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Views from Turtle Island: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Mormon Entanglements

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Abstract

There is a story that has been told and retold in Indigenous communities. In this oral tradition, Seneca farm hands, acquaintances of Joseph Smith, tutored him on the basics of the Gaiwí:yo, the Word taught by the prophet Handsome Lake. They thought “what the white people need to do is to take the best of their Christian heritage and traditions and stuff that come out of their European ways and mix it with the Indigenous ways of the people who have lived on this land for a long time.” To facilitate the launching of a new religion for the settlers who had come to Turtle Island (a Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] name for North America), the farm hands melted down some gold they had received as payment from the British for their role in the War of 1812. On tablets of gold they inscribed the Gaiwí:yo in “picture writing,” buried them, and invited the incipient Mormon seer to find and interpret these records with a Christian emphasis “so that your people will tune into it.”

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Notes

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  2. 2.

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  3. 3.

    Blackhawk, Ned, Violence over the Land: Indians and Empire in the Early American West (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006): 8.

  4. 4.

    Colvin, Gina and Joanna Brooks, Decolonizing Mormonism: Approaching a Postcolonial Zion (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2018); Hafen and Rensink, Essays.

  5. 5.

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  6. 6.

    King, Farina, “Indigenizing Mormonisms,” Mormon Studies Review 6 (2019): 2.

  7. 7.

    Rapoport, Robert N. Changing Navaho Religious Values: A Study of Christian Missions to the Rimrock Navahos, Reports of the Rimrock Project Values Series, No. 2 (Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum, 1954): 14.

  8. 8.

    Denetdale, Jennifer Nez, “The Value of Oral History on the Path to Diné/Navajo Sovereignty,” in Diné Culture, Decolonization, and the Politics of Hózhó, ed. Lloyd L. Lee (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014).

  9. 9.

    Kovach, Margaret E. Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts (University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2010); Wilson, Shawn, Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods (Winnipeg, Manitoba: Fernwood Publishing, 2008).

  10. 10.

    Smith, Joseph, The Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981). For a discussion of how that view has changed over time see: Murphy, Thomas W and Angelo Baca, “DNA and the Book of Mormon: Science, Settlers, and Scripture,” in The LDS Gospel Topics Essays: A Scholarly Engagement, ed. Harris, Mathew L. and Newell G. Bringhurst (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2020); Metcalfe, Brent L., “Reinventing Lamanite Identity,” Sunstone, no. 131 (2004): 20–29.

  11. 11.

    Murphy, Thomas W, “Decolonization on the Salish Sea: A Tribal Journey Back to Mormon Studies,” in Decolonizing Mormonism, ed. Colvin and Brooks: 47–66.

  12. 12.

    Wolfe, Patrick, Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event (London: Cassell, 1999).

  13. 13.

    Veracini, Lorenzo, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); The Settler Colonial Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillon, 2015).

  14. 14.

    Fenton, Elizabeth and Jared Hickman, Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019); Hickman, Jared, “The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse,” American Literature 80, no. 3 (2014): 429–461; Thayne, Stanley J., “‘We’re Going to Take Our Land Back Over’: Indigenous Positionality, the Ethnography of Reading, and the Book of Mormon,” in Americanist Approaches, ed. Fenton and Hickman: 321–338.

  15. 15.

    Boxer, Elise, “The Book of Mormon as Mormon Settler Colonialism,” in Essays, ed. Hafen and Rensink: 4.

  16. 16.

    Benally, Moroni, “Decolonizing the Blossoming: Indigenous People’s Faith in a Colonizing Church,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 50, no. 4 (2017): 74.

  17. 17.

    Stewart, Jon and Peter Wiley, “Cultural Genocide,” Penthouse 12, no. 10 (1981): 82. Gibbons, Francis M., “Statistical Report 1981,” Ensign, no. 5 (1982); Sandefur, Gary D., Ronald R. Rindfuss, and Barney Cohen, Changing Numbers, Changing Needs: American Indian Demography and Public Health (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996): 82.

  18. 18.

    Riess, Jana, The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).

  19. 19.

    Sherkat, Darren, Changing Faith: The Dynamics and Consequences of Americans’ Shifting Religious Identitites (New York: New York University, 2014): 43–45. Global Social Survey samples exclude Native American reservations.

  20. 20.

    Todd, Douglas, “Aboriginals, Churches Share a Mutual Respect; Christianity Remains a Major Part of Native Peoples’ Lives, Despite Grim Legacy, Overlooked Polls Reveal,” The Vancouver Sun, Aug 28, 2009.

  21. 21.

    Rimrock and names of individuals are pseudonyms. For an overview of the project see: Vogt, Evon Z. and Ethel M. Albert, eds., People of Rimrock: A Study of Values in Five Cultures (New York: Atheneum, 1975 [1966]).

