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Front Page » February 6, 2007 » Local News » Historical society hears the history of Indian Joe
Published 3,669 days ago

Historical society hears the history of Indian Joe

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Staff writer

Dr. Edward Geary speaks about Indian Joe.

At the January meeting of the Emery County Historical Society, Dr. Edward Geary spoke concerning his findings of how Joe's Valley may have received its name. "There were three Joes involved with the Joe's Valley area, Indian Joe, Joe Swasey and Peter "Joe" Johansen. I wanted to know more about Indian Joe because information about the others is well known," said Geary.

Geary went on to say that when the Mormon settlers came into this area, the Ute Indians were the dominant human presence here. The population of Utes was estimated at 5,500 at that time. This population has since declined.

The Ute presence remains in the names of the locations: Tintic, Santaquin, San Pitch, Wasatch, etc. "Joe's Valley joins the list of Ute named places, even though Indian Joe was only known by this name to the white settlers. His Ute name was Sow-ok-soo-bet," stated Geary.

The first account of Indian Joe was from a group of Mormon settlers who saw a big brave chasing a little brave. The smaller brave was able to get away and later befriended the settlers who knew him as Indian Joe. He was a San Pitch Ute, small in stature, stocky and always dressed in buckskins. He was a friend to the Mormons, and he was outgoing with a great command of the English language.

There is no information on Joe's parentage or when he was born. It is estimated that he was in his mid 20s when he was first noted in historical writings in 1865. Some historical writings have him still living in 1895, and it is not known when he died or where he is buried.

During this time, there were many Ute bands across Utah and they had a reputation for being a quiet and hospitable people. Although some of them, Wakara for example, carried out raids as far away as Southern California.

Indian Joe is thought to have been a sub leader of the San Pitch band from Sanpete county. As the whites entered into the valleys of central Utah, their agricultural ways were introduced to the Utes, and the Indians roaming ways began to diminish.

Dr. Edward Geary speaks about Indian Joe and possible ways Joe's Valley received its name.

Soon the whites outnumbered the natives, but were still considered squatters by the Utes. The Utes began to feel displaced from their own native lands. The settlers soon began to realize that it was easier to feed the Utes than to fight with them. Many Utes felt a great animosity toward the white settlers.

Joe was different. He did not feel the same as the remainder of his people. He felt no animosity and was accepted by the settlers as a friend. Joe was included in the negotiations with the Mormons and Chief San Pitch to acquire the Sevier Valley. He also participated in many events that lead up to the Black Hawk War.

Following the hostilities of the Black Hawk War, Joe and his followers disappeared for awhile. The next record of them was on the Uintah Reservation three years later. But Joe did not like the reservation and soon returned to the Sanpete Valley. He was then known as Chief Joe and was very interested in peace.

Indian Joe continued to serve as the intermediary between the Utes and the whites. When the Ghost Dance movement, a movement designed to get back ancestral lands, began, Joe did not participate.

Joe claimed to have been baptized a Mormon and refused to return to the reservation when a treaty required him to. The treaty said that if a Ute cut ties to the tribe, they were excluded from the treaty requirements.

It was supposed that Joe and his followers lived out their days roaming as the Utes had for so long. During the 1880s, Geary found reference that Joe's band spent summers near Huntington. Some records indicate that a group of Indians would come and camp near the river. Their leader was known as Bishop Joe.

The last reference to Joe that Geary found was in 1895. No other references were found.

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