Mormons and Indians in the Great Plains

I have some good news, and some bad news.  First the good news–I got a new job!  Now the bad news–my new job will interfere with my frequent blogging, so there will definitely be a decrease in activity.

My book club has been reading a book called Establishing Zion by Eugene Campbell.  I couldn’t find it in the library, but Signature Books has posted the entire book online and you can read it right here!   Briefly, Campbell is a former history professor from BYU.  I learned tons from it, though I did find the first 5 chapters a little slow.  However, chapters 6-7 were very interesting, and I want to talk about them.

I felt like the chapters were actually out of order.  It seems that chapter 6 dealt with the more sensational wars between the Indians and the Mormons, while chapter 7 talked about how the Mormons first tried to befriend and convert the Indians here in Utah.  I found it most interesting to learn that the Ute Indian Tribe comes from Utah County–home of BYU.  Yet it’s the arch-rivals from Utah who took the nickname Utes!  That seems a little backwards to me.

Anyway, I found it interesting to learn how the Mormons first dealt with the Indians.  From page 113,

At the close of the October 1853 conference, Apostle Orson Hyde, who had been assigned to organize an Indian mission, read the names of thirty-nine young men selected to participate in the newest colonizing expedition. Church leaders must have viewed this particular call with some urgency because the missionaries were instructed to leave in less than two weeks. Perhaps they realized the danger of sending men into the high mountains around Fort Bridger with winter coming and wanted them to be established before the cold set in. Despite the urgency and the difficult prospects, the men accepted the call and, according to Hyde, left in high spirits. James Brown, [p.114] chosen to be one of the leaders, recorded the purpose of the mission:

[To] build an outpost from which to operate as peacemakers among the Indians, to teach civilization to them, to try to teach them to cultivate the soil, to instruct them in the arts and sciences if possible, and by that means prevent trouble for the frontier settlements and the immigrant companies. We were to identify our interest with theirs and even to marrying among them if we would be permitted to take the young women of the chiefs and leading men and have them dress like civilized people and educated. it was thought that by forming that kind of alliance we would have more power to do them good and to keep peace among the adjacent tribes and also with our own people.Brown also indicated that they were expected to thwart the mountain men, who were believed to be inciting the Indians to attack the Mormons and the government.

Three important points should be noted in Brown’s report. First, no definite place was designated for the colony, only that it be somewhere near the Green River and the Indian tribes. Second, the main purpose of the mission was to establish good relations with the Indians, not necessarily to convert them to Mormonism. They were to work with the Indians, to civilize and educate them, to make farmers out of them, and also to gain their confidence. The third purpose was to upset the schemes of the mountain men. Since plural marriage had recently been publicly announced as a practice of the church, the missionaries were advised to take Indian wives, if possible.

I find it interesting that marrying Indian woman was a big part of this, and I found the Indian response quite amusing.  Some of the missionaries went to what is now Fort Bridger, Wyoming.  From page 116:

Chief Washakie received the elders cordially. During the council meeting the tribal leaders listened to the Mormons’ message and to a letter from Apostle Hyde. In it he said, “Our young men are learning to speak your language. They want to be united with your people and a number of our men want to marry wives from your people and live with them and live in your country.” The [p.117] chief did not rebut the message but objected to the marrying of Indian women:

We have not got daughters enough for our own men, and we cannot afford to give our daughters to the White men, but we’re willing to give him an Indian girl for a White girl. I cannot see why a white man wants an Indian girl. They are dirty, ugly, stubborn and cross. And it is a strange idea for white men to want such wives. The white men may look around though and if any of you can find a girl that would go with him it would be all right, but an Indian must have the same privilege among the white men.

With this the council ended.

It is apparent that the Mormons were not interested in sending white women to live with the Indians.  But some of the southern Utah missions were more successful.  From page 118,

[p.118] The missionaries in southern Utah were more successful. This group had been called at the October conference, and a party of twenty-three bad been chosen to labor there. Apostles Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde organized the men into a company at Salt Lake City and appointed Rufus C. Allen, age twenty-six, to be president, with David Lewis as first counselor and Samuel F. Atwood as second counselor.

On 5 June 1854, Allen, Hamblin, and others started south to visit the various native groups. Their first day out, they met a small, friendly band of Indians and had an interview with Chief Toquer. The next evening they reached the Rio Virgin and came upon another camp of Indians. The women and children hid themselves in the brush. No doubt they feared being taken as slaves.

The following night, the missionaries camped on the Santa Clara River and found a large group of Indians. There were about 250 Indian men but very few children, since most had been taken captive. The Indians had heard about the missionaries and treated them cordially. The Mormons found that the Santa Clara natives were farming in a primitive way but did have patches of wheat, corn, squash, and melons near their village. Allen informed them that they had been sent there by the “big captain,” Brigham Young, and that they would teach them how to farm in a better way. They explained their gospel message, and eleven of the Indians were baptized. A short time later, the missionaries returned and succeeded in baptizing fifty more Indians. They spent the remainder of the summer of 1854 visiting the various native groups in the region.

In December, they found some other success near St George, Utah, though the Indians expressed some reservations about losing their culture.

