HARRISVILLE, Utah (AP) – The smell of burning sage wafted over a crowd of around 100 people gathered on Harrisville Road as Darren Parry, the former chairman of the Northwestern Band of Shoshone, invoked a blessing: “Oh Great Spirit … let us speak to each other today and always with medicine words.”
Representing his tribe, Parry was charged with unveiling a refurbished monument to slain Northwestern Shoshone Chief Terikee alongside a descendant of the man who is said to have killed him, the Standard-Examiner reported.
Over 170 years ago, in a cornfield near what is now Highway 89, Urban Stewart, a pioneer settler, shot Terikee. The chief was returning home from a visit with Lorrin Farr, another Mormon pioneer and the first mayor of Ogden. The rest of the story is unclear, though there are conflicting accounts describing the moments that led up to the killing.
A rededication of the monument commemorating Terikee and the circumstances under which he was killed was organized by Harrisville City, in partnership with the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation and the Weber County Heritage Foundation.
The original monument – a large boulder with a plaque on it – was put in place in 2010 by Harrisville City Councilman Max Jackson, along with a couple of others. Jackson said he and some neighbors were irrigating farm fields when they began talking about what happened to Terikee.
“If we don’t do something to preserve that history, it’s just going to get forgotten,” Jackson said. “So we set out to put this monument together.”
Over the years, the plaque faded and was marked with indents from BB bullets. The revamped monument has a new bronze plaque to match those on monuments to pioneer settlers in the surrounding area.
Harrisville, for its part, also donated a painting of Stewart standing over Terikee’s body, which Jackson described as “gruesome,” to the Northwestern Band of Shoshone. It will be housed in a museum near the Bear River Massacre site.
”(History) always offers us a way to move forward, especially in a circumstance like this with the Stewart family, with this community, to move forward in a way that connects us not in the prettiest of ways, but to move forward to a new relationship,” Parry said.
He continued, saying it is a relationship that will be based on respect – “respect for the truth and what happened in that past moment, because that’s when you get the possibility for reconciliation, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Stewart’s great-great-grandson, Stewart Cowley, traveled from Grover to speak at the event. He talked about some of his forebears’ journal entries and what happened to him following the killing.
“He realized I can’t stay here, that just would not be good for the situation,” Cowley said. “So he made arrangements for his wife and his two small children and then he quickly left.”
Not long after the incident, Stewart’s wife left with one of his daughters and moved to California. He later married four other wives and had a total of 33 children.
At one point, Stewart was called by Brigham Young to serve Native Americans in what is present day Nevada as part of the White Mountain Mission – a proposed mission that never came to fruition. He moved around several times, eventually settling in Grover.
“Knowing what we know now, it’s easy to say that it was a mistake for Urban Van Stewart and his co-worker to fire shots when they heard rustling in the corn field,” Cowley said. “I believe that in hindsight, Urban Van would agree.”
One of the factors that led to the killing, Cowley held, was the difficult position white settlers put Native Americans in by moving onto their land. He said it created tension and excluded Indigenous people in a way they shouldn’t have been.
“I think the failure to think of the native people, their way of life, their needs, was certainly not fair in the way all of the settlement in this area played out,” Cowley said.
Parry said he’s grateful for the efforts to reach out to the tribe, talk about what happened and work toward healing, as well as the large crowd of people who attended – some of whom live Harrisville, and others who drove longer distances to get there.
“My grandmother always told me, ‘Darren, no one has ever wanted to hear our story. One day you will have to make them listen,’ and I don’t feel like I’ve had to make anybody listen,” Parry said. “I think the time’s right, I think it’s time we come together and hear each other’s stories.”
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