American Indians

Douglas D. Alder, “American Indians,” in Dixie Saints: Laborers in the Field, ed. Douglas D. Alder (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017), 217-236.


Like virtually all other areas of the United States, the lands that European Americans settled on belonged to American Indians. The new arrivals assumed the right to claim those lands and impose their concept of civilization there, much to the disadvantage of the tribal people. The European system was based on agriculture, plowing the land, planting seeds, and nurturing the plants to be harvested—wheat, potatoes, fruit, cotton, and alfalfa. They also had domesticated pigs, goats, horses, cows, and chickens—some housed in barns, pens, and coops adjacent to their homes. They established permanent villages, homesteads, or ranches based on a concept that American Indians did not recognize—private property. This created a huge cultural clash. The Indians depended on hunting and gathering, living in wickiups, and seasonal goings and comings of tribal clans. Individual private property claims to land for farms, ranches, and villages, along with the new settlers’ system of fencing was a direct challenge to the Indian culture.

Mormons brought European American methods (private property with permanent homes) with them to the Rocky Mountains. In addition, they set up irrigation systems that required control of streams and the establishment of permanent dams and ditches. They included cattle ranching and sheep herding in their way of life. It was dependent on grazing large numbers of animals beyond their farms seasonally—moving over considerable areas of so-called public lands. The sheep herds often included hundreds or even thousands of animals. A problem the Mormons created, however, is that their animals ate the seeds on the open range that the Indian women were accustomed to harvest to make flour. In southern Utah, that undercut the American Indian lifestyle, particularly of the Paiute tribe that was located there. One result was that the Paiutes changed some of their economic efforts and took on the strategy of raiding the sheep and cattle herds to provide food for their people. Mormons considered that as theft and could easily have engaged in a war against the Paiutes, but they restrained themselves.

Brigham Young called several missionaries to the Paiute tribe in the 1850s. Of those missionaries, Jacob Hamblin is the best known. He and his colleagues baptized many of the Paiutes and worked to further their culture and ally them with the Mormons. Because of the many villages that were established by the Mormons and the cattle herds that were fostered, the clash over grazing lands quickly arose. Hamblin argued in defense of the Paiutes, claiming that the Paiutes deserved the portion of the cattle they were taking for the right of the Mormons to use their lands for grazing. This contest between the two civilizations was ongoing, but the Mormons knew they needed an alliance with not only the Paiutes but also the other American Indians.

Southeast of Washington County, across the Colorado River, the Navajos had a large nation. North of them were the Hopis. It was absolutely essential that the Mormons avoid a war with those tribes. Even more, the Mormons needed the Indians as allies in a possible conflict with the federal government.

A war did indeed break out, known as the Black Hawk War. It started north of the Mojave Desert, in central Utah, and lasted four years. Some of the conflict spilled over into the southern area. The Mormons employed a strategy called “forting up,” meaning that many of the settlers in smaller villages were instructed to move to the larger settlements to defend themselves. These events impacted areas such as the upper Virgin Valley, so the Mormons in Grafton and Springdale had to move to Rockville. The men would go back to their farms in the daytime but return to the central village at night. A negotiated settlement was achieved. The lesson in all of this was that the Mormons and the American Indians needed each other.[1]

The tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857 near Cedar City resulted from a complex series of events. About five years before that tragic event, Brigham Young called Jacob Hamblin and others such as John D. Lee to influence the American Indians. He hoped to restrain the Indians from raiding immigrant companies that were passing through southern Utah on their way to California. Had he not done that, the federal government likely would have sent troops to defend those immigrants, and the presence of such soldiers was something the Mormons wanted to avoid. When the federal government sent an army to northern Utah in 1857, the Mormons essentially went to war with the US government. Brigham Young, in an effort to strengthen the alliance with the Indians in the south, lifted the restraining order on raiding the immigrant trains. He tried to influence the immigrants to avoid the southern route by going the northern way, but not all of them wanted to do that. The Fancher party from Arkansas was one such group. As the Fanchers moved along the southern trail, they were increasingly frustrated because the Mormons in the villages they passed refused to sell them feed for their cattle. The Mormon leaders had instructed the villagers to store their feed in case federal troops came against them.

