Documentarian James Nelson (left) brings his camera in to a close-up shot while Bert Oldroyd (in cap) of Fountain Green displays an ancient artifact—the tomahawk taken from the great Native American chief and area namesake Sanpitch. Wasatch Academy’s Jason Friedman (second from right), who earned a doctorate in American history from Michigan State University, along with some of his class, inspect the tomahawk. The documentary scene—just one from the latest in the Discovery Road series—was shot in the Mt. Pleasant Relic Home.

 

You’ve heard of Chief Blackhawk,

but what about his father, Sanpitch?

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

Feb. 22, 2018

 

MT. PLEASANT—A crew came to visit Mt. Pleasant’s Relic Home on Friday, Feb. 16, to film the one of the final scenes in the latest of the television series “Discovery Road” sponsored by the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area (MPNHA).

The upcoming episode, which is now in the final stages of editing and will be released soon, focuses on a little-known figure in history, the father of Chief Blackhawk—Sanpitch, the chieftain of the Sanpits tribe of Ute Native Americans.

“We know the mountains, the valley and the river,” James Nelson, show creator, said, “But we knew very little about the man behind the name, so we wanted to give this great chief front stage.”

Nelson, who has written, directed and produced the entire Discovery Road series, in partnership with the MPNHA, wanted to tell the story of Chief Sanpitch, whose role in Utah history is often downplayed in comparison to his son, Timpanogos chieftain Blackhawk.

The documentary was coming along nicely, and then Nelson said a journalistic jackpot landed in his lap.

He discovered a Sanpete family was in possession of the tomahawk taken from Sanpitch when he died and had passed it down generation to generation, telling the sad story of Sanpitch’s demise as part of their family heritage.

The tomahawk came into the family’s possession because one of their descendants was a member of the party who chased down the chieftain after his escape attempt from a Manti settlement jail.

“He carried the weapon,” Nelson said. “He fought for his people with it and for his land. It’s almost symbolic.”

And so Nelson found a name for the new Discovery Road episode: “The Lost Tomahawk.”

The scene shot last Friday was set among the many historical artifacts and photographs that fill Mt. Pleasant’s Relic Home.

Nelson’s plan was to shoot a scene where Bert Oldroyd of Fountain Green, descendant of the posse member who claimed the weapon as a prize, brought the tomahawk that belonged to Chief Sanpitch to be viewed by Jason Friedman, Wasatch Academy history teacher, and a few members of his class.

The teacher and students questioned Oldroyd about its origins and were allowed to hold the artifact during the filming.

Nelson said he wanted an outsider perspective on the historical Utah artifact in his documentary, making Friedman a perfect choice, since he hails from New York and earned his doctorate in American history from Michigan State University in 2009.

Nelson also interviewed a number of Utah historians, as well as several Native American historians on Chief Sanpitch.

“The Lost Tomahawk” will be done and ready to air in a few weeks, said Nelson.

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