Arriving at Santa Clara in early December, the missionaries chose a site about five miles northwest of its confluence with the Rio Virgin. It was a narrow valley, necessitating the division of the land into small tracts, but the colonists became very productive farmers. They erected a log cabin on the upper end of the present site of Santa Clara, constructed a dam across the creek, built canals, and made preparations for irrigation. Chief Tut-se-gab-its and his tribe, numbering about 800, aided the Mormons. By spring, the dam, about 100 feet long and 14 feet high, was completed and about one hundred acres of land was prepared for planting. The Mormons and the Indians cultivated the land jointly and shared the produce equally. Hamblin reported that “we’ve raised melons and had the privilege of disposing of them ourselves. I don’t think the Indians ever took any without leave.” The settlers enjoyed good relations with the Indians, although some of the older natives complained about changing their customs. “We must be Piutes,” they said. “We want you to be kind to us. It may be that our children will be good, but we want to follow our old customs.”


The success of the southern Indian mission at Santa Clara encouraged Mormon leaders, who were determined to expand the Indian missionary program the following year. At April conference in 1855, a number of missionaries were called to the different Indian missions. The initial report was: Shoshone Mission, 17; Elk Mountain, 34; White Mountain, 22; Carson Valley Mission, 9; Northern or Flathead Mission, 27; and Las Vegas Mission, 30. The same report mentioned only eight missionaries called to the English mission which gives some idea of the emphasis placed on work among the Indians that year. Apparently additional numbers were added, since the Elk Mountain Mission later reported that forty men were called.

However, the Indians still had a propensity to steal.  In such a rough wilderness area, the Mormons did not tolerate this.  From page 121,

Despite their success in baptizing many of the natives, the missionaries were unable to convince them not to steal. By 20 September, Billings reported that the Indians had taken “all of the beets, part of the turnips, part of the potatoes, all of the squash, and all of the melons. The corn had been cut and hauled into the fort in effort to save it.” Three days later some Indians attacked the fort, killing three missionaries, wounding Billings, and setting fire to the missionaries’ winter supply of hay and corn. At this point the decision was made to abandon the mission. Mormon leaders made no subsequent attempt to revive this mission.

The pattern established at Elk Mountain was repeated in other Indian missions. The missionaries had to support themselves by farming and chose the most fertile Indian land. Knowing they were isolated and believing they were dealing with savages, they built forts to protect themselves and fences to protect their property. In so doing they became unwanted outsiders in valued lands and traditional gathering places. Initially, the Indians seemed friendly, and some would be baptized. But they were not willing to accept the Mormon message. Certain tribe members became dissatisfied. When they attempted to steal produce and other supplies, the missionaries retaliated, sometimes resulting in death.

While not mentioned here, I want to point out that Chapter 6, footnote 3 had an interesting peice of information regarding stealing:

3. Young also pointed to an unfortunate double standard. Some Saints, who knew better, would also sometimes steal. Mormons might forgive this, yet fellowship a man who would kill an Indian for stealing.

Relations with the Indians deteriorated, as the Mormons and Indians started to vie for control of fertile lands.  Just as was done in other areas, the Indians were forced out, with the blessing of the Federal government, though the Feds were suspicious of Mormons, and didn’t help them as much as in other areas of the United States.  From page 132,

While these attempts were being made to help the Indians in southern Utah, several bands in northwestern Utah and southern Idaho were almost ignored or neglected.7 One group, under Chief Pocatello, wintered near Kelton on the northwestern point of the Great Salt Lake, and four other bands lived along the Bear River. A seventh group occupied areas in Cache Valley near the juncture of the Logan and Little Bear rivers. These Indians did not represent a threat to Mormon colonization during the early years, since the Mormon program was directed more to the south. But as the Mormons began to fill in the valleys north of Ogden, the Northwestern Shoshone became more hostile. Late in 1854, one band under Chief Little Soldier established a winter camp near Ogden and began stealing cattle and cutting fences for fire wood, asserting that “the grass that cows eat and the wood from which the fences are built belongs to the Indians.” Young tried to keep these northwestern Shoshone on friendly terms, meeting with seven of their chiefs in September 1854 to distribute presents to them. And while Mormon settlers occasionally asked the Indians to join them for 24 July celebrations, they still found it difficult to “feed rather than fight them.”

Another development was important in conjunction with Mormon/Indian relations prior to 1857-58. Young founded the Brigham Young Express Company in 1856 to establish colonies twenty to fifty miles apart where colonists could raise grain and provide supplies for immigrants coming to Salt Lake Valley. Part of the program was also to work with the Indians near these settlements. As a result, the Indian agent in the Platte River area protested to the federal government that the Mormon colonies jeopardized his control of the Indians. This accusation added to the suspicions already circulating in Washington, D.C., that the Mormons constituted a threat to the nation, especially in their effort to proselyte the Indians and to convince them that Americans were their enemies, Mormons their friends.

[p.133] This was one of the factors leading to the Utah War which also proved disastrous for the Indians. In the south they became involved in the Mountain Meadow Massacre (where John D. Lee was an Indian farmer) and other depredations, encouraged, in a sense, by the Mormon need for help in resisting the approaching army. In the north, they took advantage of the army’s approach to “get even” with the Mormons who had encroached on their lands.8

Demands that the Mormons feed large groups of Indians became so onerous that the Saints began to demand government aid and supported the idea of government reservations. The tragic Bear River battle, subsequent Mormon attempts at missionary work and farming programs, and the reservation solution are discussed in chapter 17.

