Chief Pocatello came to be known in the 1860s among Mormon leaders, Indian agents, and army officers headquartered in the Salt Lake area for his exploits as the head of a so-called outlaw band of Indians. Although the Shoshones under Pocatello's lead did terrorize settlers and immigrant trains,
such acts were largely retaliatory in nature and done in hope of
securing equal and humane treatment. The encroaching whites had
destroyed game and grass cover and had killed Pocatello's tribesmen in
Born around 1815 in the Grouse Creek region of present northwestern Utah, Pocatello was headman of his band
of Shoshones by the time the Mormons arrived. As settlers began
converting Indian ancestral lands into farms and the California gold
rush led to increased traffic westward, Indians increasingly responded
with raiding attacks. Pocatello's band was blamed for the rise in
violence along the California Trail, Salt Lake Road, and Oregon Trail. Brigham Young tried to appease Pocatello's group with food and supplies, but the Indians grew ever more uneasy with the arrival of Johnston's Army in Utah Territory in 1858. Pocatello's band did raid and kill at times
along immigrant trails, but in the chief's mind the violence was
provoked. In response, in January 1863 Colonel Patrick Edward Connor and soldiers from Fort Douglas set out to "chastise" the Shoshones. Pocatello and part of his people
learned of the approaching troops and fled a day before Connor arrived.
They thus escaped the infamous Bear River Massacre during which Connor's men killed hundreds of Indians. Soldiers
continued to pursue Pocatello, and the chief soon sued for peace.