Along the way, the Fanchers met Jacob Hamblin, who was traveling to Salt Lake City. They asked Hamblin where they could find grazing land for their cattle. He recommended the Mountain Meadows area just southwest of Cedar City. By then, the Mormons in the Cedar City area had become furious with the Fanchers. They wanted to prevent them from getting to California because they would likely complain intensely about the Mormons and urge the federal army to go to Utah to punish the Mormons. The militia leaders in Cedar City claimed that the Fanchers were mobilizing in the Mountain Meadows and should be attacked. They enlisted Indian agent John D. Lee to convince the Paiute Indians to join with the Mormons in attacking the Fancher party. The Indian motive was to obtain their large herd of cattle. All of this occurred in September 1857.

The Mormon and Indian attack on the Fanchers did in fact happen, and it is considered the greatest tragedy in the history of the area. Recently, a significant book with greater understanding of the tragedy has been published.[2] The distinguishing aspect of this book is that it is based on documentation that was not previously available to other authors. The collections at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City were made available to them, something Juanita Brooks—an American historian and author who wrote about the Mountain Meadows Massacre—hoped for but was unable to obtain. The three authors were appointed to write the study by the Church with the understanding that it would be published by a national press without intervention by the Church. The authors also used sources in several national archives. They were able to determine which men were involved in the attack and what the role of the Paiutes was. They worked hard to find the names of those who were killed. They disproved the story John D. Lee told Brigham Young about the immigrant party poisoning a waterhole near Kanosh. According to the story, the Paiutes ate meat from cattle which had drunk the poisoned water, leading to the death of several Paiutes. Unfortunately, he said, this motivated the Indians to attack the Fanchers at Mountain Meadows. The authors also uncovered new information about Nephi Johnson’s role in the event—translating instructions so the Indians would know when to attack, as well as actually giving the order. They concluded, however, that Isaac Haight ordered the killings. Richard E. Turley Jr. has continued their research, particularly about the two trials of John D. Lee.

An earlier source of information about American Indians in southern Utah is “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” by Juanita Brooks.[3] This article indicated how important Juanita’s future works would be. She points out that Brigham Young encouraged the Mormon settlers to attempt to prevent the Paiutes from selling their children to Mexicans and Utes who wanted to take them to Mexico and sell them as slaves. The Paiutes sometimes made these deals because they were destitute. He suggested that the Mormons buy the children and raise them to prevent such slavery. Young said, “No person can purchase them without their becoming as free, so far as natural rights are concerned, as persons of any other color.”[4] The children were to be equal members of Mormon society. Brooks wrote that a law passed in 1852 by the territorial legislature required that such Indian children should be clothed and sent to school between the ages of seven and sixteen.[5]

Brooks wrote the following:

Very early the Indians sensed the genuineness of the Mormon attitude, and often sold or gave their children to them. Indian mothers would then know where their babies were and be assured they were given good care. In her later life, Ann Chatterly McFarlane used often to tell of the time when an Indian mother ran into her house in Cedar City and thrusting a two-year old son toward her said, “Hide him, quick!” and disappeared out the back door. Ann had not time to find a hiding place, so she lifted her long, full skirt and put the baby under, telling him to stand on her feet and hold to her legs.

Almost before she had him placed, the warriors came, searching for the child. Mrs. McFarlane pretended not to understand, and in answer to their questions shook her head and pointed off in the opposite direction from which the mother had gone. The men went through the house, searching in every corner, under the bed, in the cellar and closets. In the meantime she went about her work, the child beneath her skirts as quiet as a quail. After a few days his mother returned and took him away.[6]

Why did the Paiutes respond positively to the Mormons? One reason is that the federal agents came up with the idea of Indian reservations. They felt it would be wise to move Indians to lands that were less desirable for Americans. In the case of the Paiutes, the federal officers wanted to move them to the Uintahs. The Paiutes were adamant about not leaving their sacred red sands, and they did not want to live with the Utes. Their resistance was eventually successful, but the Paiutes knew the Mormons would not leave the area either. Brooks said, “Perhaps it was not alone the teachings of the Mormons that had caused the distinction in the minds of the natives. The Mormons planned to stay in Utah permanently, and it was necessary for them to cultivate the friendship of the Indians if they were to be safe, especially in the smaller, scattered settlements.”[7]