The book does discuss the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but I haven’t read that chapter yet, so I’d like to reserve comments on that to a later date.  I’d like to keep focusing on the relationship between the Indians and the Mormons for now.  At this point, I want to go back to chapter 6, which discusses more sensational violence between Mormons and Indians.

When the Mormons moved into the Great Basin, they not only occupied Mexican land but invaded Indian territory. Because they believed in the Book of Mormon, which claimed to be a history of the ancestors of the American Indians, they had sympathy for the Indians.1 Previous experience with various tribes in the midwest had taught the Mormons to avoid contact whenever possible, but the Mormons were confident that one day they would convert the Indians and live peacefully with them.

Initial contacts with the Indians were friendly, but as Mormon colonies extended into neighboring valleys,2 the natives began to [p.94] resist the intrusion. Their resistance threatened the existence of the Mormons who were, in their words, “a thousand miles from nowhere.” On the frontier the Mormons acted much like other Americans in the east and in the south: they occupied Indian land, killed resisters, and called upon the federal government to remove the Indians to another part of the region.

I found Brigham Young’s interaction with Chief Walker especially interesting.  While they were cordial and friendly at first, it appears that Chief Walker tried to involve the Mormons in some of the Indian politics and fighting.  Brigham wanted no part of this.

In April 1849, before the extermination in Utah Valley, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, and interpreter Dimick B. Huntington met with Chief Walker and twelve of his tribe. According to Young’s manuscript history, Walker first asked for some tobacco, which was given to him. Then Huntington said, “Walker wants us to go down to his land and make a settlement. He wants to know how many moons before we will go [to his villages] and build at his place. He will do what we want him to do.”

After passing the pipe of peace around, Walker said, “I am friendly with the Snakes, they are at peace, I can go among them. A few of the Snakes and Timpani Utes will not hear. I never killed a white man. I was always friendly with the Mormons. I hear what they say and remember it. It is good to live like the Mormons and their children. I do not care about the land but I want the Mormons to go and settle it.” Young replied, “We want some of your men to [p.102] come and pilot some of our men through to your place in the fall. We will school your children here if they are willing to go to school and in six moons we will send a company to your place. We have understanding with the Goshute and the Wanship about this place. It is not good to fight with the Indians. Tell your Indians not to steal. We want to be friendly with you. We are poor now, but in a few years we shall be rich. We shall trade cattle with you.” Walker answered, “That’s good.” Young continued, “We will build a house for you and teach you and your tribe to build houses for yourselves. You can pay us your own pay.” Walker responded, “My land is good, no stones, high timber.”

The two leaders suggested how they might help each other. Then Walker said that the Timpanogus, or Timpini, Utes killed his father four years ago, that he had recently retreated from Utah Valley, and that he would be friendly to the Mormons and would welcome them to live near his villages. Young agreed to give the Indians some ammunition and hats, then asked, “Are you ready to go in peace? A good peace go with you. We want a good peace that our children can play together.” Walker replied, “Good.” The counsel finally concluded, and Young later remarked, “I gave the Indians half an oxen and the people commenced trading with them.”

Young carried out his promise (see chap. 4). However, Walker was a difficult man to control. Despite the fact that he was baptized a Mormon on 24 March 1850, Walker was on the warpath less than a year and a half after meeting with Young. That summer a band of Shoshones raided a Ute camp and stole several horses. Walker planned a retaliatory raid and asked for support from a Mormon militia. His request was denied, and Walker rode off with his warriors to do bloody battle with the Shoshone raiders. Upon his return, Walker and his band made a gruesome demonstration in front of the fort at Manti. They then decided to move north and attack the Provo settlement. However, rebuffed by another chief, Walker called off the attack and withdrew.

Later, in mid-September 1850, another Indian was killed by a Mormon for stealing. This time it was in the Shoshone country near Ogden. Retaliation was immediate and vicious. A Shoshone chief, Terikee, was caught stealing corn and was shot by a Mormon farmer, Urban Van Stewart. The Indians retaliated by burning Stewart’s house and grain. They then murdered a nearby millwright and threatened to massacre all of the settlers and burn the property unless Stewart was turned over to them for punishment by nine o’clock the next [p.103] morning. A large militia force immediately rode to the scene. The Indians were outmatched and fled, and the incident was terminated without further bloodshed.

Apparently, these activities reconfirmed to Brigham Young that there was no way the Saints could live in peace with the Indians. On 20 November 1850, he wrote a letter to the church’s representative in Washington, D.C., John M. Bernhisel, requesting that he attempt to have the Indians removed from the region by the federal government. Young explained,

It is our wish that the Indian title should be extinguished, and the Indians removed from our territory Utah and that for the best of reasons, because they are doing no good here to themselves or any body else. The buffalo had entirely vacated this portion of the country before our arrival; the elk, deer, antelope and bear, and all eatable game are very scarce, and there is little left here … Naked Indians and wolves … are annoying and destructive to property and peace, by night and by day, and while we are trying to shoot, trap and poison the wolves on one hand, the Indians come in and drive off, butcher our cattle, and steal our corn on the other, which leaves us little time between the wolves and the Indians to fence and cultivate our farms; and if the government will buy out and transplant the Indians, we will endeavor to subdue the wolves, which have destroyed our cattle, horses, sheep and poultry by the hundreds and thousands.