  22. 22.

    Blanchard, Kendall A., The Economics of Sainthood: Religious Change among the Rimrock Navajos (Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses, 1977): 33. Vogt reports 150 baptisms of Navajo and Zuni by fall of 1877. Vogt and Albert, People of Rimrock, 56.

  23. 23.

    Rapoport, Navaho Religious Values, 129–133.

  24. 24.

    Metcalf, R. Warren, “‘Which Side of the Line?’: American Indian Students and Programs at Brigham Young University, 1960–1983,” in Essays, eds. Hafen and Rensink: 242–245; Mauss, Armand L., All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003): 136; Parry, Keith, “Blood Indians and ‘Mormon’ Public Schools: A Case of Ethnicity and Integrated Education,” in Education, Change, and Society, ed. Carlton, Richard A., Louise A. Colley, and Neil J. MacKinnon (Toronto: Gage Educational Publishing Limited, 1977): 225–238.

  25. 25.

    Blanchard, Economics of Sainthood, 20, 113–120.

  26. 26.

    Topper, Martin D., “‘Mormon Placement’: The Effects of Missionary Foster Families on Navajo Adolescents,” Ethos 7, no. 2 (1979): 142–160.

  27. 27.

    Stewart and Wiley, “Cultural Genocide,” 82.

  28. 28.

    Angelo Baca, “Porter Rockwell and Samuel the Lamanite Fistfight in Heaven: A Mormon Navajo Filmmaker’s Perspective,” in Decolonizing Mormonism, ed. Colvin and Brooks: 67.

  29. 29.

    Benally, “Decolonizing the Blossoming,” 75–76.

  30. 30.

    Leydsman McGinty, Ellie I. “Land Ownership of Utah,” in Rangeland Resources of Utah, ed. Banner, R. E., B. D. Baldwin, and E. I. Leydsman McGinty (Logan: Cooperative Extension Service, Utah State University, 2009): 22.

  31. 31.

    Bagley, Will, The Whites Want Every Thing: Indian-Mormon Relations, 1847–1877, Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier (Norman, OK: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2019); Cuch, Forrest S., ed. A History of Utah’s American Indians (Salt Lake City: Utah State Division of Indian Affairs/Utah State Division of History, 2000); Hafen and Rensink, Essays; Colvin and Brooks, Decolonizing Mormonism.

  32. 32.

    Lori E. Taylor, “Joseph Smith in Iroquois Country: A Mormon Creation Story,” in Essays, ed. Hafen and Rensink: 41–60.

  33. 33.

    Blueotter, Will, Pt 1–1972 Unity Caravan: Mad Bear Anderson, Thomas Banyaca, Janet Mccloud, podcast audio 2014, https://www.blogtalkradio.com/prophecykeepers/2014/11/02/pt-1%2D%2D1972-unity-caravan-mad-bear-anderson-thomas-banyacya-janet-mccloud.

  34. 34.

    Wilson, Edmund, Apologies to the Iroquois (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992[1959]): 163–167.

  35. 35.

    Brinkerhoff, Zula, God’s Chosen People of America (Salt Lake City: Publisher’s Press, 1971): 1–11.

  36. 36.

    Deloria, Phil, Playing Indian (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998): 72, 191, 219.

  37. 37.

    Simpson, Audra, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2014): 78.

  38. 38.

    Smith, Christopher C., “Playing Lamanite: Ecstatic Performance of American Indian Roles in Early Mormon Ohio,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 3 (2015): 131.

  39. 39.

    Bagley, Will, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002).

  40. 40.

    Brinkerhoff, God’s Chosen People.

  41. 41.

    Farmer, Jared, On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008).

  42. 42.

    Metcalf, “Which Side of the Line?” 235.

  43. 43.

    Boxer, Elise, “‘This Is the Place!’ Disrupting Mormon Settler Colonialism,” in Decolonizing Mormonism, eds. Colvin and Brooks: 77–99.

  44. 44.

    Silko, Leslie M., Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel (New York City: Simon and Schuster, 1999): 31, 40.

  45. 45.

    Taylor, Michael P., “In the Literature of the Lamanites: (Un)Settling Mormonism in the Literary Record of Native North America, 1830–1930,” in Essays, eds. Hafen and Rensink: 89.

  46. 46.

    Smoak, Gregory E., “The Mormons and the Ghost Dance of 1890,” South Dakota History 16, no. 3 (1986): 269–294.

  47. 47.

    Smoak, Ghost Dances and Identity: Prophetic Religion and American Indian Ethnogenesis in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006): 80, 126.

  48. 48.

    Brinkerhoff, Zula, The Spirit of Geronimo Returns (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1973).

  49. 49.