Brooks cites Brigham Young’s policy of friendliness with the Indians: “When you go among the Lamanites, deal with them honestly and righteously in all things. Any man who cheats a Lamanite should be dealt with more severely than for cheating a white man. . . . I am sorry that some of our brethren have been killed by the Indians, but I am far more sorry that some of the Indians have been slain by the brethren.”[8]

There was often a lack of sympathy for the Indian viewpoint. For example, after a group of Navajos killed Dr. J. W. Whitmore and Robert McIntyre on 8 January 1866, a company commanded by James Andrus murdered a group of innocent Paiutes. Paiutes seemed to be a liability because the Mormons sometimes had to feed them. This charity continued until 1891 when the US government purchased a tract of land for a Paiute reservation in Washington County.

Juanita Books raised the issue of the fate of the adopted Indian children. She points out, “A surprising number of Indian children in white homes died in childhood or early adolescence; they seem to have had little resistance to white man’s diseases, especially measles.”[9] Albert Hamblin, Jacob Hamblin’s adopted Indian son, was an example of a promising youth who died in his twenties. She also observed that seven of the adoptees returned to live with their Paiute community in adulthood. Juanita gave several examples of such.

Then there are stories of intermarriage. She mentions Janet, who was purchased as an infant by Silas Smith of Parowan. As a young adult, she received an offer from a middle-aged polygamist to marry him. She refused, saying she only wanted to marry Dudley Leavitt, also a polygamist. George A. Smith convinced Leavitt to take her as his fourth wife. They had eleven children.

An article by Catherine S. and Don D. Fowler points out that the practice of childhood slavery in the period before 1860 also kept the population from expanding. The Utes not only took the children away, they also brought material culture items such as knives, kettles, tipis, guns, and eventually horses. Fowler and Fowler write:

Apart from the official policies of Brigham Young, individual Mormons and non-Mormons in Utah held varying opinions about the Indians, most of them consistent with general American views of the period. These ranged from common stereotypes of Indians as lazy, shiftless, thieving savages of little worth, to more positive attitudes noting their basic industry, intelligence, and educability. Many felt that although they were basically ‘savages’ the Indian could and should be taught ‘civilized’ ways even though most considered this would be a slow process. Few whites advocated a policy of complete integration as the two cultures were held to be too far removed from each other. Mormon ideology regarding the origin and identity of the Indians generally was responsible for some favorable attitudes and policies toward them, but it may also have been a contributing factor in maintaining a degree of social distance between the groups. Gradually, a place for the Indians was prepared within Mormon society as a whole—a place as an unskilled labor force to be tapped upon mutual consent and a position of association but not integration into local settlements.”[10]

A contrasting group of Native Americans are the Hopis because their lifestyle and achievements were much more like the Mormons. They lived in permanent dwellings and engaged in agriculture. They were peaceful and stable. Jacob Hamblin and the LDS Church leaders were anxious to include them in the Mormon sphere of influence, even to entice them to come across the Colorado River and live in Utah. Fifteen missions of Mormons were sent to the Hopis under Jacob Hamblin’s supervision, but the Hopis refused to leave their land. Hopi traditions spoke of bearded white men who would come to them and live among them. The Hopis were friendly and listened to the Mormon message, but did not respond to it.

But Hopi friendship had its limits. This was particularly true when food was in short supply. Without food or trade goods, their welcome quickly wore thin. “Judging from Mormon accounts, the Hopi were fixed in an otherwise fluid frontier; . . . most of them did not travel widely for trade or any other purpose.”[11]

W. Paul Reeve’s book Making Space on the Western Frontier[12] is a significant source for those wanting to know about the Paiutes. He argues that the Paiutes were steeped in their chosen space. Their religious beliefs claimed that God placed them in the Mojave Desert, a land full of sand and desert mountains, and they refused to depart. They had a rich sense of community based on geography and religion. In this way they had much in common with the Mormons. They understood the Mormons more than they understood the miners. The Mormons were agriculturalists; the miners were not. The Mormons would stay; the miners would not. But the Mormons could not win the Paiutes to their view of land as a place for farms. Their worldviews clashed. The Paiutes did not fence the land; they roamed it. Only seldom did they irrigate it. The result is that the Mormon expansion on the land drove the Paiutes into a corner which eventually forced them into wage labor. Either they had to settle on the Shivwits Reservation, established in 1891 near Ivins, or they had to find low-level wage jobs. Reeve states, “The attempts of government officials to redefine Paiute space clearly failed to take [not listening to strangers] into account. For most of the nineteenth century, the Moapa Reservation proved useless to the Paiutes. They therefore reinvented their economic space, incorporating their new neighbors (Mormons and miners) into a mixed system. While that system fixed the Paiutes at the lowest rung of white economic ladder, it opened fresh ways to supplement a subsistence economy. More importantly, it allowed Paiutes to stay on their homelands.”[13]

Ronald Walker notes in his article[14] that several recent scholars have taken a critical view of early Mormon actions: “Since pioneer times, Mormons have seen their acts toward the Indian as kindly and well meaning, and the majority of Mormon historians when crafting an occasional chapter or article have spoken with this viewpoint. They liked what they saw, or at least unconsciously accepted the cultural assumptions of which they were a part. This tendency has led to what might be described as the traditional view of Mormon-Indian relations. Begun by Hubert Howe Bancroft, Orson F. Whitney, and B. H. Roberts, it has continued in our own time with such scholars as Juanita Brooks.”[15]

Walker then goes on to describe the work of recent historians, such as revisionists Floyd O’Neil and Stanford Layton, who are highly critical of how Mormon settlers related to the American Indians: “O’Neil and Layton see the Mormons’ land hunger as voracious, their motives suspect, and their effect on the Indians ‘devastating.’ Brigham Young, in turn, is viewed, especially in his dealings with Washington-appointed territorial officials, as arbitrary and ultimately ineffectual. The authors, however, concede some Mormon peculiarity: ‘Mormonism’s stormy mid-western experience, its New England heritage, its scriptural base, and its schizophrenic view of government in the nineteenth century combined to create its own script that was acted out on the Utah Stage.’”[16]

Sondra Jones provides a landmark study on this subject.[17] She reviews the clashing interpretations of those who see early Mormons as sympathetic to the Indians and those who see the Mormons as hostile to them. She said: “Mormon settlers faithfully followed Brigham Young’s instructions, in particular his orders to feed rather than fight the Indians, and did their best to teach and civilize them.”[18] She noted, “Scholars castigated Mexican and Ute slavers, but wrote favorably of Mormon efforts to rescue and redeem Paiute and Gosiute children by fostering or indenturing them into their homes.”[19] Jones is favorable to John Alton Peterson’s Utah’s Black Hawk War, referring to it as “the most comprehensive and detailed chronicling of Mormon atrocities to date.”[20] Jones discusses a book[21] written by Ronald Holt, saying, “Holt drew attention to the paradox that ‘the negative consequence of being helped could be as pervasive and profound as those of being exploited.’”[22] She also criticizes the actions of Ernest L. Wilkinson and Utah senator Arthur Watkins, who used the federal government to limit the Indians’ claims to land.[23]

Though she included the many criticisms of the Mormon relationships with Indians, she has some positive words to stress: “No historian can escape the influence of their own perspectives, including this writer; however, after thirty years of being pulled through the interpretive tides of revisionist opinions about Mormon-Indian relations, I would argue that, while spattered with injustice and abuse, the pattern of Mormon-Indian relations still differed to a significant degree from Indian relations elsewhere on the American frontiers, particularly during the first fifteen years of Mormon settlement.”[24]

The most recent and most ambitious work on American Indians in the southern Utah region is Todd Compton’s A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary.[25] Instead of dwelling on Hamblin’s village building efforts at Santa Clara, Compton concentrates on Hamblin’s efforts as an explorer. He describes expedition after expedition in the southwest region, often across the Colorado River—the grueling hiking on narrow trails and steep canyons, the continual illnesses, and the lack of water and food, all while dealing with various Indian languages. Hamblin’s goal in doing this was to plant new Mormon settlements in the regions where Navajo and Hopi Indians were in control. These were beyond Santa Clara and Kanab, towns that Hamblin had founded. They were also east and south, in distant places in the desert where few white men lived. This was clearly a mission to bring Zion further into the desert and to expand the boundaries of Zion. These were to be places for possible new settlements as well as places of refuge should the Mormons have to leave the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys.

