‘The Lost Tomahawk’ on Discovery Channel in July

‘The Lost Tomahawk’ on Discovery Channel in July

Who was Chief Sanpitch, for whom Sanpete County is named?

By Linda Petersen

Staff writer


Ute tribe story teller and Viet Nam veteran Larry Cesspooch at the warrior statue at the Bottle Hollow Veteran’s Memorial on the Ute Reservation in Fort Duchesne, Utah. Cesspooch draws on his own war experience to comment on the long-ago war story of Chief Sanpitch in the Discovery Road show “The Lost Tomahawk.”

Little is known about Chief Sanpitch, leader of the Sanpits, a band of Ute Indians who were living in the Sanpete Valley at the time Mormon pioneers arrived.

Chief Sanpitch, for whom  Sanpete County was named, was the father of Black Hawk and brother of Chiefs Wakara and Arapeen.

In “The Lost Tomahawk” the newest show in the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area’s award-winning TV series, Discovery Road, host James Nelson takes the viewer on a journey to find out who Sanpitch was and learn more about his life.

In telling the story of Sanpitch, “The Lost Tomahawk” he traces the journey of the chief’s  tomahawk, which has been handed down for several generations in a local family. Native American voices also offer insight into Sanpitch, what he fought for, and what he stood for in those long-ago battles.

In the show, a contemporary Ute tribal elder, Forrest S. Cuch, reads words spoken by Sanpitch during treaty negotiations: “Our people adapted to this land over centuries and it is a part of us. We’re not willing to break away so quick, these lands are sacred to us. They’re who we are, we’re earth people. We’re native people of the earth with our heart and soul.”

“The Lost Tomahawk” is the third Discovery Road show focused on the Native Americans who were the first inhabitants of the heritage area.

“Utah’s Blackhawk War—Cultures in Conflict” tells the story of the conflict that broke out as the American Civil War came to a close and the Territory of Utah erupted with violence as Ute Indians and Mormon settlers clashed over the same land.

“Native Americans and Sacred Water” highlights the importance of water in Native American culture and art.

A new map of the Sanpitch OHV Trail, which covers the Log Canyon and Maple Canyon loop, has recently been produced by the Sanpete County Travel Office. The map highlights the burial spot of Chief Sanpitch along with historical points.

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area maintains a strong commitment to emphasizing the Native American history of our area. Through its management plan, which recognizes and seeks to educate the public about the contributions of the tribes who inhabited the area, its Native American ombudsman and other efforts, the MPNHA sponsors and supports programs that highlight this important aspect of the heritage area’s history.

Discovery Road is aired regularly on the Utah Education Network (Channel 9) and on several local cable channels. “The Lost Tomahawk” is scheduled to air in July.