After noting some of the Indian atrocities, Young wrote:

Do we wish the Indians any evil? No we would do them good, for they are human beings, though most awfully degraded. We would have taught them to plow & sow, and reap and thresh, but they prefer idleness and theft. Is it desirable that the barren soil of the mountain valleys should be converted into fruitful fields? Let the Indians be removed. Is it desirable that the way should be opened for a rapid increase of population into our new State or Territory, also to California and Oregon? Let the Indians be removed, we can then devote more time to agriculture and raise more grain to feed the starving millions desirous of coming hither.

For the prosperity of civilization, for the safety of our small route, for the good of the Indians, let them be removed.

Slavery was such an interesting topic.  I previously blogged about slavery in my Priesthood Ban post, noting that Brigham Young made slavery legal in the Utah Territory–the only state to approve slavery West of Missouri (besides Texas.)  While I was pretty hard on Brigham, I was not aware of the slavery problem with the Indians.  I do feel like Brigham tried to make the best of a rotten situation with regards to Indian slavery.  I think this is a very important piece of information to consider when viewing Brigham Young and his legalization of slavery.

Another problem was Indian slavery. As already indicated, a slave trade was conducted over the Old Spanish Trail that came through much of Utah since the early 1800s. Walker and his band raided weaker tribes, taking their children and sometimes their wives as prisoners and selling them to Mexicans. As early as November 1851, the Deseret News called attention to a party of twenty Mexicans in the San Pete Valley, trading for Indian children. In his book, Forty Years Among the Indians, Daniel Jones wrote that when this party of traders arrived in Utah Valley, Brigham Young was notified and came to Provo. According to Jones, who acted as interpreter,

Mr. Young had the law read and explained to them showing them that from this day on they were under obligation to observe the laws of the United States instead of Mexico. That the treaty of Guadaloupe-Hidalgo had changed the conditions and that from this day on they were under the control of the United States. He further showed that it was a cruel practice to enslave human beings and explained that the results of such business caused war and bloodshed among the Indian tribes. The Mexicans listened with respect and admitted that the traffic would have to cease. It was plainly shown to them that it was a cruel business which could not be tolerated any longer and as it had been an old established practice they were not so much to blame for following the traffic heretofore. Now it was expected that this business would be discontinued. All seemed satisfied and pledged their word they would return home without trading for children. Most of them kept their promise, but one small party under Pedro Leon violated their obligation and were arrested and [p.107] brought before the United States court, with Judge [Zerubabbel] Snow presiding.

The Mexicans were found guilty and fined. The fines were afterwards remitted, and the men were allowed to return to their homes.

Stopping the slave trade embittered some Indians. Some of them attempted to sell their children to the Mormons. Jones related one graphic incident. Arrapine, Walker’s brother, insisted that because the Mormons had stopped the Mexicans from buying these children, the Mormons were obligated to purchase them. Jones wrote, “Several of us were present when he took one of the children by the heels and dashed his brains out on the hard ground, after which he threw the body toward us telling us we had no hearts or we would have saved its life.”

Incidents such as this led the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah on 7 March 1852 to pass an act legalizing Indian slavery. The purpose was to induce Mormons to buy Indian children who otherwise would have been abandoned or killed.9 It provided that Indian children under the proper conditions could be legally bound over to suitable guardians for a term of indenture not exceeding twenty years. The master was required to send Indian children between the ages of seven and sixteen years to school for a period of three months each year and was answerable to the probate judge for the treatment of these apprentices. As a result of this act, many Mormon families took small Indian children into their homes to protect them from slavery or from being left destitute. John D. Lee, for example, wrote in his journal about a group of Indians who “brought me two more girls for which I gave them two horses. I named the girls Annette and Elnora.”

Negro slavery was also permitted in the territory, but the pioneers had passed no similar rules about the treatment of blacks, certainly [p.108] not the requirement that they be schooled. However, blacks were not permitted to be sold to others without their own consent.

Footnote 9 was also very interesting regarding Indian slavery.

9. The Mormons had first confronted the problem of buying Indian children soon after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Children were brought into the pioneers’ fort as early as the winter of 1847-48, and Indians said that they were war captives and would be killed if not purchased. The Mormons bought one of the children. Two more children were brought to the fort under the same threat, and the Mormons bought both of them. Charles Decker bought one of these two, Sally Kanosh, who was later given to Brigham Young and raised in his family. Speaking with church members in the Iron County Mission, Young advised them to buy children and teach them to live a good life. According to the Journal History for 12 May 1851, Young said, “The Lord could not have devised a better plan than to have put the saints where they were to help bring about the redemption of the Lamanites and also make them a white and delightsome people.”

Returning back to Chief Walker, I had not heard of the Walker War before.  It is interesting to learn the details, and how the Federal Government reacted.

Young had continued to work with Walker and the other Ute chiefs and had baptized a number of them. In fact, in June 1851, Young’s scribes recorded that Indian chiefs Walker, Sowette, Arrapine, and Unhwitch were ordained Elders.

