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We Are Beautiful and Whole Just As We Are

I’ve been thinking for days now about that last conversation I had with the missionaries. One part hit me in the gut and hasn’t left: when the missionary said that Native American ceremony and dance were incorrect traditions – of our people turning away from God, meaning it was a remnant of Lamanites turning away from God.

I was taught exactly what the missionary said when I was young, and I missed out. I am not the only one. There are so many of us… I have talked to many friends and family who experienced this.

Children in the Indian Placement Program were told the same thing. They were told that if they participated in ceremony during the summers with their people, that they risked being kicked from the program. Children… children were forced to choose between disappointing family by not participating in cultural spiritual traditions, or disappointing family by being kicked out of the educational program. Their choice, in either direction, did not affect the church in any way. It was only Indigenous families (especially the children) who were affected.

Just this past week a friend on mine sent me a message on Facebook and she wrote, “The Church has been telling Indigenous members not to practice their heritage while also putting in pageants and sponsoring movies for white members to act like “Lamanites.”

It hit me, and I don’t know why it took this long for me to see the gross double standard.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught Native Americans that their spiritual and cultural traditions were incorrect. The church also taught Native American families an incorrect ancestry, and told them they were Lamanites, also called Children of Lehi. And the entire time the church was telling them not to act Native American the church was using Native American clothing and traditions in their movies, books, pageants, BYU singing groups, etc. This was all done to sell the Lamanite myth as fact.

So the church didn’t want us to do Native American things – unless it was for them to use our Native American identity and bodies to appropriate for their own purpose… When the church uses our identity is it good, but if it isn’t used by the Mormon church and is instead used for our own non-Christian spiritual traditions it is bad? Really?

Stop cultural appropriation. This church should not be using our clothing, bodies, and identity to sell a Lamanite myth, while also saying to not participate in spiritual ceremonies that are traditional and beautiful.

We have been called many things. We have been called evil, unrighteous, savage, and Lamanite. We have been told we lost our lands due to our evil ancestry turning away from God but told we should feel blessed because of God’s promises. We have been told our dark skin was a sign of a curse, but to be grateful that though it was a sign and we did indeed inherit it, that God has decided it is no longer a sign suddenly. As if we weren’t raised with this teaching and as if we don’t mind that for our ancestors it was a sign. We are told ugly things about ancestors, and it is wrapped in pretty blessings to gaslight us into gratefulness. We have been told how we came to be in this land by those who did not know our true history. They said they were there to save us while they took our land, resources, spirituality, and children. We were told we needed redemption. We didn’t. We don’t. We are beautiful and whole just as we are. We are the Indigenous of these lands.



  1. To Anne, the “Indian” Placement Student who tried so hard to be part of our family, but who was very homesick and returned to the Navajo Nation, I apologize. I’m so sorry for my part in this horrid program. I hope you are thriving and learning, or have learned, how to retain your culture and heritage and be proud of it. And, again, my utter sorrow about all of this, but thanks to you Sarah, for your intelligence and thought and expression of deep feelings that make us all think about how wrong it all was.

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  2. This rejection of Indigenous ceremony and traditions is tragic. The red-face play is exploitative. Intriguingly, I’ve found some examples from the 19th Century in which Mormon missionaries actually joined in Native ceremonies. See the new biography of Jacob Hamblin.


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