A Historian's Quest To Help A Forgotten People

Author & Historian Phillip B Gottfredson at the burial site of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk

Over the last quarter of a century, it has been my quest to help a forgotten people, namely the Timpanogos Nation have a place in American history.  The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshoni who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Domingus and Escalante in 1765. Today, they live in remote regions of Utah and sadly no one has ever heard of them. 

Hi, my name is Phillip Gottfredson and I am a historian and I need your help to raise funds to publish my book "Black Hawk's Mission of Peace" that has taken 20 years to research, document, and write.

Sometimes you come across a story that is so heartbreaking and inspiring it compels you to devote all your time to.

My book, “Black Hawk’s Mission of Peace” is about a courageous young Timpanogos warrior named Black Hawk who suffered unimaginable pain as he witnessed the brutal murder of his family while his world collapsed about him, still, he remained true to the sacred teachings of his ancestors.  It is also about my extraordinary spiritual journey into the Native American culture to learn for myself their most sacred teachings and life-ways that made Black Hawk the great human being that he was. My book is both educational and inspiring, filled with my own experiences that were at times best described as surreal they were that powerful. My life was forever changed in a good and loving way. I believe my book will inspire others in the same way.

What began as a mere curiosity researching the Black Hawk War in Utah led to an extended period of exhaustive research., I had read all the books I could find on the subject when it became clear to me that all accounts were written from the Mormon’s one-sided perspective. I found that celebrated scholars and award-winning authors who have written about the Black Hawk War never asked or cared what the Native Americans they studied have had to say about their work. Nor did they ask them how they would analyze or, interpret their books, or if they have their own version of the particular story being told. Consequently, virtually every account about Utah's indigenous peoples is biased and based on assumptions, replete with half-truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. This is an arcane mindset, a mindset that Millennials and generations to come, must change.

It followed that in 2003 I did what no historian has ever done… I turned to the Native peoples of Utah to get their side of the story. 

I also spent years getting acquainted with Native American Tribes — from the state of Washington and the Makaw, to Guatemala and the Mayan, and everywhere in between. I felt a tremendous desire to truly understand Native Americans their customs and religious practices. I wanted to know firsthand if they were and are the “savages” that historians want us to believe they are. Everywhere I went, the message was the same that — we are all related having come from the same common source, Mother Earth. All who spoke to me told of the seven sacred teachings: Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. I traveled north, south, east, and west, and I never found one person I did not like. And I never found one single “‘savage’” among them.

When I retired in 2008, I sold everything I had and invested all my time and resources into this project and managed to survive on eight hundred dollars a month never asking anyone for help. It has been a labor of love because I believe so deeply that the story of the Timpanogos must be told both truthfully and accurately.

Timpanogos War Chief Black Hawk, desperate and afraid, assembled a thousand or more warriors from his communal tribe with support from neighboring allies. He commanded a formidable attack that effectively held back Mormon colonization of their most valued homeland in central and southern Utah. In just fourteen months he got the better of his tormentors and nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of Utah. This resulted in an act of bloody revenge by Mormon settlers who unleashed terrible violence that devastated the Timpanogos Nation well beyond a century and a half.  

Mormon polygamist leader Brigham Young spent over 1.5 million dollars of church funds to "exterminate" the "Indians of Utah" resulting in six bloody massacres, and some one hundred and fifty deadly confrontations that took place between 1849 and 1870. Over two hundred whites and nine hundred American Indians were killed. This does NOT include the untold thousands of Timpanogos who died from starvation and disease wrought by Mormon colonization. Of the some seventy-thousand Timpanogos living along the Wasatch at the time, government agency records reveal that Utah Indian population decreased by a staggering 90% leaving just twenty-three hundred Timpanogos alive when they were forced onto the Uintah Valley Reservation, there five hundred more died in the first winter from starvation. 

Black Hawk was mortally wounded in battle while attempting to rescue a fallen warrior Whitehorse.  During the rescue attempt, Black Hawk positioned his horse between himself and Mormon militia when a bullet passed through his horse and into Black Hawk’s stomach. Still, Black Hawk Managed to get his brother to safety. Complications from the wound to his stomach didn't heal properly and caused him much suffering for years to come eventually resulting in his death.