Nevertheless, Young was aware that the priesthood was not having much impact on the Indians and knew that Walker and others were upset that Mormons were moving into the valleys along the Wasatch Mountains and were stopping the slave trade. Hearing of these attitudes Young dictated to his scribes on 18 May 1853, “I shall live a long while before I can believe that an Indian is my friend [p.110] when it would be to his advantage to be my enemy.” Young was referring to Walker who in July 1853 led an outbreak known as the Walker War. A trivial altercation in Springville ended in the death of an Indian, and Walker led his band on the warpath, killing twelve white men during the nine-month feud. The number of Indians killed equaled the number of whites slain.

Walker’s action caused fear among the Mormon colonists and an estimated $2 million in losses. The territory accumulated a $70,000 deficit, personal losses accounting for the rest. None of the personal losses were compensated, but the U.S. congress appropriated $53,512 for territorial losses. By the end of October 1853, the “war” was over except for a few minor incidents in the southern part of the territory. Formal peace was signed the following May at Chicken Creek (south of present-day Nephi) between Young and Walker, who died less than a year later and was buried at Meadow Creek.

During the Walker War, another incident occurred in the territory which complicated matters for the Indians, the federal government and the Mormons. On 26 October 1853, U.S. Army captain John W. Gunnison and seven men under his employ were killed near the Sevier River while surveying a railroad route. Army colonel Edward Steptoe was sent to investigate the murders and reported that a member, or members, of an immigrant train en route to California had killed the father of a prominent chief and wounded two other Indians. The Indians retaliated by taking revenge on the first whites they encountered, the innocent Gunnison party. This atrocity was committed by the Piutes of Chief Kanosh’s tribe. Kanosh, one of the most friendly of Indians, had been baptized into the Mormon church and ordained an Elder.

Eventually, Kanosh was told to turn over the killers. He agreed but only turned over old and decrepit members of the tribe, hardly the attackers. An unusual trial was held in which a good deal of antagonism surfaced between the Mormons and Colonel Steptoe and his army officials. Three Indians were convicted and sentenced to prison. Steptoe, disgusted with the experience, later turned down the invitation to be governor of the territory, leading his troops instead to Oregon.

While many people discuss church history dealing with Joseph Smith, I found these 2 chapters particularly interesting.  I feel like the Mormons made a valiant effort to try to work with the Indians–in fact I would venture to say they tried harder to have good relations than other groups of Americans or European explorers.  Yet there was such a cultural difference, that it just didn’t seem to work out very well.  I have very mixed feelings about these chapters.  What are your thoughts, especially regarding Indian slavery, and the Mormon offer to marry Indian women?  What do you think of Brigham Young’s dealings with the Indians?

25 comments on “Mormons and Indians in the Great Plains

  1. Great news on the job front. In addition, mayby I won’t feel so guilty not being able to keep up with your production in the blogosphere.

  2. Great Post. I too am going to be taking some blog time off for the sake of day job work

    I think when it comes to the differing aspects on how we view Brigham and the slavery issue, we have to look at how they were living back then and understand it beyond the prejudices/enlightenment of today.

    Considering how greatly the indian culture was affected within a generation, in some ways it went much smoother than it could have.

  3. Today, there is probably more legislation protecting the rights of the Spotted Owl than protecting the rights of Indians in the Utah territory.
    When Chief Walker was attacked by his enemy, the Shoshone, and asked for a joint retaliatory response from the Mormon militia and was denied, did he feel betrayed by the white man? Would it had made any real difference if the militia helped him?

    At least the Indians knew how to “wheel & deal”. When they had a shortage of women, it only made sense to trade – one for one, no matter what other advantages that might be gained. When the Indian slave trade was stopped between the Mexicans and Indians by the Mormons, it only made sense to the Indians that the Mormons were now responsible to buy their slaves.

    All of this is just an example of an advanced civilization living with a less advanced civilization. Even if the white man used modern psycholoy, sociology, and all the other ologies, the result would probably be the same, but less brutal.
    The result would still be – an assimulation into the more advanced civilization.
    However, just to be culturally sensitive, The Indians may have been permitted to continue their slave trade with the Mexicans.

  4. MH, Sorry this is so abrupt and OT, but I have an interesting topic I would like to see you discuss. I would put it on my blog, but I am no longer a member of the church and don’t have an audience. The Aug Ensign has a more accurate depiction of the Smith farm when Moroni visited him on the cover.

    Notice how it contrasts with the depiction we are more familiar with. It begs the question if the church is going to push and assert the idea that it was in fact a visitation and not just a vision. I think that showing a picture with his siblings sleeping in the same room shows that they are wanting to assert the visitation theory. What do you think?

  5. Good job on…getting the job! Thats great news.

  6. Thanks everyone for the sentiments on the new job. It’s nice to be working again. Having been working part-time while going through grad school, it’s a little strange to work 8 hours a day now. I’m really looking forward to a real paycheck again, without paying for books and tuition.

    I have to say that in my studies of slavery in Utah, I had never considered the Indian slavery problem. It certainly adds a level of complexity to the issue. I think buying Indians to save their life, and eventually setting them free was absolutely the moral thing to do. I just wonder why black slaves were treated differently–it doesn’t really seem fair to me.

    I also got a real chuckle out of the Indians response about Mormons marrying Indian women, especially the chief’s statement that Indian women were ugly and undesirable.

