Capitol Reef (and Black Hawk War)

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA, 24th to 25th October 2014.

Here are some images from our overnight stay in Capitol Reef National Park.  Capitol Reef was named for a Navaho sandstone dome (that we probably did not see) that resembles the Capitol in Washington and for a line of cliffs that was an early barrier to travel (and was in those days referred to as a reef).

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

(Here we have stopped at a lookout at the side of the road and the larger vehicle is the one we are travelling in.  The next five images are from this place.)

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

We are in Utah.  This is the land of the Utes, the Utes being a group of indian tribes based mainly in Eastern Utah and Western Colorado.  Well, at least it was the land of the Utes until 1847 when the Mormons came to settle, having been driven out of Missouri and Illinois.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

The central document of the Mormons is the Book of Mormon, allegedly handed to Joseph Smith on gold tablets by the Angel Moroni.  It includes a history of prehistoric North America as that of four lost tribes of Israel.  The Indians were said to be one of those tribes (the Lamanites) so Mormons tended to seek places to live on the frontier to reap the opportunity to return the Indians to their special religious destiny.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

This made Mormon relations in Utah different from those of other American States (not that Utah was a State until 1896 mind you).  Because the Indians were believed to be their lost brothers in religion, Brigham Young followed a policy that it was better to feed them than fight them.  So while in other areas, settlers ruthlessly took over the best land and water supplies and exterminated any opposition, the Mormons ruthlessly took over the best land and water supplies and tried to feed the displaced natives.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

That was the policy from Brigham Young, anyway.  The actual Mormon settlers in the frontier areas could often be ruthlessly violent irrespective of official policy.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

(We stopped by the side of the road for, if I remember, some animals at a farm and I found these interesting agricultural relics by the fence).

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

Nonetheless, the Indians had a better deal from the Mormons than in other regions where they were subjected to genocide. The situation was also complicated by an ambiguity of jurisdictional power between the Mormons and the Federal Government, both of whom were supplying food to the Indians. However, by 1865 the provision of federal funds and the distribution of food had broken down and Indians were starting to starve.
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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

This led to the Black Hawk Wars of 1865 to 1872. These are named after Black Hawk, the main war leader of the Indians, though he was not the only leader and the war continued after he had surrendered and argued for peace.
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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

At the start of the war at least, the Mormons had a tenuous hold on valleys in the centre and to the West of Utah, whereas the Indians held the land to the East and South of Utah, which was generally unexplored by whites.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

(We made a brief stop for a petroglyph site but after taking photos of the cliffs and the grasses, I ran out of time to make it to the petroglyphs).

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

The Indian motivation for the war was their own physical survival and their purpose was to seize herds of cattle and drive them South-East for sale in Sante Fe where they then bought guns and ammunition as well as food.  Capitol Reef National Park, as it is now called and as you see in these images, was one of the places where they found a myriad of places to hide out with their stolen cattle.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

(The next morning, we went for a drive a short way up the road for dawn.  While dawn wasn’t so impressive that day, we found a nice small waterfall and various other points of interest).

 

Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

Indian rebellions like this were usually particularly dangerous for the Indians involved and even others of their tribe.  The US Army was likely to turn up and wipe them out.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

Black Hawk had had extensive contacts with the Mormons and he was smart enough to recognise that here was a special opportunity.  Brigham Young didn’t want to call in the Army because he was afraid they would take the opportunity to take over Utah.  All through the 50s, the independence of the Mormons was delicately poised with recurring takeover threats from Washington but they received something of a respite during the Civil War.  Now the war was over and the threat level was rising.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

Initially, the Indians concentrated on just stealing cattle and avoiding killing people but after a series of incidents, the killings increased on both sides.  Not all Ute tribes were involved but Indians from many tribes were, including Utes, Navaho, Hopi and Apache.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

Conversely, Brigham Young pursued the war with his Navoo Legion, which had had a legal basis in Illinois but not really any more.  They had orders from Young to avoid killing Indians where possible and to only target hostile Indians.  However, the troops were often people living in vulnerable places and these orders were often ignored.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

Faced with the success of the Indians, Brigham Young ordered withdrawal from small settlements that were not easy to defend and fortification of the ones that remained.  For some time the implementation of these policies was lax but a couple of massacres focused attention to more rigorously implement these policies.  This led to beating off of raids and winding down of the war.  Black Hawk discontinued combat in 1867 but the war continued on a smaller scale, mainly under the Navaho, until 1872.  Many of the abandoned settlements were not resettled for decades.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

A generation later, Butch Cassidy hid out in the badlands including Capitol Reef.  Actually, when I was in the remote desert in Western Argentina, I encountered a photograph of him and associates on the wall of a local eating place.  He had hidden out in that area for a time while on the run.

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Capitol Reef, Landscape, Photography, Southwest Canyonlands, Travel, USA, Utah

(Here is another place where we stopped to photograph the spectacular arid landscape).

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One comment on “Capitol Reef (and Black Hawk War)

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