The Bear River Massacre, an Editor’s Perspective

This week, BCC Press launched Darren Parry’s The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History. It is a deeply personal book, a wholly unique book, and we’re proud to publish it. It is a history book, but it is a personal history, the story told of one’s own family through several generations and in the storytelling tradition of that family and people. Darren is not describing with anthropological detachment; he is telling us the story of his people and how they have survived — and thrived.

As the editor of the book, I’d like to talk a little bit about the experience of bringing this book to print. I was excited about the book from the moment I first discussed it with Darren, who is a naturally enthusiastic man and gifted storyteller. I wanted to make sure that his storytelling came through in the book, that his personality would come through as he described the fundamental moments in the modern history of the Northwestern Shoshone. Luckily, Darren writes exactly as he speaks – as if you are sitting with him around a campfire as he unfolds his story to you. This makes things both easy and difficult from an editor’s point of view: how do you make sure you don’t disrupt that central voice as you’re doing the editing?

I viewed editing Darren’s work as a sacred task. The writings of his grandmother, Mae Timbimboo Parry, the letters written by displaced and mistreated Shoshone at Washakie, the lessons of generations before white settlers came west – these are vital artifacts. Darren says that his ancestors speak to him and to us from the dust, and we must listen to them. So the process here was one of respect for intergenerational wisdom, and treating the topic with care. I feel grateful to have been a part of it. That doesn’t mean the book was without some difficult editorial choices, or that Darren’s manuscript needed no effort, but it means that the work felt like a blessing. I hope that the book does well and furthers the work to build an interpretive center at the Bear River site, and to further strengthen the efforts of the Shoshone.

I asked Darren if there was anything he wanted to add: “The only thing I want to add, I have felt the influence of my ancestors throughout this whole process. And I also feel that this is such a bigger thing than me. All I’ve tried to do was listen to the promptings. I’m amazed at how the doors and opened, and just for so many other opportunities.”

We hope you love this book.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Steve, to you, BCC, and especially Darren Parry for making his and his people’s story available.

  2. Lovely. Darren is a marvel.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I recently read his excellent article on this subject in BYU Studies. This sounds like a fantastic book project.

  4. I can’t wait to read this.

  5. Gary Anderson says:

    I just finished reading Darren’s book. It is deeply moving and conveys a message that is sadly needed in today’s world. It tells a tragic story that is little known but should be read by everyone– especially members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the Northwest Shoshone and the Catawba are the two tribes who embraced the Church in large numbers. Let me reiterate–this should be required reading for anyone concerned about humanity.

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