    Brother Zelph, welcome back. Tatabug (aka Tara) and Bishop Rick have been visiting me lately as well. I’m sorry to hear you’re no longer a member, but I hope you’re happy with your decision. I have a link at the top of this page “Future Posts” where readers can suggest future topics, and you’re welcome to repost the message there so I don’t forget it.

    I couldn’t find the painting in the online version of the magazine. The one I saw had a photo of a father and daughter praying. It is an interesting painting. If it’s just a random painting in the photo with no explanation, I don’t know that the church is trying to really make a statement one way or the other. I know artists often take liberties. For example, there are many medieval paintings showing Jesus being sprinkled instead of immersed for his baptism; other paintings show a halo. Obviously artists are more interested in artistic license than historical fact. Without knowing the explanation of the painting, I think it’s hard to draw too many conclusions.

  7. Brother Zelph, Since you’re a Book of Abraham aficionado, I thought you might enjoy my post on Abraham and Judas. Perhaps you could comment there?

  8. Morgan, thanks for stopping by. Have you ever blogged about the Mormon/Indian wars, or is that too off topic for your blog?

  9. I am aware that there are evangelical efforts to buy slaves in Africa in order to free them today. Although I haven’t followed the issue, I think that there is some economic debate among the evangelicals about whether the practice actually stimulates more slave taking by driving up the market price.

  10. Interesting dilemmas. So FireTag, what would you have done if you had seen an Indian kill an Indian slave before your eyes. I think there is a parallel that the Mormons paid for Indian Slaves could be like Christ paying for our sins.

    In such a situation with the Indians, or even modern day Africa, what is a practical way of eliminating the slave trade? I mean Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t happen for another 10 years in BY’s case, and I don’t think Africa has an Abraham Lincoln figure today to stop the slave trade. But certainly I can understand that buying slaves would increase demand and drive up the price, creating a vicious cycle.

  11. I don’t know any better option in the 1850’s. Maybe fire from Heaven? Some problems don’t even become apparent until it’s already too late.

    I know of no situation in the last two centuries to successfully end slavery until somebody had both the will and the means to unleash military force (or at least violent police enforcement) against the slavers. It was the same for piracy. I suspect it will be the same for human sex trafficing.

    The question is whether anyone today has the will or power to handle more than a fraction of the world’s “police work”. It’s even more questionable whether we can get ahead of the need for righteousness to prevent or reduce similar disasters in the future.

    Andrew has an interesting blog up on Irressiatable Disgrace about the “pride cycle”. I think that is still going on in all cultures today — a race to grow spiritually faster than the challenges to civilization grow. It never stops.

  12. the purpose of the mission:

    [To] build an outpost from which to operate as peacemakers among the Indians, to teach civilization to them, to try to teach them to cultivate the soil, to instruct them in the arts and sciences if possible, and by that means prevent trouble for the frontier settlements and the immigrant companies.

    An interesting ethnocentric vision to start the mission. Then again, isn’t all missionary work with the premise “I will teach you what you need to know to be better”? I’m surprised they thought they needed to teach the Indians to cultivate the soil.

    “We were to identify our interest with theirs and even to marrying among them if we would be permitted to take the young women of the chiefs and leading men and have them dress like civilized people and educated. ”

    No wonder the men “left in high spirits” – not a bad recruiting platform. Wouldn’t that be strange to have that part of current day missionary programs? Go to the MTC, get instructions on teaching, and be told to go to Peru and find a wife so people will accept you more and listen to your story.

    What do you think BY meant by his statment: “Do we wish the Indians any evil? No we would do them good, for they are human beings, though most awfully degraded. “? Was it taught that they were “cursed” of God or not faithful in the pre-existence?

    It almost sounds like the Indian slavery was like a social services adoption agency…though I’m not hinting at approving the practice in any way. Just an interesting background.

    Thanks for this MH.

  13. Heber, perhaps I didn’t fully show how the Indians were living. Very few produced crops, and those that did had bad farming techniques and low yields. The early saints recognized this, and wanted to help. The more I’ve studied the Indians, I’ve learned that they were pretty much stone age technologically.

    As a result of their poor technology, they turned to stealing–not from just the Mormons, but also from other Indians. Brigham was trying to lift up the knowledge of the Indians and help them be more productive. So while Brigham’s comments do sound ethnocentric, I think the technological gaps were readily apparent to Brigham and the early saints. I think a modern day example would be Bill Gates going to the ghetto to try to teach the poor about computers. Bill might comment on how “dumb” these poor people would be, no matter if it was a white ghetto on Serbia, or a black ghetto in Nigeria.

    “Do we wish the Indians any evil? No we would do them good, for they are human beings, though most awfully degraded. “ When I read that in the context of the book above, Brigham was fed up with the stealing of the Indians–yet he still didn’t wish them evil. The Mormon understanding of the Indians was that they were descendants of the Lamanites. The Book of Mormon states that the Lamanites would be scattered by the Gentiles, so in a sense they were cursed. However, the Lamanites would be nursed by the Gentiles to become a great nation, so I’m sure Brigham was also trying to fulfill that prophecy–once again he wished them no evil. However, I think the Indian “problem” was vexing, and he wanted federal help to stop the attacks of the Indians.

