Hundreds Gather to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Massacre

Hundreds Gather to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Massacre

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Carole Mikita Reporting Hundreds of people are gathering to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It remains, for many, the most tragic event in Utah history.

The gathering in St. George of people throughout the country is a significant coming together. The descendants of the victims and the descendants of the perpetrators may not share the same beliefs, but they do share the same desire.

They don't feel the same about the past, but here and in the future, they just want to learn about the truth.

On a lonely Southern Utah trail stands a triangular pile of rocks, signifying a burial site. Here lies some of the remains of 120 men, women and children, members of an Arkansas wagon train who were murdered by Mormon settlers.

Hundreds Gather to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Massacre
Hundreds Gather to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Massacre

The actual siege of the Fancher-Baker wagon train started here, September 7, 1857. During that day, 12 men were killed. The wagon train then proceeded north. They were escorted out of the valley to the place known as Mountain Meadows Massacre, where the rest of the 120 were killed. That was September 11.

White crosses now adorn the gates. Two women from Idaho are extended family of those in the wagon train.

Rachel Mitchell Montgomery said, "I come for my dad, that's it. He knew a little about it, but not a lot. So I just came for him."

Ron Baker came from Washington state.

"The monument's a little different. I would have done something different myself, if I'd have been involved in it," he said.

The Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, all direct descendants of the victims, agree. They will once again petition the LDS Church, which owns the monument land, to give it to the federal government.

Phil Bolinger, president of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, said, "If it takes another 150 years, we will carry on and keep carrying on, because doing right has no expiration date."

The ceremony, which brings together three descendants' groups, representatives from the Paiute tribe, and also from the LDS Church begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the monument.

Hundreds Gather to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Massacre
Hundreds Gather to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Massacre

It is an archaeological site; it's also a cemetery. The monument marks where the army buried the remains of many of those massacred two years later after the incident, in 1859.

One group of descendants of those killed in the massacre says this is not enough. And most Native Americans want to set the record straight, a few Paiute Indians were part of the massacre but for years were blamed.

Members of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation want the LDS Church to give the property to the federal government so there can eventually be a national monument there. "There's a lot of old-timers in our foundation that just, they have a problem with the church, who was complacent in the killings, also being the owners of our relatives' graves," explained Phil Bolinger, president of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation.

"Why were the Mormon militia dressed as Indians? It seems to indicate an attempt to blame the whole incident on the Indian people. And that, that's always been a problem with me because it promotes the dehumanization of Indian people," said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

So many questions remain. Tune into Eyewitness News at 10 to see the exact site where the massacre took place, where the siege started and be introduced to some people who were searching for their ancestors. -->

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