Utah Stories from the Beehive Archive

Reclaiming Boa Ogoi

Darren at Boa Ogoi by Levi Simm Oct 2020[11].jpg

Dublin Core


Reclaiming Boa Ogoi


The colonization of northern Utah’s Cache Valley escalated tensions that led to the horrific 1863 massacre of Shoshone people at their winter camp on Bear River. Learn how the Shoshone have returned to the river and are reclaiming it as a healing ground for the future.

For hundreds of years, the banks of the Bear River along the Utah-Idaho border provided good winter camping for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. Known to them as Boa Ogoi, the river’s hot springs offered warmth and renewal, and winters were relaxing and joyful. But that peace was upended when federal troops invaded the camp on January 29, 1863 and killed everyone they encountered.

Shoshone Chief Sagwitch awoke early that morning. He watched what he thought was mist rising over the riverbanks before realizing that it was an approaching army. These were federal troops led by Colonel Patrick Connor from Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City. Connor knew where to find the Shoshone, since this spot on Boa Ogoi was a favored winter camp. By day’s end, the soldiers slaughtered between 350 and 500 men, women, and children during what was the deadliest massacre of Native people in the American West.

The riverbanks of Boa Ogoi became a site of horror. Frozen ground – and fear of returning soldiers – prevented the few survivors from properly burying their dead. They threw bodies into the river, rather than leave them for animals and the elements. Forced to flee their ancestral lands to survive, Sagwitch led his remaining people away from Boa Ogoi to seek safety elsewhere. The site remains a sacred burial ground to the victims lost in the massacre.

In the years that followed, the story of the so-called “Battle of Bear River” was told only from the soldiers’ perspective. But we now know this was no battle, and the Shoshone fought for years to tell their own story on their own land. In 2018, the tribe purchased the massacre site, and is building an interpretive center and restoring native plants and habitat. Reclaiming this hallowed ground provides some healing and hope to a site previously associated with horror and anger. 

The Bear River Massacre was a cataclysmic event that forever changed the Northwestern Band’s association with Boa Ogoi. But today, their efforts to reclaim its riverbanks once again are a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the Shoshone people.


By Hyrum City Museum © 2021


Image: Darren Parry, former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, looks out over the Bear River Massacre site near Preston, Idaho, March 2020. The Northwestern Band purchased the site, providing their people unrestricted access for the first time since 1863. They are building an interpretive center and replanting waterside vegetation. Invasive species, such as cheatgrass and Russian olive, are being removed from the site and native plants, such as willows, cottonwoods, mint, sage, sego lilies, and camas, are being planted. Watershed restoration will improve water quality and return aquatic life that was once abundant. For more information about the Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center, visit boaogoi.org. Photo by Levi Sim, Utah State University.

See Hyrum City Museum, exhibition file for Bear River Boa Ogoi: the River is Life, curated by Courtney Cochley, 2021; Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History, Salt Lake City: By Common Consent Press, 2019; John Devilbiss, “A Healing Ground,” Utah State Magazine, Winter 2021.


The Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities. Find sources and the whole collection of past episodes at www.utahhumanities.org/stories.