Deadly confrontation in Utah took place shortly before GJ incorporated

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I enjoy Kathy Jordan’s local histories, but this account is a bit puzzling and slanted. She calls Pinhook “the largest and most tragic Indian-white confrontation ever in terms of numbers killed.”

Perhaps she meant to say, “close to Grand Junction” or “Ute-white,” because it’s not even close in terms of tragedy or numbers among U.S. white-Indian conflicts. It’s not even the largest in Colorado or Utah.

In Colorado, up to 200 Cheyenne were slaughtered at Sand Creek in a massacre second only to Wounded Knee. Near Meeker, Colorado, 23 settlers and soldiers were killed in separate battles on the same day, with an untold number of Ute casualties. At Beecher Island, 22 soldiers and frontiersmen died, with unknown number of Cheyenne. At Summit Springs, 52 Cheyenne were killed with no white casualties.

Writers should also be careful how we use the word massacre, which implies unnecessary, indiscriminate slaughter. Some of these, like Pinhook, were battles in which two sides participated and one prevailed disproportionately.

Beyond the numbers, however, it’s interesting how disaster often proceeded from chasing retreating Indians. Some tribes had very different views of how to coexist with whites than the whites did with Indians, with whites more often insisting on doing battle.

For example, Karl Jacoby’s book about the Camp Grant Massacre in Arizona — Shadows at Dawn — tells the story from all sides.

It describes how the Apaches essentially viewed settlers as providing a new source of food on their lands. They raided the cattle, but didn’t want to kill the settlers who were raising them, knowing that would end the bounty. But the settlers took the raids on their property as attacks on themselves and pursued the Indians with a vengeance. Once Apache were killed, they felt honor-bound to even the score, and so the wars escalated.

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