    I agree that Indian slavery was a sort of social services adoption agency.

  14. Having researched the Black Hawk War over the past 8 years, I have yet to find Brigham Young being quoted as saying “it is better to feed them than fight them.” What he said was “it is cheaper to feed them than fight them” as he had spent millions in church funds waring against the Indian peoles.

    Regarding the numerous accounts pointing out the Indians propensity to steal from the settlers, clearly the settlers were in total denial of the fact they were stealing and plundering the land of the American Indian peoples. Of coarse this fact is consistently dismissed or trivialized.

    Remember Christian thought has always been that anyone who does not believe the Bible to be the word of God, and Jesus the Messiah was called a “heretic” “savage” and “Loathsome.”

    And finally when you do a timeline of the bloody encounters between Mormon settlers and Utah’s American Indian peoples between 1847 and 1868, you see Black Hawk’s family murdered by Brigham’s privately funded militia in 1849, be headings of Indian corpses at Fort Utah in 1850, Rockwell’s murder of five Indian prisoners in 1851, eight Indian murders at Nephi in 1853, Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 blaming the Paiutes, the Bear River Massacre of 1863 over 300 murdered, Grass Valley Massacre of 1865, and the Circleville Massacre of 1866; is it any wonder the Indian people were aggressive toward Mormon settlers? And this doesn’t take into account the disease that was spreading epidemically among Native populations.

    When Mormon settlers arrived in 1847 Indian population is estimated between 40 and 70 thousand. By 1909 2300 was all that remained according to government census.

    The victors always re-write history.

    All I am saying is that Mormon settlers were just as guilty of stealing as they accuse the Indians of. We didn’t buy, trade, or were gifted Indian land, we stole it.

  15. Clearly those times were more violent than today. People killed people, not sued them in courts.

    Frontierlands and the “wild west” days were clearly a different world than what I can understand from my Internet-based, air conditioned, refridgerated food, car-driving world I live in.

    I hesitate to make any judgments on Mormons or Indians or Gentiles and their motives. They were in survival mode…I’m in analyzing meaning of life mode…worlds apart!

  16. Phillip, thanks for stopping by. You have a very interesting website, and I’m sure I have much to learn. I did post the footnote that said Mormons were also guilty of stealing, but it probably should have been more prominent than a footnote.

  17. Phillip G.

    Would you agree, that when all is said and done, that the Utah Indians benefited greatly by their contact with the more enlightened Mormon settlers?

  18. MH:

    The discussion of your mirror post of this thread on Mormon Matters is really fascinating. I recommend it to anyone not following it.

    I was particularly interested in the “threadjack” that started talking about the error of assuming that the state of Africans somehow had to do with their behavior in the pre-existence. Terry Givens has a new book coming out in September “When Souls Had Wings” that talks about the concept of pre-existence in world religions, and I assume he’ll dwell heavily on the Mormon concept given his expertise there.

    I’ll have to read it and give it a review.

  19. It sounds like an interesting book. I attended a conference a few months ago here in Utah where Terryl Givens was the keynote speaker. He did talk about his new book coming up, and noted that there have been many theologians who have speculated on a pre-existence. He seemed to imply that it is not simply a Mormon idea, though Mormons seem to get much of the credit for the idea. It sounds like an interesting book, and I really enjoyed his speech.

  20. @sxark
    MH, sorry I only noticed this question a year later. First I thank you your comments on my website.

    The question “would I agree…” I am not Indian nor can I speak for them. It would be a good question to ask them.I certainly can’t agree on or support genocide, do you?

    Let me put this in layman terms. Let’s suppose the Chinese invaded the United States, and they first kick you out of your home, and take your land from you. They then tell you that you can no longer speak English, you must speak Chinese by law. Then you are required to eat Chinese food, ware Chinese clothes and attend Chinese churches. You no longer can worship your own God. Next they take from you your children for six years and place them in Chinese schools, and you are not allowed to visit them. Now after they do all this to you they decide to put you on a reserve of land to keep you away from the Chinese society. The Chinese government then tells you that you can’t farm on the reservation, you can’t sell the land, you can’t barrow against it, and you can’t build any businesses on it or homes without permission from the government. In other words the Chinese set you up to fail.

    Does this answer your question? This is what our government did to the American Indians. And Brigham Young paid his private militia to assist in the removal of the Indians, and in 1866 the United States government reimbursed Brigham 1.5 million dollars to cover costs. (Source Church Archives)

    Now the rub. Not just the Indian people have been duped. Indian history has been ignored and left out of school curricula. The United States government owes the Indian people billions in royalties from mineral and land lease use. For over 20 years the Indian peoples have been in lawsuits trying to get the government to pay them money that is owed to them. And we say, “We have given the Indians every chance to succeed yet they chose to life in poverty, it’s their own damn fault.” We think this way because our government has created the illusion that they are treating the Indians fairly and looking out for their best interests. (Source BIA)

    So we grossly misunderstand what exactly is going on between our government and the Indian peoples. And the media ignores Indian problems and so the general public is never informed of the injustices. (Source Division of Indian Affairs)

    Personally I feel we all should not assume things are well in Indian country, I think we should ask hard questions and expect truthful answers. I think it’s outrageous how fellow human beings in our own country are treated. Good grief it’s been 150 years now, can’t we see the injustices? I can’t name another people in the United States that are treated this way, can you? Who else do we keep on reserves, oh of coarse…we have animal reserves to protect them from us!