    Brinkerhoff, Val, The Remnant Awakens (Create Space, 2018): 7.

  50. 50.

    Allred, B. Harvey, A Leaf in Review of the Words and Acts of God and Men Relative to the Fullness of the Gospel, 2nd ed. (Draper, UT: Review and Preview Publishers, 1968[1933]); Allred Kunz, Rhea, The One Like Unto Moses the Branch Prophet (Salt Lake City: Latter Day Publications, 2000): 51, 292.

  51. 51.

    Boren, Karen, “Indians to Settlers: ‘We Must Help One Another’,” Church News, July 5, 1997. Murphy, Thomas W, Kerrie S. Murphy, and Jessyca B. Murphy, “An Indian Princess and a Mormon Sacagawea: Decolonizing Memories of Our Grandmothers,” Unpublished manuscript, 2020.

  52. 52.

    Wood, Joseph C. “Peninah S. Cotton Wood,” in Family Histories, ed. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT: Church History Library, 1934); “Peninah Schropshire Cotton Wood,” in Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude (United States: International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1998): 3438.

  53. 53.

    Wood, Daniel, “Autobiography of Daniel Wood Sr.,” in Book of Abraham Project (Brigham Young University, 1868).

  54. 54.

    Bagley, Will, The Pioneer Camp of the Saints: The 1846 and 1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock (Spokane, WA: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2001): 243.

  55. 55.

    Wood Naylor, Josephine, “History of Daniel Wood Cemetary,” http://www.angelfire.com/band/lobster/cemetery.html. Naylor incorrectly attributes the origin of the children to the Blackhawk War which did not begin until 1865. If they came in 1849, as claimed, they were more likely survivors of the conflict at Battle Creek in Utah Valley. See Christopher C. Smith, “Mormon Conquest: Whites and Natives in the Intermountain West, 1847–1851” (Claremont Graduate University, 2016): 147.

  56. 56.

    Wood, J., “Peninah.”

  57. 57.

    Bennion, Michael K., “Captivity, Adoption, Marriage and Identity: Native American Children in Mormon Homes, 1847–1900” (University of Nevada, 2012): 3, 28, 152–157. Bennion’s data overlooked Peninah Shropshire Wood and the three children she took into her home in 1849.

  58. 58.

    Ibid., 210–212. Brooks, Juanita, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” Utah Historical Quarterly 12, no. 1/2 (1944): 39.

  59. 59.

    Hebner, William L., Southern Paiute: A Portrait (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2010): 87, 91, 138, 41. Janet Leavitt, discussed above by Brooks, and Jeanette Leavitt, discussed by Miller, might be the same person. If so, Brooks reached her conclusion about white identities in the 1930s prematurely, incompletely, or inaccurately.

  60. 60.

    Shumway, Dale, and Margene Shumway, The Blossoming: Dramatic Accounts in the Lives of Native Americans (Orem, UT: Granite Press, 2002).

  61. 61.

    Thayne, Stanley J., “Mormonism and the Catawba Indian Nation,” in Essays, eds. Hafen and Rensink: 121.

  62. 62.

    Christensen, Scott R. Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftan, Mormon Elder, 1822–1887 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1999): 67.

  63. 63.

    Bennion, “Captivity, Adoption, Marriage,” 1, 202–209; Warner, Frank W. “Frank W. Warner Missionary Journal,” in Missionary Database, ed. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church History, 1914–1915).

  64. 64.

    “People and Places,” New Era 1, no. 8 (1971): 21.

  65. 65.

    Boxer, Elise, “‘The Lamanites Shall Blossom as the Rose’: The Indian Student Placement Program, Mormon Whiteness, and Indigenous Identity,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 4 (2015): 132–176.

  66. 66.

    Echo Hawk, Larry, “Someone’s Concerned About Me,” Ensign (1975).

  67. 67.

    “Elder Larry J. Echo Hawk,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/leader/larry-echo-hawk.

  68. 68.

    Harris, Lacee A., “To Be Native American—and Mormon,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18, no. Winter (1985): 143.

  69. 69.

    Thayne, Stanley J. “The Blood of Father Lehi: Indigenous Americans and the Book of Mormon” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2016): 189.

  70. 70.

    Harris, Alicia, “An Abundant God Knows the Middle Also,” in Decolonizing Mormonism, ed. Colvin and Brooks: 114–115.

  71. 71.

    Newcomb, Sarah, Lamanite Truth, Jan. 16, 2017, https://lamanitetruth.com/2017/07/25/hurt-by-beliefs-facts-hidden-in-the-dna-essay/.

  72. 72.

    Thayne, “The Blood of Father Lehi,” 188.

  73. 73.