Next, Compton ventures into interpretation. He argues that Hamblin’s missions were not acts of individualism, nor were they what Frederick Jackson Turner argued was the motive of Americans who explored the West, which was to obtain land. There was no profit motive, nor were the explorers attempting to create a monument to themselves. Instead, Compton argues that Hamblin’s efforts were communitarian. He and his fellow explorers were planting a Zion version of community in a vast landscape. These missionaries were not on a salary, and they had to finance the effort themselves, often seeking aid along the way and usually living from the land. Individual accomplishment is usually considered the mode of the settlement of the West. Hamblin spent his life promoting communitarian achievements, an approach that was a natural outgrowth of the Mormon village system.

While some explorations in the US West were funded by the federal government, Hamblin’s were not. They were not funded by the Church, either. Church leaders did issue the call for these explorations, but they did not allot any finances to help with the task. Just as the Mormon villages came about by a call from the Prophet, they were not the result of a financial appropriation. If settlers accepted the call, they then had to use all of their own talent and finances to create a Mormon village. That same mode was the base of the several missions Hamblin and his colleagues undertook into the US Southwest.

When the Hamblin-led companies contacted the Hopis, they were welcomed. Hamblin knew that the Hopis were somewhat similar to the Mormons. They lived in villages, often carved into cliffs, and they used irrigation to raise crops. The Mormon explorers were hopeful that the Hopis would become Mormons when they learned about the Book of Mormon. Initially, Hamblin and his companions felt this was possible. The Hopis hosted them and even agreed to let a couple of missionaries stay with them for a year. When Hamblin returned in a year, he was disappointed. The Hopis had no intention of leaving their villages or their religion. They would not cross the Colorado River and be with the Mormons.

The Navajos were another story—they were hostile to the Mormons. They claimed that the Mormons had killed three of their men in central Utah, and they wanted to kill Hamblin as revenge. He skillfully convinced them to send one of their respected elders to the site. When he returned, he confirmed Hamblin’s story (that Mormons were not the killers). Unfortunately, twenty-year-old George A. Smith Jr. was ambushed and killed by Navajos on one of Hamblin’s missions, which was a definite setback for the missions.

Another problem with to the Indian-Mormon relationship was that Indians were in competition with groups of Mormons who had very similar values as the Indians did. The Indians felt they were in sacred land. They spent their efforts for their group, not just their family. Both Indians and Mormons were convinced that they were being directed by their God. They differed on many secular things, too—farming, fencing, dwellings, and schools. Compton causes his readers to consider Indians more sympathetically.

The people who were interviewed by Franklin Harris in 1968–70 had some contact, though not a lot, with American Indians, mainly Paiutes. They include a few limited comments in their interviews, but here they give a spectrum of attitudes about the Indians.


LaFave Jones Leany

LaFave Jones Leany was born on 26 May 1907 in Duchesne but lived in Tabiona, St. George, and Bloomington. She tells about her mother’s encounter with Indians: “An Indian man came to our house with a little girl about my age. We were two or three years old. She was sick. I think she had pneumonia [and] lung congestion. My mother put mustard plasters on her, soaked her with tea, and doctored her until she was feeling pretty good again. She said to the Indian [man], ‘Why don’t you give me this little girl? She is about the age of my little girl, and they could be companions.’ He said he could not [because] it would hurt him, and he pointed to his heart. It would hurt him in his heart. She died within a week or so after he took her [home].

“There were also a lot of Indian squaws around that part of town. [They were] down the creek. They would come to my mother with a piece of cloth and want her to make them a dress. So she would make them a dress. She would say, ‘Now you go home and take a bath. Clean up before you put this dress on.’ They would not [do it]. They would just put the dress on top of another. [They put] one dirty dress on top of another. They would have four or five dresses on at one time.”[26]

George Wilson McConkie

George Wilson McConkie was born on 30 June 1909 in Moab, Utah. Throughout his life, he lived in LaSal, Salt Lake City, Elko, and St. George. He was directly involved with Indians through the LDS Church: “Soon after we came to St. George, a Stake Conference was held. It was announced that there [was] some Indian handiwork in the basement of the tabernacle [that] they would like people to see. Being interested in Indians, I dropped down in the basement and met Lucy Graff. The first thing I knew, I had some Indian work [to do] here too. Altogether, I spent about ten and one-half years working with the Paiute Indians in Elko and here. My wife was also involved in the Indian work [for] about the same length of time.

“For a while we were assigned as missionaries [to the Indians]. We were under the Stake Mission leader. Then I was Sunday School Superintendent at the reservation for some time. Later, when [the LDS Church unit] was made a branch, I was made branch president out there. We enjoyed it very much and we had many Indian friends. A few of them still drop in to see us for a visit. Lots of them come in when they have trouble and need a little help.

“We have taken four different Indian children into our home at different times, one at a time. [We] tried to help them out a little. Sometimes it seemed to be quite effective and other times not. Two of these [children] we took on our own, and the other [two] we received through the [LDS] church placement program. The boy we had last year is attending BYU this year. We are very happy with [how] he is doing and anxious to see him make the most of his life. He seems like one of our own, Jonathan Probashini. He came from down in Gallup, New Mexico, area. He is a fine boy [and] is looking forward to [serving] a mission. His objective is to become a school teacher in the Gallup area.”[27]

Frederick Cheney Van Buren

Frederick Cheney Van Buren was born on 26 September 1883. He tells a very different story because his father fought in the Black Hawk Indian War: “My father fought all through the Blackhawk Indian War. He was not only a good farmer; he was a good Indian fighter. He had a code all of his own. For instance, they came back from Grass Valley, where he had killed three Indians. He had been sent to guard a trail. When the shooting stopped up on the hill, his partners went up there. They hadn’t any more than left [when] there come four Indians down the trail. He shot at them with his gun, but he said he didn’t think he even frightened them. He knew that something had to happen. So he sat down and took his cap and ball six-shooter, put his elbows on his knees and shot as they came up. One of them fell, [but] they kept coming. They didn’t know where the shots were coming from. As they came on, he shot and down [went] another [Indian]. The other two saw him, and they detoured and ran across [to the hill]. As they ran over the hill, shot at the two. He [shot] one of them in the heel. They caught two Indians and were going to execute them in Nephi. He didn’t know it was the same Indians. The Indians told him [because] the Indians knew him. He was delegated to shoot these two Indians and he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t shoot a tied-up Indian. He said that if they would turn them loose he would try to get his share, but he wouldn’t shoot a tied-up Indian. He didn’t want to be executioner, so he was court-martialed. There wasn’t much they could do because they needed all of the men and he was a good Indian fighter. It wasn’t very serious.”[28]

Joseph Aurelius Haslem

Joseph Aurelius Haslem was born in Cedar City in 1902. He gives a child’s view of Indians there: “I can remember at times the Indians would get drunk and go on a rampage. They didn’t do any harm to the white people, but they sometimes would get in a fight among themselves and hurt some of them. The white people were a little leery of them. I know my mother knew them pretty well, and she was a little worried about them. They would come around our place quite a bit. They worked for us on the farm once in a while and played here a little bit. They were from the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, I think. Some of them were very good. They were one or two of the very bad ones from the early days who were still alive that lived there. I remember one that was named Marycatch. He was a mean-looking Indian and wasn’t sociable like the rest of them. At times there would be one of them at a time who would work for us. They would work around the farm for a little while, maybe a week or two.”[29]

Lafayette Hall

Lafayette Hall from Rockville, born in 1888, tells a short tale about American Indians. “I was advanced to the teachers [quorum]. As quick as I [was] in the teachers [quorum], they had us go around with the older men to teach us. I had a smart companion [David Lemmon] who was an Indian who had been raised by the whites.

“In the early days here, the California Trail went from the east to California. The Navajos would come here and steal the Paiute children. Then they would sell them to the people coming through. They would take them to California and sell them as slaves. They had quite a slave trade here. Even some of the Navajos, when they were raiding the Paiutes, were hard pressed for something to eat.

