American Indian battles.
It was at Bear River that hundreds of Shoshone — estimates range from 300 to 500 — were stabbed, shot and clubbed to death by the U.S. Army’s 3rd California Volunteers intent on punishing Indians for interfering with mining supply wagons and pioneers. The soldiers had ridden north from Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City for the dawn attack.
Few of the victims’ names survived in the largely oral tradition of the Shoshone.
But on Tuesday, the sesquicentennial, more than 200 who braved treacherous roads from as far as Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City heard names of the dead.
Snow fell even as the sky cleared and sun shone on those bundled up against the cold. Two fire pits provided warmth and smoke from sage bundles was used for "smudging" to cleanse the spirit.
"It’s oddly appropriate for us to be a bit uncomfortable," said historian Scott Christensen, who wrote a biography of Sagwitch, the only chief to survive the massacre.
Two eagles — one of them clearly a golden eagle — circled the nearby killing field during the ceremony.