Sanpitch (Ute chief)

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Chief Sanpitch
Born Utah, United States
Died 18 April 1866
Birch Canyon,
near Fountain Green, Utah
Known for Being the brother of Chief Walkara and fathering Black Hawk
Children Black Hawk

Sanpitch (killed April 18, 1866) was a leader of the Sanpits[1] tribe of Native Americans who lived in what is now the Sanpete Valley, before and during settlement by Mormon immigrants. The Sanpits are generally considered to be part of the Timpanogos or Utah Indians

He was the brother of famed Chief Walkara and the father of Black Hawk,[2] for whom the Black Hawk War in Utah (1865–72) is named. In 1850, after measles from newly arrived Mormon settlers decimated their tribes, Walkara and Chief Sanpitch asked the Mormons to come to the Sanpete Valley to teach the band to farm,[3] though this was met with little enthusiasm.

In March 1866, as a ploy suggested by Brigham Young to bring Black Hawk to the bargaining table, the elderly Chief Sanpitch was taken into custody and incarcerated in the jail in Manti. A month later, while he and other jailed Indians were escaping, Sanpitch was shot and wounded. On April 18, 1866, he was found and killed in Birch Creek Canyon (in San Pitch Mountains, between Fountain Green and Moroni). The two Mormon men responsible for the chief's death buried his body under a rock slide by shooting at the canyon wall overhead. [3][4][5][6]:188 Sanpitch's interactions with early Mormon settlers are chronicled in Gottfredson's History of Indian depredations in Utah.[6]

Sanpitch is almost certainly not the same person as the Shoshone chief of the same name who was alive in 1870.[4] The Shoshone and Utes were enemies.

Some sources indicate that he, or his grandfather of the same name, is the namesake of Sanpete County, the Sanpete Valley, the San Pitch Mountains, and the Sanpitch River. However, all of them share the origin of their names: the Sanpits people. According to William Bright, their name comes from the Ute word saimpitsi, meaning "people of the tules".[7][8]


  1. ^ Sturtevant, William C. (1978). D'Azevedo, Warren L.; Sturtevant, William C., eds. Handbook of North American Indians. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. p. 340. ISBN 0160045819. 
  2. ^ "Interesting Black Hawk War Factoids 1847 1872". Black Hawk Productions, LLC. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Simmons, Virginia McConnell (2001). The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico (1st pbk. ed.). Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0870816470. 
  4. ^ a b Mackey, David (10 Jul 2014). "Sanpitch, a nearly forgotten chief". The Pyramid. Mount Pleasant, Utah: Lee Enterprises. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "Timpanogos Leader Sanpitch Killed Near Moroni". Black Hawk Productions, LLC. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Gottfredson, Peter (1919). History of Indian depredations in Utah. Salt Lake City: Skelton Publishing, Co. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  7. ^ Bright, William (2004). Native American Placenames of the United States. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-8061-3598-4. 
  8. ^ Fletcher, Lyle. "Where did Sanpete get its Name?". Sanpete County. Retrieved 20 May 2016.