    The United States government signed 350 treaties with the Indians and not one has been honored by them.

    Thank you for letting me rant.

    Phil G.

  21. Phil, I haven’t studied the Indian wars, but I am sure you are right about all the treaties the US has failed to observe. I do have a question for you (and hope you don’t wait a year to answer) 😉

    I understand that Indians in western Utah want to make money by storing Nuclear Waste on their reservation. On the one hand, they could earn a lot of money to do such a thing. On the other hand, there is a potential for disease and cancer not only to their people, but to surrounding Utah and Nevada citizens.

    I admit that I don’t want Utah to be the world’s dumping ground for nuclear waste. On the other hand, if the Indians want to make money and don’t care about storing nuclear waste, then I guess they should have that option. But when a leak contaminates the ground water and sickens people off their land, then I think the neighbors should have a say in the matter as a principle of public health. In my mind, public health trumps monetary gain. But once again, I can hear the argument that the US isn’t letting them be sovereign over their own land. So, what say you?

  22. I first read about a fictional account, (believe was Zane Grey), and later read about it in a non fictional book. Heve you ever heard about Mormons dressing as indians and killing men and male children who were on wagon trains heading to California Gold Rush. This was an apparent attempt to gain more wifes due to a shortage. If you have info on this as a fact, please send link or ref to ob1_90013@yahoo.com

  23. Owen, you appear to be conflating events: the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and polygamy. I’ve discussed both, but they are separate.

    Here’s my post on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I need to go into more detail and will in a future post, but this has some of the basic details.

    Here’s my post on polygamy with Indians.

    Both of my posts are based on research by historians.

  24. Hello~ My name is Joe and I’m Ojibwe from Minnesota. I find the whole topic of Mormon/Indian relations interesting, if only because my mom is LDS and my dad is Ojibwe/Metis and Catholic. My only reservation about becoming a member of the Church is that the Church has a very “interesting” (and that’s putting it kindly) idea about Indian people in General. I’d like to be able to believe that the Book of Mormon is true, but there are certain aspects that fly in the face of logic and no amount of Faith is going to help me put these contentions to rest.

    1. If all Indian people are descendants of Lehi and Joseph from the Bible, wouldn’t the languages Indian people speak today reflect some influences from Hebrew/Egyptian etc.

    2. If all Indian people today are descendants of Lehi, wouldn’t they show this ancestry genetically? How does one explain the vast differences in language and genetics?

    That is why I’m having trouble squaring the “truth” of the Book of Mormon with the actual history of the Anishinaabeg (Indian) people. If nothing else, the book represents a valiant effort to “include” Indian people, but it’s one that ignores the fact that the Indigenous people of North and South America have vastly different languages, cultures and genetics. And every time I kindly bring this up to the Missionaries, they scowl at me. Teehee!

  25. Joseph, welcome. You raise some interesting questions that many Mormons are wrestling with. I am not surprised that the missionaries had no response. If you had asked me when I was 19, I would have had no response either.

    But let’s go to your first question about Hebrew influence or Egyptian language. John L Sorenson claims to have discovered a connection between Hebrew and Uto-Aztecan language. You can read more about it in this article. I’m sure Sorenson has a minority view on this topic, but I thought you might find the article interesting.

    Both Egyptians and ancient Indians built pyramids. Some feel there is a connection between these two architectural types, though Egyptian pyramids are smooth sided, and American pyramids are stepped pyramids.

    2. If all Indian people today are descendants of Lehi, wouldn’t they show this ancestry genetically? How does one explain the vast differences in language and genetics?

    This is a problem that intellectual Mormons are really struggling with. The traditional understanding of the Book of Mormon was that North and South America was peopled by descendants of Lehi. Many current Mormons still believe this. However, Mormon scientists believe that the Book of Mormon covered just a small area and mixed with indigenous peoples. John Sorenson has proposed that the Book of Mormon took place in the Southern Mexico and Guatemalan areas. He believes that the Lehites were too small to contribute any DNA that is traceable.

    Others have proposed other places. I’ve discusses several of these other theories, and one theory even says the Book of Mormon occurred in the Malay Peninsula! I think there is some interesting circumstantial evidence. If you’d like to review the basic groups of theories, see my post on other geography theories. All of them have plusses and minuses, but Sorenson’s Central American Theory is the one supported by most Mormon scientists and is considered the most plausible. I do find the Malay theory interesting because it solve many of the problems in Sorenson’s model, but introduces as many problems as it solves.

    Now to your point about “squaring the “truth” of the Book of Mormon with the actual history”. Well, that isn’t the point of the Book of Mormon. Traditional understandings of the Lehites is probably wrong. The Book of Mormon was designed to bring people to Christ–it isn’t a history book. When we try to read it as a history book, it falls apart because it was never intended to be.

    The Bible has some of the same problems. We don’t know where the Garden of Eden is, or if there really was a great flood, or if Moses really existed, or even Jesus for that matter. There is no archaeological evidence to support any faith claim. If we read the Bible that way, we are misusing it. The Bible is for spiritual truths, not for archeology. The Book of Mormon is the same in that respect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: