The Black Hawk Indian War was the longest and most destructive conflict between pioneer immigrants and Native Americans in Utah History. It was comprised of about 150 skirmishes between Utah settlers and the Indians. The incidents occurred in Sanpete and Sevier counties of Southern and Central Utah. The Native Americans involved were members of the Ute, Paiute, and Navajo tribes, led by a local Ute chief, Antonga Black Hawk. Settlers had trouble following Indian raiders into the wilderness and determining which Indians were warlike and which were peaceful. This certainly added to some suffering on both sides.
The causes of the war were typical of white/ Amerindian problems elsewhere. The growth of Mormon settlements in Central Utah encroached on Indian grounds and hunting. Mormons sometimes received the blame for broken promises of the U.S. Government. Indians sometimes stole cattle and supplies, and often begged for goods. "The Blackhawk War saw Black Hawk and their allies make a business out of taking livestock, transporting it out of Utah Territory to sell or trade for things they needed or wanted from 'brokers.' They understood that the loss of livestock was the quickest way to interfere with the growth of settlements" (Wikipedia.org). Revenge attacks were rumored on both sides. Hunger was certainly a motivation for the Indians, and bigotry also played a part on the side of the white settlers.
The years 1865 to 1867 were by far the most intense of the conflict. Latter-day Saints considered themselves in a state of open warfare. The settlers built forts to aid in their defense. However, some settlements had to be abandoned, and the pace of settling these areas in Utah territory slowed down as a result.
The first event occurred in Manti, Utah, when Indians attempted to drive off cattle from Mormon property. The Mormons who followed the Indians ended up in a gun battle.
The Black Hawk War was unique among the era's western Indian wars in that the antipathy that existed between the United States government and the LDS Church provided Utah's natives with the opportunity to pursue their hostile activities for an extended period of time without incurring the swift and destructive military reprisals suffered by other groups.
"Utah's Black Hawk War had far-reaching and unforeseen outcomes for Mormons and Utes alike. After 1872 Mormons in Utah were able to expand settlements as immigrants swelled valley populations without the threat of Ute resistance. The chasing of Ute raiders through unexplored regions of Utah actually helped explore areas for new settlements as outliers of the larger towns. Ranchers were free to take up land far from population centers without fear of being attacked. Mormons came to accept the army as a force that could do its job without threatening local autonomy. Communities became more independent as they realized that local decisions were often better tailored to suit local conditions than requesting advice from Salt Lake. Mormons were less able to control the functions of government as federal officials began their long crusade to end polygamy and Mormon control of government and the economy.
"Black Hawk's War was a disaster for the Northern Utes. They were forced permanently onto the Uintah Reservation to live dependent on corrupt government agents. No promises made in any treaty were fulfilled completely. Terms of treaties which restricted the Utes were rigidly enforced, but promises in the treaty which territorial officials and Mormon leaders put their names to were largely ignored. Intra-tribal divisions arose which persisted to modern times. The Ute were forced to give up their traditional way of life and left to fend for themselves in one of the least habitable parts of Utah. Disease, living conditions, hopelessness, alcoholism, and poverty reduced Ute populations drastically" (Wikipedia.org).
- Utah History to Go Utah History Encyclopedia