Mae Timbimboo was born in Washakie, Utah in 1919. Washakie was a community of the Shoshone tribe, made up of descendants of the people who survived the Bear River Massacre in 1863. Mae attended boarding school at Washakie Day School. Boarding school was common for Indigenous Americans at the time and was designed to force Indigenous American children to assimilate to Euro-American culture. Any mention of her culture, or even speaking her native language, was a reason for punishment.
Mae left the boarding school system and finished high school at Bear River High School. While she was there she shared the story of her tribe in any presentation she could. She also started a serious undertaking while in high school: writing down the oral histories of her tribe. She recorded the stories she had heard from her tribal elders, as well as the story of the Bear River Massacre which she had heard from her grandfather who was twelve years old at the time of the event.
Mae attended LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, earning an English degree, and then married Grant Parry in 1939. They settled in Clearfield, Utah.
Due to her work in recording her tribe’s oral histories, Mae became the Shoshone Tribal Historian. One fight that she was passionate about was changing the name of the Battle of Bear River to better represent the event.
Leading up to the massacre, settlers had moved into Cache Valley, where the Shoshone hunted and gathered food. The number of settlers made food scarce for the Shoshone tribe, as their way of life was interrupted. Several skirmishes took place between the Shoshone tribe and the settlers. In 1863 Colonel Connor led his troops to the Shohone settlement in southern Idaho next to the Bear River. They attacked and killed a large number of Shoshone. The exact number of Shoshone casualties is unknown, but is thought to be about 250. Connor’s men left with only 14 dead, with 7 dying later of their wounds.
The term ‘battle’ implies a fair fight. In reality, the fight was not fair at all. The Shoshone had few guns, and the ones they had were antiques and not very accurate. Plus, they ran out of ammunition two hours into the altercation. Connor’s men were fully equipped as part of a militia. Mae’s retelling of these stories and fight to rename the event to the “Bear River Massacre” shows how this historical event was skewed towards the perspective of the white settlers, not the Native Americans.
Mae went on to serve in both the federal and state government. She served on the White House Council for Indian Affairs as well as Utah’s Indian Cooperative Council.
While serving in the state government, Mae helped Utah create the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which returned stolen artifacts to Indigenous American tribes. Mae was named Utah’s Honorary Mother of the Year in 1986, which she considered a great distinction. She was also awarded with the Utah Women’s Achievement Award by the Governor’s Commission for Women and Families and the Office of Ethnic Affairs.
Mae helped preserve her tribe’s culture by legally protecting artifacts that had been stolen from them and recording their history. She passed away in 2007. Just recently her grandson, Darren Parry, has continued her legacy by running for Congress.
“Artist: Mae Timbimboo Parry.” State of Utah Art Collections. Utah Division of Arts and Museums. Accessed November 27, 2020. http://utahdcc.force.com/public/PtlArtifacts?field=artApp__Artist__c&value=a0j70000000BlfcAAC&heading=Mae%20Timbimboo%20Parry
“Mae Timbimboo Parry.” Deseret News. March 22, 2007. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/deseretnews/obituary.aspx?n=mae-timbimboo-parry&pid=86887362
Parry, Darren. “Mae Timbimboo Parry, Historian and Matriarch of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone.” Better Days 2020. Accessed November 27, 2020. https://www.utahwomenshistory.org/bios/mae-timbimboo-parry/