“Brigham Young advised the Saints that they could trade for those children [and] raise them in their homes. I might tell a little instance that happened to my folks in Rockville. One night the Navajos were here. They were camping a little below town. It was quiet, [and] they heard something outside. It was a little [Paiute Indian] squaw with her baby. It was several months old. She said, ‘You keep my baby? The Navajos [are] here. You keep my baby?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ In the corner [was] a pile of rags, [and] she laid her baby in that pile of rags. That [baby] would stay there all day and not make a whimper. It would look at you and [fix] its eyes at you, but it would not make a whimper. After dark, [the mother] would slip in and feed that baby, and it stayed until the Navajos left.”[30]

George Champ Henrie

George Champ Henrie was born on 12 April 1912 in Panguitch. He tells the story of their Navajo foster child, Linda Reese Curley: “While [our son] Wallace was on a[n LDS] Navajo Mission, he took a liking to [Linda Rose Curley] and wanted us to take her [in the] school program, which we consented to do. I believe my wife said [she was] eight. I thought she was nine.

“Anyway, this is her sixth year with us. We have enjoyed her a lot. She is good to mind [and] good to help. We had always heard the statement about ‘Honest Injun’ and I believe it. She has been the [most honest person] in the world that way. One day she wanted some money for lunch. I gave her too much, and I thought she could just use the rest of [the money]. I gave her fifty cents too much, and she handed me the fifty cents back.

“We have never in her life sent her to a store but what she comes right back and hands us the change. ‘Linda, do you want the nickel?’ She looks and laughs for it. She has always [received] the kind of marks in school that I wish I could have [received]. I wish I had put forth the effort so that I could have [received] that kind [of grades]. She likes to take part [in activities]. She likes church and church activities. She likes games. I used to be amazed. When she first came here, she was not accustomed to all our different games, cards and checkers. Finally, she would catch on fast and just loved them. She would make us sit up and take notice too. We took her over to Usher’s one night and played Yahtzee. None of us had ever played Yahtzee. She beat about her share of those games. It was the first time we had ever played it. She tries to figure things out as she goes.”[31]

Emma Jarvis McArthur

Emma Jarvis (Cottam) McArthur was born on 27 December 1882 in St. George. She tells about Indians in her neighborhood: “Daddy developed one block east of Grandpa near where the Indians camped. They lived across the street here in their wickiups. They were [from the Shivwits band of] the Paiute [Indian Tribe of Utah]. They were friendly. I wasn’t afraid of them. At Christmastime I always saw to it that we had enough bread and meat [so] that we could divide with them Christmas morning. There [would be] seventeen to twenty standing there [at my door] wanting something to eat for Christmas. We went out and danced with them a few times. When we moved a little farther east, we used to have one of the squaws help me with the washing. We used to wash [our clothes] on [a wash] board. For a big family we would have clothes on the three big [clothes]lines and on the fence, north and west of us.

“The squaws liked to work [and] they only charged us $1.00 a washing. When I was a little girl, Mother only paid the squaw $0.25 but she was satisfied. She did the rubbing and Mother did the rest of it. When I paid the squaw $1.00, she did it all but hanging [the clothes] out.

“They never talked much about [the gospel]. As far as I remember, they kept quiet while you [were] asking the blessing. Often they would set by us while we were eating.

“Sometimes we would feed them at the table, but they would rather sit off by themselves. They liked something sweet like honey or molasses. They [called honey] ‘bee molasses.’ They liked honey better than molasses.”[32]

Norma Bringhurst Empey

Norma Bringhurst Empey was born in Toquerville in 1912. She tells this story: “I remember my Grandmother Bringhurst telling me of an instance. There was an Indian, and he was kind of a mean Indian. Everyone was afraid of him. He came into town drunk one day when everyone was gone. He got a hold of the baby before Grandma could get there and he was going to throw her. Grandma picked up a knife and went for him. [She] told him that she would kill him if he did. He was so taken aback and shocked that he just put the baby down and left. He came back many times and told her [that] she was the bravest squaw in the world. If it had not been for her he would have done something bad. He thanked her for her courage.

“There were many [times], especially up at Rockville where this type of [event] happened. . . . There was a great many people who lived in fear all of the time of [Indians]. Toquerville itself was named for Chief Toquer, the chief of the Indian tribe that lived near there. That is where Toquerville got its name.”[33]

Bodil Margaret Pulsipher

Bodil Margaret Johnson Pulsipher was born on 13 February 1890 in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Her father was Nephi Johnson. She tells briefly about her father taking the Indians into what is now Zion National Park near where they lived. The Indians feared going up into the canyon: “They worried, stewed, and coaxed, ‘No we still have more to see.’ He stayed in there for a long time. He came back out and they were pretty near scared. They thought it was his spirit. They knew he wouldn’t [survive].[34] He said they were crying. They didn’t believe it. They had never been up there. I think from history [he was the first white man who had been up there]. They never did find anybody else unless it was lately.

