HYRUM – An event commemorating the Bear River Massacre has been scheduled by the Hyrum City Museum on Saturday, Jan. 9.
That gathering will be a book signing by former Democratic congressional candidate Darren Parry, author of The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History.
Stephanie Miller, the mayor of Hyrum, said the appearance by Parry will be the first of a series of museum programs slated for the second Saturday of each month throughout 2021.
Parry is a resident of Providence and a former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. He ran unsuccessfully to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop in the 2020 general election.
The 2019 publication of Parry’s monograph on the Bear River massacre was largely overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak and his congressional candidacy. With the 158th anniversary of the 1863 massacre now just days away, Parry’s efforts to merge Shoshone oral traditions with a more accurate vision of that incident is getting renewed attention.
Perry’s scholarship is “… a poignant meditation on the resilience of the soul of a people,” according to W. Paul Reeve, the Simmons Professor of Mormon Studies at the University of Utah.
“Even though the Bear River Massacre was a defining event in the history of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone, in Parry’s retelling the massacre did not trap his people in death, but offered them rebirth,” Reeve wrote in a recent appraisal of The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History. “While never flinching from the realities of Latter-day Saint encroachment on Shoshone land and the racial ramifications of America’s spread westward, Parry offers messages of hope.
“As storyteller for his people, Parry brings the full weight of Shoshone wisdom to his tales — lessons of peace in the face of violence, of strength in the teeth of annihilation, of survival through change and of the pliability necessary for cultural endurance. These are arresting stories told disarmingly well.”
The Bear River Massacre took place in present-day Franklin County on Jan. 29, 1863, when a cavalry detachment of California Volunteers attacked a Shoshone encampment gathered where Bear River and Battle Creek meet near the current site of the city of Preston. Hundreds of Shoshone men, women and children were killed in that largely one-sided engagement.
After decades of being inaccurately regarded as the Battle of Bear River, activism by descendants of Shoshone survivors of the massacre resulted in the little-known event now being recognized as possibly the deadliest slaughter of Native Americans on the U.S. frontier.
The site of the Bear River Massacre was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1990. The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation acquired the site in 2008 with the intent of raising a monument there to the victims of the massacre.
Miller said that the book-signing event in Hyrum will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday in the City Council Chamber. Parry will make brief remarks prior to signing his monograph.
The public is invited to the book-signing event, but usual COVID-19 safety precautions will be in effect.