I look at Black Hawk, and I see him as a human being who personally witnessed the worst kind of man’s inhumanity to man. , and himself dying from a gunshot wound, he traveled a hundred and eighty miles on horseback to make peace with the white man. When he spoke with them, he said, “You have taken away our land. You have killed our women, children, and men. And you have spread disease among us. You have upset the natural order of things.” He then apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused them and suggested they do the same, and end the bloodshed. Black Hawk set a powerful example to all he visited. He asked nothing in return, only that the bloodshed would end, to preserve life, and restore peace. Black Hawk was a true warrior whose only ambition was to honor the sacred teachings of his ancestors. It took a lot of courage to put aside ego, anger, and resentment, and stand up for what he believed in, all while and at a time when he was in severe physical pain. Still he had the compassion to speak to those who had destroyed the only world he knew, asking for forgiveness, that would never come. You don’t see the settlers doing this. And so, it took a greater man, and a true warrior to do what he did.

Following the death of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk in 1870, in 1919 members of the Mormon church exhumed the mortal remains of Black Hawk and put him on public display in a window of a hardware store for amusement. His remains were then taken to Salt Lake City where he was put on public display in the LDS Museum on Temple Square for some 60 years. 

In 1996. it took an act of Congress, the help of National Forest Service archeologist Charmain Thompson, and the humanitarian efforts of a boy scout Shane Armstrong to find and rebury the remains of Black Hawk at Spring Lake, the place of his birth.  Shane Armstrong told me in an interview that he felt it in his heart he should find Black Hawk's remains, Inspired at the age of 14, Shane on his own makes contact with Thompson. Together they locate the lost remains of Black Hawk in a basement storage room, in a cardboard box, on Brigham Young University campus.

Citizens of the small Mormon village that surrounds Spring Lake donated the coffin, headstone, and decorative cement work where Black Hawk was once again laid to rest at the place of his birth. It is said they expected a small turn-out that day when Black Hawk was reburied when over 500 people attended. 

This book is a collaborative effort between myself and the Timpanogos Nation. I feel that the lives of their ancestors and all they suffered will be in vain if we do not acknowledge them now. It's ironic, right in the center of the state of Utah is a twelve-thousand-foot mountain named Mt. Timpanogos, and no one knows it was named by Spanish explorers Domingus and Escalante in honor of these ancient people. We need to change that.

I want to show my gratitude by gifting to the Timpanogos copies of my book to the Tribes Council so that they may give it to their children, and their children for generations to come. This is the first book about the Timpanogos anyone has ever written. 

Indeed, I have my own skin in the game. During the Black Hawk War, my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson was a young man, and being a friend of the Timpanogos was invited into the camp of Chief Black Hawk on numerous occasions. Peter authored a book titled "Indian Depredations in Utah" which is one of the oldest firsthand accounts of the Black Hawk War. My book will be a companion book. It seems more than a coincidence I should be following in the footsteps of my great-grandfather.

It’s important to educate people, but first I need to get it published and into libraries. The goal is to have the book on the market in two months. We need each other.  It's not about me or you, it's about all of us helping each other. Become an important part of my two-decades-long journey to help the Timpanogos people have a voice and tell their side of the story. We are so grateful for your help to get this book published. Let’s do this!

Upfront costs to Publisher                           $ 2500
Professional Artist Illustrations                        1200
Permissions Fees (photos, docs, etc.)               150
Total                                                                3850 

Rewards: Anyone making a donation of $100 or more will receive a free personally autographed copy of my book FREE once it is published.  

For more information on Black Hawk's Mission of Peace 


Phillip B Gottfredson
Utah Black Hawk War Historian
Indigenous-Day Award Recipient


  • Jerry Hansen 
    • $100 
    • 9 d
  • Wray Joyce 
    • $175 
    • 9 d
  • Christian Horvath 
    • $25 
    • 12 d
  • Cynthia Johnson 
    • $500 
    • 23 d


Phil Gottfredson 
Parker, AZ
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