February 03, 2009

Mormons, Utes, and Rob the "bigot"

In "Back to the Reservation for U" Anonymous claimed I'm a "bigot" for condemning some Mormons. Follow the link to review the original controversy, or continue here.Come on, Rob... You whine in this article about Racism, yet you call out those attending BYU as Mormons (Which, hello… It’s owned by their church. That’s like saying that people that attend Notre Dame are "probably" Catholics… I’m sure that’s pretty much understood.) and accuse them of being ignorant to the feelings of others? Now YOU’RE the one being the bigot, ripping on Mormons.Did you read the part where I wrote that the Mormon university responded appropriately? How do you figure I'm attacking all Mormons when I said the students supporting the sign were wrong but the officials denouncing it were right?

Apparently you weren't paying attention if you think my nuanced response was a condemnation of all Mormons. Either that or you don't know what "bigotry" means.

"Good Mormons" aren't ignorant?And for your information, a large majority of those that attend the U of U are Mormons too! My grandpa, mother, father, one of my sisters and SEVERAL of my cousins graduated from the U, and guess what? They are all good Mormons who are not ignorant of ANYONES feelings. Your comments make NO sense.I've discussed Indians and Mormons several times in postings such as these:

The Indian-Mormon connection

Indians think they're Lamanites

Mormons modify Indian origins

If your relatives hold more intelligent beliefs than the Mormons who consider Indians a lost tribe of Israel, more power to them. I'm glad to hear they're so educated and enlightened.

Anyway, feel free to read these postings for signs of my alleged bigotry. If you and your relatives want to share your vast sensitivity to the Indians' indigenous roots and beliefs, go right ahead. By all means, tell us how you think the original Book of Mormon was wrong and Native religions are just as valid as Mormonism.But fine; you want to talk about Ignorance? How about the University of Utah CONTINUING to use the Ute’s as their mascot?? They can say all they want, that they “banned” their mascot, but just as Yazzie said, they kept the name… They are they ignorant ones thinking that they can keep a name like that, and NOT think that everyone else will continue to think of them in the same terms.I've written about how the University of Utah "honors" Indians before. Note that I didn't mention Mormonism in this posting because it didn't seem relevant. So much for my alleged bigotry against Mormons.

Not racist to attack Indians?And as for the BYU fan that made the sign, I can ASSURE you, that the comment was not meant to be racist at all! They were simply attacking the MASCOT, which every other school out there does, but this time it was taken out of context.Unfortunately for your argument, intent isn't the measure of whether something is racist. Racists rarely intend to be racist, but that doesn't mean their actions are free of unintentional bias. Bottom line: If they discriminate on the basis of race, they're racist regardless of what their feelings or motivations are.

For more on the subject, see Anti-Indian Racism Explained.

But I don't agree that the "Trail of Tears Part II" and "Back to the reservation for U" signs were merely an innocent attack on the "Utes" name and mascot. They were a racially-based attack on the concept of Utes as Indians. The message was or should've been clear to everyone: If you University of Utah students want to associate yourself with Indians, we want you to suffer the same fate as those Indians. We want you to be confined on an impoverished reservation or forced on a genocidal death march.

Even when made in "fun," these attacks are racially charged and racially specific. The equivalent to these signs would be to tell students at a Jewish school, "Into the ovens with U." Or to tell students at a black school, "Back to the slave ships for U."

When signs like this appear, please let me know. Then I'll concede that BYU's students are equally willing to "razz" all ethnic groups. I.e., that they aren't biased against Indians only. Until then, I stand by my conclusion.


Anonymous said...

Rob I have to agree with you, in Utah there is a real problem of racism toward the First People in Utah. For the past seven years I have been researching the history of the Native people and the Mormons of Utah. What I have found would curl your hair. But the root cause is education. The history of the Native people has simply been ignored and left out of school curriculum. Over the past seven years I have conducted a survey asking residents of Utah what they know of the Black Hawk War. The war was not a single battle, it encompasses over 150 bloody confrontations between the First People of and early Mormon settlers. I have revealed that less than 3% of the population of Utah has knows about the war. 27 years between 1847 when the Mormons arrived in Utah, to 1870 when the war ended, Indian history has simply been swept aside. And here's a shocker, the Indian population was between 30,000 and 70,000 when the Mormons arrived. By 1909 government census recorded a Indian [population of just 2400. Today the Ute population on the Uintah reservation is just 3700.

