Near Preston in Franklin County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
The Earth Will Remember
Massacre at Bear River
— Remember, But Never Forget —
After the massacre, the survivors, now under Chief Sagwitch, were aided by other bands as they escaped southward. Most of the bands and tribes made treaties soon thereafter and were moved to restricted reservations, but the Northwestern Band was never granted a reservation. One descendent commented, "I think it had a lot to do with the massacre. They couldn't quite trust the white people." Eventually, the surviving members of the Northwestern Band were taken under the wing of the Mormon Church, and many tribal members were baptized into the faith. Mormon missionaries also taught the Shoshones American farming techniques and encouraged community assimilation. Efforts in the latter were less than successful as tribal members were driven out of several settlements by non-Mormons. In 1880, the church established the farming community of Washakie in northern Utah, a few miles south of the Idaho boarder. Some band members dispersed to Shoshone reservations at Ft. Hall in Idaho, Wind River in Wyoming, Skull Valley in Utah, and Duck Valley in Nevada.
Today's tribal elders who grew up at Washakie remember the stories their elders told them of the massacre. "Those old people would come over and talk and talk and tell about...how they were saved and who was killed." Younger Shoshone, who did not have direct contact with survivors, now visit the site of the massacre and feel the pain of their ancestors. "You could just feel those lives," one said, "so I know it's a sacred place and it's something that needs to be preserved, because they didn't have a chance to finish out their lives. And I am a product of what they went through as what they suffered."
Most Shoshone people today do not want to dwell on the tragedy or inflame old animosities. They seek understanding and peace among all people. Nevertheless, they also feel and obligation to tell the story of their ancestors, to learn from the mistakes of the past, and to honor the dead. The event was originally named the Battle of Bear River, but was later changes to the Bear River Massacre to more accurately represent the true nature of the conflict. In 1990 the massacre site received National Historic Landmark designation.
In 2002 the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation was returned 26 acres of the massacre field and hopes to acquire more. Every January 29, on the anniversary of the attack, both Indians and non-Indians gather to bless the ground and pray for peace. It is their dream that one day the Warm Dance, which has not happened since the massacre, will be celebrated again on this scared ground. Today, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation continues on in strength and hope. (Marker Number 7.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native Americans • Wars, US Indian.
Location. 42° 9.161′ N, 111° 54.452′ W. Marker is near Preston, Idaho, in Franklin County. Marker can be reached from U.S. 91 near Hot Springs Road, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2942 US Highway 91, Preston ID 83263, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Battle Becomes a Massacre (here, next to this marker); Attack at Bia Ogoi (a few steps from this marker); California Volunteers March to the Bear River (a few steps from this marker); Change and Conflict (within shouting distance of this marker); Shoshone Bear River Winter Home (within shouting distance of this marker); The Shoshone (within shouting distance of this marker); Utah & Northern Railway (approx. 0.8 miles away); Bear River Massacre (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Preston.
More about this marker. The Bear River Massacre Interpretive Site is located on a hilltop overlooking the site of the massacre.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 29, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 18, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 247 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on January 29, 2021, by Pete Skillman of Port Deposit, Maryland. Photo 1. submitted on July 18, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.