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"Fighting Squaw" and "Brother"

When uninvited guests came in the door… her decorum went out the window… but her husband’s smile was bigger than the house…

Mary’s mother, Eliza Hutchens, respected the Indians but didn’t like the ones that stole from them, and many times she told them to go away from her coops when they intended on taking eggs or a hen. Her father, William Hutchens, told his wife to be careful in her dealings with the Indians and to let them have whatever they wanted as they had to be treated with kindness. Her mother said there were some things she couldn’t stand, but that she would try and be more careful. [1]

Because it was difficult to provide food, the Indians didn’t take chickens for recreation or pleasure. They had no concept of personal property, and they felt that everything should be shared with those who had less. [2] But they did know it was out of order to take a chicken or grain unless the Chief had made arrangements with William. [3]

One day Indian Jack came to William and said he must have some chickens to eat. Her father told Jack he only had a few and they were laying eggs. Jack replied that they needed some for food and it wasn’t the time of year to go into the hills for deer. So, William and Indian Jack went into the coop and Jack was given six chickens. Jack said he would bring William some venison after their hunt. [4]

Mary’s mother was known for speaking her mind. One day six Indian men entered the house without knocking, and one Indian threw Charles out of his chair and seated himself in the chair. Eliza was very angry. She grabbed the long-handled fire shovel and hit him and hit the others and told them all to get out and stay out, as she didn’t want them coming in and hurting her little children. The Indians rushed out of the house with her after them. She chased them out of the gate and then shut it. The Indians laughed and went off. They told William about it and ever after called her “Fighting Squaw”. [5]

Mary’s father had a mild manner and temperament. William Hutchens learned the Shoshone language, shared his garden, and made the Native Americans welcome to anything he had. Many times, the Indians brought the Hutchens family a jackrabbit, a beaver, a hind quarter of a deer, a mountain sheep, a huge piece of buffalo, serviceberries, elderberries, or other wild fruit gathered in their journeys. [6]

One time an Indian came and told William that he wanted his white shirt, his Sunday best that was hanging on a line. William said to the Indian, “But that is my best shirt, and I only have two white ones for Sunday.”

The Indian replied, “You say I am your brother. I haven’t any white shirts so if I am your brother you would share with me.” And William gave the Indian the white shirt off the line. [7]

The Shoshone were virtuous, pure-hearted people, and many of them had no concept of personal property. After the coming of the white man, it became difficult for them to provide food for their families. But they all shared whatever they had and took care of one another. [8]

Uncle Art Tries to Scare Them

A story from 1861 told by Mary Hutchens about her Uncle Art.

“Fighting Squaw” treated all her guests the same, even her brother….

It was on a Saturday night because Mary, her brother Charles and sister Mel had all had their baths and had been put to bed while her mother washed their clothes. Her Aunt Sarah was staying with them at the time. Mary was still awake, so she must have been the last one to take a bath because she was watching her mother as she worked around the room talking to her Aunt Sarah, as their clothes hung on chairs before the fire in the fireplace drying.

All at once, the door opened and a terrible-looking something with a mask crawled into the room. It was dressed in a fringed jacket of buckskin, but it seemed to be incased in a sort of skin tube or sack which extended to the feet, and then its feet protrude it in long fringed moccasins. The mask entirely covered the head; the face was a horrible shape. There were little slits for eyes and the nose was enormous, and the mouth was a wicked grin. Long hair covered the head and fringed the horrible mask face. Back of this crawling, squirming thing crowded several Indians in their fringed suits, and wearing masks also, but their masks were simply pieces of tanned skin in which were slits cut for eyes, nose, and mouth, and the mask was tied at the back of the head with buckskin leases.

Mary remembers her mother picking up the fire shovel immediately and raising it as though to strike, saying, “Art that’s you! You get right out of here, and don’t you scare my babies,” and she rushed to meet the intruders.

Sure enough, it was Eliza’s brother Art, and he called to her, “Eliza don’t strike me. Can’t you take a little joke?”

But he scrambled up, and the Indians helped him out of the door, laughing at Art’s chagrin because his sister had gotten after them and had not been frightened at all. Mary always loved her Uncle Art. [9]

 William and Eliza Stone Hutchens, “Brother” & “Fighting Squaw”.
William and Eliza Stone Hutchens, “Brother” & “Fighting Squaw”.


[1] - Autobiography of Mary Elizabeth Hutchens Sherner, Mary Elizabeth – Her Stories, dictated to her daughter Dorothy A. Sherner, manuscript, 1933, p. 86.

[2] - Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre, Common Consent Press, 2019, p. 17.

[3] - Sherner, Mary Elizabeth- Her Stories, p. 91.

[4] - Ibid, p. 86.

[5] - Ibid, p.88.

[6] - Ibid, p. 86.

[7] - Biography of William Birch Hutchens, unknown author, manuscript, p. 2, 3.

[8] - Parry, The Bear River Massacre, p. 17, 71.

[9] - Mary, p. 1.

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