Tribe getting $72,000 grant to help preserve Bear River Massacre site

Necia Seamons/Preston Citizen  These interpretive signs currently stand on the bluff above the site of the 1863 Bear River Massacre site in Franklin County. The National Park Service announced recently that it is providing a $72,000 grant to help preserve the site.

Necia Seamons/Preston Citizen
These interpretive signs currently stand on the bluff above the site of the 1863 Bear River Massacre site in Franklin County. The National Park Service announced recently that it is providing a $72,000 grant to help preserve the site.

By Necia P. Seamons Preston Citizen

Returning the area where their ancestors were massacred to its native state is one grant closer to reality, said Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

The National Park Service announced recently that it is granting the tribe $72,000 to help preserve the site of the 1863 Bear River Massacre. The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, headquartered in Brigham City, applied for the grant six months ago, said Parry.

His family and other members of the tribe and their supporters have worked for years to memorialize the site. The funding will be used to make plans on how best to preserve the area and comes from funds dedicated to “battlefield preservations,” by the National Park Service.

Up to 500 members of the tribe died during the attack by the U.S. Army.

Parry said once a preservation plan has been created the tribe can raise money for a memorial. Eventually, the Northwestern Band wants to have an interpretive center and a walking trail. It also wants to remove invasive species, such as Russian olive trees, and overgrown vegetation in order to create a peaceful place for people to visit.

The tribe currently owns 35 acres at the site and hopes to purchase more, he said.

Parry was in Preston on July 29, to tell the account of the Bear River Massacre from his ancestor’s point of view.

“I’ve told this story all my life and this is the first time I’ve been invited to speak in the community where it happened,” he told a crowd gathered at the Oneida Stake Academy building in Preston. His account left many in tears.

On Jan. 29, 1863, U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Douglas under the command of Col. Patrick Connor attacked the tribe in the early morning hours of the day. While the men fought to protect the tribe, women and children tried to escape in the bitterly cold waters of the Bear River.

Records state 14 soldiers died, and early historians referred to the episode as a battle. Parry said upwards of 500 men, women and children were shot or bludgeoned to death that day. His second and third great-grandfathers were among the few survivors of the band.