    Blueotter, Unity Caravan; Wilkinson, Charles F., Fire on the Plateau: Conflict and Endurance in the American Southwest (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1999).

  74. 74.

    Metcalf, R. Warren, Termination’s Legacy: The Discarded Indians of Utah (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002).

  75. 75.

    “Anderson, Wallace ‘Mad Bear’,” in Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy), ed. Bruce E. Johansen and Barbara A. Mann (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000).

  76. 76.

    Garrett, Mathew, Making Lamanites: Mormons, Native Americans, and the Indian Student Placement Program, 1947–2000 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016): 181–182; Hendrix-Komoto, Amanda, “Boycotting General Conference 40 Years Ago: The Lamanite Generation, the American Indian Movement, and Temple Square,” April 12, 2013, https://juvenileinstructor.org/boycotting-general-conference-50-years-ago-the-lamanite-generation-the-american-indian-movement-and-temple-square/.

  77. 77.

    2 Ne. 30:6. In 1981, the LDS Church restored a change of the word white to pure that Joseph Smith had made in 1840, but that had been lost in subsequent editions. Campbell, Douglas, “‘White’ or ‘Pure’: Five Vignettes,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29, no. 4 (1996): 119–135.

  78. 78.

    Jacobs, Margaret D., “Entangled Histories: The Mormon Church and Indigenous Child Removal from 1850 to 2000,” Journal of Mormon History 42, no. 2 (2016): 41.

  79. 79.

    Benally, “Decolonizing the Blossoming,” 73.

  80. 80.

    Metcalf, Termination’s Legacy; Wilkinson, Fire on the Plateau; Gottlieb, Robert and Peter Wiley, America’s Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986 [1984]); Nielson, Parker M., The Dispossessed: The Cultural Genocide of the Mixed-Blood Utes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998); Brugge, David M., The Navajo Hopi Land Dispute: An American Tragedy (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994).

  81. 81.

    Metcalf, Termination’s Legacy, 235–239.

  82. 82.

    Ibid.; Alexander, Thomas G., “Native Americans in Post-War Utah,” http://historytogo.utah.gov/; Thayne, “The Blood of Father Lehi”; Cuch, Utah’s American Indians.

  83. 83.

    Hebner, Southern Paiute, 64–66.

  84. 84.

    Ibid., 107–112; Metcalf, Termination’s Legacy, 122–123.

  85. 85.

    Peterson, John A., Utah’s Black Hawk War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998), 53–62, 78–79, 396–397; Leonard, Glen M., “Antiquities, Curiosities, and Latter-Day Saint Museums,” in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-Day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds. Anderson, Richard L. et al. (Provo: Brigham Young University, 2000): 291–325.

  86. 86.

    Murphy, Thomas W and Angelo Baca, “Rejecting Racism in Any Form: Latter-Day Saint Rhetoric, Religion, and Repatriation,” Open Theology, no. 2 (2016): 700–725.

  87. 87.

    Robinson, Rebecca, Voices from Bears Ears: Seeking Common Ground on Sacred Land (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2018), 77–78; Mauss, Abraham’s Children, 123.

  88. 88.

    Robinson, Bears Ears, 30, 228, 374–376.

  89. 89.

    Peterson, Black Hawk War, 78–79, 396–397.

  90. 90.

    Hutt, Sherry, “Notice of Inventory Completion: Brigham Young University, Museum of Peoples and Cultures, Provo, UT,” Federal Register 75, no. 185 (Sept. 24, 2010): 58433–58435; O’Brien, Melanie, “Notice of Inventory Completion: Brigham Young University, Museum of Peoples and Cultures, Provo, UT; Correction,” Federal Register 77, no. 167 (Aug. 28, 2012): 52057.

  91. 91.

    Bitsoi, Alastair, “Greenthread: Bear’s Ears to Brooklyn,” in Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears, ed. Jacqueline Keeler (Salt Lake City: Torrey House Press, 2017): 46.

  92. 92.

    Robinson, Bears Ears.

  93. 93.

    Ibid., 202; Lopez-Whiteskunk, Regina, “Afterword,” in Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness, ed. Amy Irvine (Salt Lake City: Torrey House Press, 2018): 85; “Fighting for the Land and Building Healing from Within,” in Edge of Morning, ed. Keeler: 26.

  94. 94.

    Baca, Angelo, “Bears Ears Is Here to Stay,” New York Times, Dec. 8, 2017; Dougherty, John, “Trump’s Dismemberment of Bears Ears National Monument: Perspectives from Indigenous Scholars,” The Revelator, Dec. 5, 2017.

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Murphy, T.W. (2020). Views from Turtle Island: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Mormon Entanglements. In: Shepherd, R.G., Shepherd, A.G., Cragun, R.T. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Mormonism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-52616-0_29

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