Utah has never erected a memorial or monument in recognition of the tremendous sacrifices the Ute have made.

Furthermore, as I have spoken with hundreds of people during my research, the most common response I get from Mormons is, "We have given the Indians every chance to succeed, yet they choose to live off the government, get drunk, and live in poverty. It's their own damn fault!" Comments such as this reflect the ignorance of the people in Utah about the history of the Indian people. And the blame rest squarely on the shoulders of the education system that ignores Indian history. Indian students then feel that their history has no relevance, which contributes to above average drop-out rates, and contributes directly to racism.

My words are not an attack on Mormons, the fact is Utah is not the exception but the norm as this scenario plays out all across the United States.

However, this does not excuse anyone from bigotry as you have pointed out Rob. It does mean we all need to understand our history.

We owe it to the American Indian people to feel their pain. For they are the ones who paid the ultimate price in loss of land, culture, and dignity. For they have been subjected to the worst kind of man's inhumanity to man imaginable. It is not amusing, it is not a matter we should joke about. Certainly making jokes about the Mormon's past, the pain they suffered, is just as painful when we make light of the First People.

Thank you Rob for taking up the fight for equality.


Phillip B Gottfredson

Anonymous said...

Ah yes Mormonism; 19th century America's answer to scientology. One thing that the Mormon establishment deserves hatred for is the fact that they gloss over 'incidents' like this:


Sort of like how Turkey tries to deny the Armenian genocide (which still hasn't been recognize. Oh and has anyone read the overrated books of uber mormon Orson Scott Card? His Alvin Maker books (Mormon propaganda) have extremely stereotypical Indian in them; who's an alcoholic, a noble savage and makes cliched complaints about 'the White man.' (Please note that I don't have any scorn for Mormons in general.)

Anonymous said...

But why? Why is this so? What happened that has brought this shameful condition about in the state of Utah?

"If the inhabitants of this Territory, my brethren, had never condescended to reduce themselves to the practices of the Indians, to their low, degraded condition, and in some cases even lower, there never would have been any trouble between us and our red neighbors. Treat them kindly, and treat them as Indians, and not as your equals."

The above quote are the words Mormon prophet Brigham Young delivered to a congregation in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 6, 1854. He was the father of the flock, and his words helped forged the mindset of supremacy toward the Indian people, while arcane messages such as his have some how survived unchallenged in our modern society. Remember, discrimination has to be taught. Our children learn to discriminate from their parents, friends, and community. Up to this time when Brigham gave this speech, 139 Ute had been killed at the hands of Mormon settlers. The family of Black Hawk had been murdered, innocent of any wrong doing. Seventy more were killed at Fort Utah, beheaded, tortured, while heads were hung by their long hair from the eves of the buildings. Human heads that would be later shipped to Washington for scientific examination. Among those held captive at the fort was a young boy by the name of Nooch
, who had been made to view the horrid sight of his kin for two long agonizing weeks. This tormented boy should have given up, but something in his character would not allow him to. Black Hawk become one of the most gifted war Chiefs in history, a humanitarian, and a brilliant leader.

But the name "Black Hawk" is not a Ute name, it was a name Brigham Young in jest called him. So it became that Brigham being supercilious referred to him as 'Black Hawk' and this is the name by which he is now most commonly known. His Ute Name was Nooch, and he was so named in honor of his people the Noochew. Nooch was born into a noble family of legendary leaders spanning centuries of time and he was incredibly intelligent and should be remembered as such. The courage this man had to face unbelievable circumstances as his people were dyeing from diseases and hunger, their homes being invaded while family and kin were being murdered, he faced challenges that were monumental for any leader of any race in any time.  

The 'Walker' War had broke out, even though Nooch's uncle Chief Wah-kara, (or "Walker" as the settlers called him), had been baptized and given membership in the LDS Church, they poisoned him to death.

