My previous post was about the Timpanogos Tribe being given sacks of flour from Mormons to help feed their families. Sacks of flour with crushed glass mixed in. I was not surprised, but still saddened by the refusal for many to believe the Timpanogos Tribe history. One response on social media when my article was shared was, “It amazes me when one leaves the church, how bitter they become. I guess it’s a way of convincing them selves they are right and fell obligated spread half truths and lies to justify their decision.” The sad fact is that many believe that Native American history as it really happened are lies. A large part of why people believe that is because they have not been told the true history.
For weeks I’ve been contemplating some simple truths. One being that history is manipulated. Finding good sources are extremely valuable. Facts reveal truth in a way that is irrefutable. Fact: Early Mormons suffered persecution. Just type in “persecution of the early church” and pages of articles come up on the church website. This is openly discussed among Mormons, and is well documented even beyond the Mormon realm. It was and still is an important part of Mormon history, and helps in remembering the pioneers who suffered and struggled for what they believed in. Fact: What is not openly discussed among Mormons is how severely Mormons persecuted the Native Americans. Taking lands, breaking treaties, dressing up as Native Americans to attack and steal, raping, murdering, lying, digging up sacred graves and burial grounds, manipulating the true history of the people, and replacing true heritage with the myth of the Book of Mormon. Instead true history is a buried history, treated as unimportant and irrelevant. Treated as lies. In my view however Native Americans have just as much right to their stories of persecution and survival as anyone else. The Timpanogos, the Navajo, Shoshone, Paiute, Ute, Goshute, and more – these are all real people living today. Their ancestors suffered and fought for their survival. Their stories WILL be heard and remembered.
Fact: Mormons received significant financial compensation for dealing with the Indians (Native Americans) from the government. In 1873 Utah Legislature wrote a bill titled, “Memorial of the Legislative Assembly of Utah”. They sent it to Congress, referred it to the Committee of Military Affairs, and were awarded 1.5 million dollars for costs incurred dealing with Indians. (1,2) According to the inflation rate current prices are 1897.1% higher than in 1873. Which in today’s market that amount would translate to $29,957,047.98, just under 30 million dollars.The payout covered expenses from just three years, 1865 – 1867.
The Black Hawk War in Utah began in 1865. To give an idea of what life was like during this time for the originals inhabitants is the following account. “On April 21, 1866, Mormon residents of Circleville, Utah captured 26 peaceful Indians and locked them up in the meeting house. On the evening of the following day some of the Indians were able to cut themselves loose from their bindings and make a break. In the excitement, two Indians trying to free themselves were shot and killed by the guards. The remainder of the Indians were then taken to a potato cellar and imprisoned there. The captured Indians knew they were going to be killed. They could feel it. The settlers had another meeting and it was decided among them to kill the remaining captured Indian people. One by one they were led out of the cellar, 24 in all—women, men, and children—and one by one their throats were cut ear to ear and their bodies held to the ground until they bled to death. Two young boys and one girl, seven or eight years of age, feeling the horror, decided to try to make their escape. When the door was opened for the next victim, the three made a break, forced their way past the guards and ran. The guards fired several shots at the three but were unable to hit them. One was shot in the side but the bullet barely grazed his rib—not enough to stop him. All of the Paiute males, five women, and two older children were killed.” (2)
Many would like to believe this is a single incident. What was the Nauvoo Legion like, how did they operate? Let us not forget the Timpanogos a few years prior, “Brigham Young asked Wells to lead a detachment. On February 11th, Wells arrived and split the army into two. One contingent followed the trail of some Timpanogos who had fled up Rock Canyon. Wells led the other contingent south towards Spanish Fork river. He divided them into smaller parties and searched the southern valley for native peoples to kill. On February 14th, at Table Rock near the southeastern shore of Utah lake, one of the smaller hunting parties captured a band of Utes.Lieutenant Gunnison of the Stansbury Expedition reported that the Mormons promised to be friendly to the Timpanogos men, but then lined up the men to be executed in front of their families. Some attempted to flee across the frozen lake, but the Mormons ran after them on horseback and shot them. At least eleven Ute men were killed. In total, one militia man and an estimated 102 Timpanogos were killed.” (3)
Words from the prophet Brigham Young, “There is a curse on these aborigines of our country who roam the plains and are so wild that you cannot tame them. They are of the House of Israel; they once had the Gospel delivered to them, they had oracles of truth; Jesus came and administered to them after his resurrection and they received and delighted in the Gospel until the fourth generation when they turned away and became so wicked that God cursed them with this dark and benighted and loathsome condition; and they want to sit on the ground in the dirt, and to live by hunting, and they cannot be civilized.” (4)
Wild, dark, benighted, loathsome. Let us replace those words with brave and honorable. They lived and thrived long before Mormons came. They lived on the land without destroying the resources. They fought for their families, and did not hold their religion over someone else’s head as a clear sign from God that they were chosen or as an excuse to kill. They fought to simply survive. Were early Mormons respectful of those they had killed? Chief Black Hawk‘s grave was desecrated and his bones were dug up, and where did those bone go? Deseret News article, “Bones of Black Hawk on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum. Within the article, the writer explains that first, the remains of Black Hawk had been on public display in the window of a hardware store in downtown Spanish Fork, Utah. Then Benjamin Guarded, the man in charge of the L.D.S. Museum, acquired the remains Black Hawk for public display on Temple Square. For decades, the remains of Black Hawk, and those of an Indian woman and a child, were on display in the church museum on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.” (2) One thing in addition to that quote to note is, “While the living descendants of Black Hawk were outraged, their voices fell on deaf ears. Seemingly without conscience or remorse and church leaders made no apologies, in spite of a federal law passed in 1906 called the Graves Protection Act. Descendents of Black Hawk had no real legal recourse until the enactment of the National American Graves Protection Reparation Act, or NAGPRA, passed in 1994.” Phillip B. Gottfredson.
To put this into perspective, those bones were on display when my grandmother was 9 yrs old. This is not ancient history. The surviving people still live with the consequences of others action. They still live with the religious persecution and lies to this day. They are still labeled as “Lamanite” and still told the Book of Mormon is their “real” history. They are still told their skin is dark due to the sign of a curse. I was personally told two weeks ago by a missionary that my skin was dark due to a sign of the curse, so yes, it is current. Let us not embrace myth as fact, let us rise above it and embrace humanity in all its variety. No matter what religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, or orientation, WE ARE ONE.
I ask only that we treat members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with kindness. The vast majority truly do not know their own history. I was a member for 39 years, and did not know any of what I wrote today. Thank you.
1- U.S. House of Representatives, “Indian Depredations in Utah: Memorial of the Legislative Assembly of Utah Territory, Preview for an Appropriation to Pay for Indian Depredations and Expenses Inenrred in Supressing Indian Hostilities” (1868). All U.S. Government Documents (Utah Regional Depository). Paper 576. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/govdocs/576
2- Gottfredson, Phillip B. (n.d.). The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from http://www.blackhawkproductions.com/Blackhawk4.htm
3- Wells’s Special Order No. 2, Utah State Archives, State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah Territorial Militia Correspondence, 1849-1863, ST-27, Microfilm reel 1, Document No. 5 – Eugene E. Campbell. Establishing Zion.
4 – Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, page 87. Gathering the Saints-The Providences of the Lord-Uselessness of Non-Producers-Arbitration Better Than Courts-Feed not Fight the Indians-Paying Tithing. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2018, from http://jod.mrm.org/14/78