January 29th 2004 141st Bear River Massacre Commemoration


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Kerry Brinkerhoff

With the Massacre Site deeply covered in snow there was no access to hold the ceremony on the site. However, the Shoshone representative, Patty Timbimboo Madsen told us that hopefully in the future the site can be improved to a point of making it accessible for future commemorations.

For the first time in several years of activism for the site, this time included no media, no curious visitors. A group of around 50 -almost evenly split of Shoshone, other Native Americans and Anglo- were all members of the band that hosted the event and friends.

The weather was cold with a moderate wind and much shivering could be seen. Patty opened the ceremony and introduced a Shoshone Elder to pray over the site and for the commemoration. Holding eagle feathers high he blessed the site and all present as he waved the feathers and directed them to all directions on the earth.

Patty then made an emotional and touching speech telling of their feelings of this event as well as their joy in receiving some of the site back to the tribe.

Gene Thompson a member of the Friends group gave a very passionate speech, asking for forgiveness of the wrongs of his ancestors and asking that the Anglos listen to the wisdom of the first Americans. While he spoke soft flute music was played by a Shoshone Elder.

Also Shoshone historian and teacher Terry Pacheco spoke of how the story of the massacre had been handed down to him from his mother and aunt through oral tradition. He said that as a teacher he read the official state sanctioned account of the massacre to be taught to Utah students about his ancestors. He found the two paragraph account not only very under representative of such a serious national event but also untrue. He said he will never forget the pride he felt when he could, for the first time, teach his students the true story.

Patty took time to call up each Shoshone family there that could trace their roots back to survivors of the massacre. About 20 family members came forward and Patty introduced them one by one. After this Patty introduced all the others present which included around 30 other Native Americans and friends of the tribe. Our group had around 10 members present.

Bruce Parry told of plans to improve the site and how they are welcoming any suggestions. He also mentioned that the tribe is looking to purchase a corridor of land that would connect the site to the Bear River.

After the ceremony the tribe invited everyone present to join them for lunch in Preston. It made for a warm gathering.

What a kind and gracious host were the descendants of such a horrible event. They showed warm hospitality to all those present and made everyone feel welcome.

The future of the site looks bright with such a strong group of Shoshone and friend supporters. Today they showed a united commitment in working together for a bright future.

Speech by Gene Thompson at the 141st Commemoration of the Bear River Massacre

Jan 29, 2004 - Bear River Massacre Wayside - Northwest of Preston, Idaho

I speak here today to ask forgiveness for the sins of my ancestors, the white man, and to pay tribute to the Shoshone people who were victims of his brutality. Forgiveness for what the white man did to this continent and it's inhabitants living in the "Dream Time."

The true natives of this country, all of it's living entities, were free during that time...free as a bird is free until it is caged. The state of nature is a community of freedoms. A community of sharing. The Shoshone and other native peoples knew that forests are not as they are seen today...merely meat corrals and lumber factories. They knew the forests to be living beings, harboring living beings. They were one with nature...possessed by the spirits of the trees, of place, of animals.

The people we honor here today shared everything with their communities...food...experiences...visions, and songs. Unfortunately, my ancestors having had these freedoms bred out of them over countless centuries of greed, could not understand this concept. Feeling that the inhabitants of this continent were just "waiting to be civilized." Therefore, the reduction of nature and peoples were just a by-product, a necessary evil.

Lush forests and prairies were reduced to plowed fields. Entire populations of animals, at times whole species were exterminated. Human communities were gunned down and broken up, their survivors deported to concentration camps, known as reservations.

We, as members of the human species are but equal members of the "Mother Earth Clan," and our arrogance with respect to the rest of the clan threatens not only ourselves, but all of life. The people we commemorate here today understood that concept...and lived their lives accordingly.

The 25 acres of Bear River Massacre Site land, though small in number, represents not only a tribute to those who died here...but a memorial to those who lived here, ...and shared GIA's [(Mother Earth's)] bounty with ALL of "Mother Earth's Clan."

Letter from Carole "Aurelia" Lawson Singing Dancing Rain for the 141st Bear River Massacre Commemoration January 29, 2004

Today as we gather once agin for remembrance of our dearly departed ones, we can gather with lighter hearts. After many years of effort we have finally won a battle to retrieve some of our ancestral land. Finally our ancestors can begin to rest in peace.

Even tough this is a day of celebration of our first year of anniversary of "freedom" for our ancestor's spirits, the events of long ago still echo in our hearts.

I am sorry I can not be physically with you today on this occasion, although I am with you in "Spirit". Emotional tears flowed as my heart jumped for joy over the news of this parcel of land being returned to our Shoshone tribe. Yet, because of the cruel event which took place making this memorial necessary, it is till a sad memory.

Perhaps after the years, the cries of our people are still reverberating within the canyon walls. The hawk and the eagle still carry the message to the four-legged. The river still flows mournfully because it was turned into a burial site for many that day. The wind still whispers among the trees the story of that fateful morning.

When one stands here in the quietness listening with their heart; all can be seen and heard. I "witnessed" this tragic horror on my visit in December 1999. My beingness tore in half. My Native American blood churned with anger and bewilderment. My European blood turned cold with shame of what that race did to my other race within me. Being a Heinz 57 mix of Cherokee, English, Irish, Swiss, Dutch, Castile Spaniard, French and German, I find myself experiencing many conflicting feelings and preferences. Yet through the years I've come to understand why this has been my heritage. I have come to see and understand more about our ONENESS - one with another.

Nationality or tribes is of no consequence. We are all ONE - the human race. We are ALL part of the Great Creator Spirit. The ONLY separation is mankind's own heart's creation. Our own thoughts, words and actions usually spurred by ignorance, false superiority, fear and greed have repeatedly caused great division and devastation in many instances all around the world throughout history.

Yesterday, we buried another great wise elder of Native American history, Grandfather Wallace Black Elk. It makes no difference that Black Elk was not Shoshone - not European. He was a great man of the human race and his journey into the Spirit World is a loss to all of us. No longer should we think only of ourselves versus others. We MUST become the voice in the wilderness - one voice of many rivers carrying the message of ONENESS with ALL living things to all. On this day may we begin the healing - the forgiving. No, we will NEVER forget - nor should we, but we can make a new beginning setting the example and marking our place in history.

In Oneness, I am Your sister, Carole "Aurelia" Lawson Singing Dancing Rain

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