Then in late 1849 apostle George A. Smith instructed the legislature, "Indians have no right to their land," to "extinguish all titles and prepare for their removal." And the most essential first step in the removal process was to change the conditions in which they thrive. Without any legal basis for doing so, it was the LDS Church's land grab. In their minds if they didn't the U. S. Government would. And this was the choice Brigham gave the Utes, either they sign over the land to the Mormons or "let them eat crickets." Undoubtedly fueled by O'Sullivan's 1838 Manifest Destiny remember these were different times, and looking back on American history it is easy to see that the Manifest Destiny concept was ego driven, manipulative, hypocritical, and down right wrong. But some things, in their minds were, simply put, necessary evils.

The decimated population of the Ute now overcome with despair and hopelessness, the remaining 1500 survivors would be rounded up as prisoners of war and placed on the Uinta Reservation, which in all truth was nothing more than a concentration camp. Brigham promised them food, housing, clothing if they would go to the reservation. Once there they were abandoned with little regard as to their well being, in less than two years just 700 remained alive.

Contrary to popular folklore, there were no treaties made between Mormon settlers and the First People. Yet virtually every town in Utah lays claim to treaties being signed in their town that concluded the war is simply not true. As Dr. Floyd O'Neil has pointed out to me "they were only agreements, only the federal government had the authority to make treaties with the Indian people." These agreements were divisive and used to coerce the Indians into giving up their home. And it was Chief Nooch "Black Hawk" who led out in agreements that resulted in peace, as he convinced his brother Chief Tabby to sign the first agreement in Heber City in 1867 that led to other agreements in Ephraim, Mt. Pleasant, Springville, and other villages. Brigham's attempts at making peace before 1867 simply failed, such was the case at Manti in 1865. Chief Nooch spent nearly four of his remaining years campaigning for peace, it was called, "Black Hawk's mission of peace." Chief Nooch had more to do with peace efforts than any other during his time.

"Why has so little interest been taken in keeping memorandas and records of events and conditions of those early and trying times" my great-grandfather pondered in 1884. It would be inaccurate to suggest the settlers were without conscience, as many accounts attest to their remorse. But memories of the past were short lived as the promise of prosperity unfolded before their eyes. While Brigham boasted publicly "If you want to get rid of the Indians, try and civilize them." The end justifying the means giving birth to the words, "the past is the past, we just need to forget about." And with ruthless abandonment forget they did, 150 years have passed and but a handful of people know anything about the war. But for the First People of Utah the story is quite the opposite. They remember well.

On September 20, 1919, an article appeared on the front page of the Deseret Evening News with the headlines that read, "Bones of Black Hawk on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum." Deep 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, before they were taken to the church museum on Temple Square.

Just 46 years had passed when Nooch had been laid to rest in 1872 at Spring Lake, Utah, when miners deliberately plotted the robbery of his grave. Accompanying the article is a photo of a man standing in the open grave, grinning ear to ear, while in his hands he is holding the skull of Nooch. While the living descendents of Nooch were outraged, their voices fell on deaf ears. They had no legal recourse until the enactment of the National American Graves Protection Reparation Act, or NAGPRA, passed in 1994. Nooch was again reburied in the year 1996. This raises the question why a religious institution and it's leaders would have no moral compassion toward the family of Black Hawk.

I can't understand how the First People who have suffered through all this have not demanded justice.

dmarks said...

Very interesting comments.

"Oh and has anyone read the overrated books of uber mormon Orson Scott Card? His Alvin Maker books (Mormon propaganda) have extremely stereotypical Indian in them"

I've read "Ender's Game" and "Pastwatch", and think that it is impossible to overrate either. However, I've not read "Alvin Maker"

Anonymous said...

The alvin maker books have a good premise but they're god awful. It's obvious mormon propaganda with Alvin as a stand in for Joey Smith (compare surname maker to smith), Indian stereotypes and preachy diatribes about evil slavery is (thanks orson we were really in the dark about that one). If you want some good alternate historical fantasy read these books:



Unlike card Mark Sumner is a talented author and doesn't seem to hold any despicable views (and no I'm not talking about his mormonism).

dmarks said...

I will steer clear of those then, but I do want to read the rest of the Ender books.

Rob said...

Thanks for the information, Phillip. I was pretty sure there was a connection between the anti-Indian behavior at Utah sporting events and the Mormon history with Indians. Your comments confirm my thinking.

I'm also pretty sure there's a connection between Stephanie Meyer's Mormonism and her take on Indians in Twilight. But I'm still waiting for clearcut evidence in that case.