“[When] they finished the tunnel [in 1930], they made up through there, they had me come up. My grandson was old enough to drive a car, [so] he took me up. We had a [good] time. There were people from around [who] took care of the party. They dedicated it.”[35]

Mary Ann (Adams) Starr

Mary Ann (Adams) Starr was born on 29 October 1902 in Cedar City. She tells a frightening experience: “The time the Indian came [we were living in] the same house. The Indian camp was south of town and my father was off freighting to the Milford and Delamar mines in Nevada. We had all gone to bed. Something woke Mother up. She heard someone breathing hard. She told us all to be quiet, and she got up. She was afraid to light the lamp. She could see the outline of this woman. She asked who it was and the old squaw jabbered and said she wanted “Tom.” Of course mother knew she meant Thomas Urie, the city marshal. She told her where she [would] have to go down there to get [him]. The squaw told her that all the Indians were drunk and beating up on their squaws. She had come for help. She seemed confused. Mother told her, the best she could, where to go [to find him.] It was in the middle of the night, late for us anyway. She left and Mother barred the doors because [people] didn’t used to lock their doors.”[36]


There was clearly a double relationship between the white people and the Native Americans. On the one hand, Mormons were at war with Indians for four years. Some, especially men, became Indian haters and were involved in killing Indians. Interestingly, their hatred did not transfer to Indian children. On the other hand, Mormons living in villages interacted with the Paiutes and Navajos often. Sometimes these contacts were friendly, while others involved confrontations. Tragically, three members of the Berry family at Pipe Springs were murdered. They are buried at Grafton.

Some of the whites had interesting extended relationships with American Indians. Several of the whites adopted Indian children, either permanently or during their school years. One family included an Indian mother, and another had a member who was part American Indian. But even then, those natives were often not considered as equal. Undoubtedly, the whites felt that the Indians were primitive, and this in turn hurt the child.

The American Indian values often clashed with the whites. Some of them moved seasonally and did not recognize federal or private ownership of the open lands. Whites also wanted to use those lands for grazing their cattle and sheep herds. This often led to clashes.

The Mormon settlers had both a fear and a fondness for American Indians. Those who lived close to them gradually entered into a working relationship with them, trading, interacting, and hoping they would become Mormons and farmers. The children were the key element. Both Indians and Mormons hoped to help the Indian children. The Mormons wanted them in their schools and even in their families, while the Indians wanted to preserve their long-standing values and culture.


[1] For more information on this conflict, see John Alton Peterson, Utah’s Black Hawk War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998). It is well balanced, considering both American Indian and Mormon interests and involvement.

[2] Richard E. Turley Jr., Ronald W. Walker, and Glen M. Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[3] Juanita Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” Utah Historical Quarterly 12 (January–April 1944): 1–49.

[4] Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” 7.

[5] Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” 8.

[6] Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” 14–15.

[7] Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” 18.

[8] Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” 21.

[9] Brooks, “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier,” 33.

[10] Catherine S. Fowler and Don Fowler, “Notes on the History of the Southern Paiutes and Western Shoshonis,” Utah Historical Quarterly 39, no. 2 (1971): 93–113.

[11] Fowler and Fowler, “Notes on the History of the Southern Paiutes and Western Shoshonis,” 186–87.

[12] W. Paul Reeve, Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006).

[13] Reeve, Making Space on the Western Frontier, 83–84.

[14] Ronald Walker, “Toward Reconstruction of Mormon and Indian Relations, 1847–1877,” BYU Studies 29, no. 4 (Fall 1989): 23–42.

[15] Walker, “Toward Reconstruction,” 24.

[16] Walker, “Toward Reconstruction,” 26.

[17] Sondra Jones, “Saints or Sinners? The Evolving Perception of Mormon Indian Relations in Utah Historiography,” Utah Historical Quarterly 72, no. 1 (2004): 19–46.

[18] Jones, “Saints or Sinners?,” 23.

[19] Jones, “Saints or Sinners?,” 24.

[20] Jones, “Saints or Sinners?,” 29.

[21] Ronald Holt, Beneath These Red Cliffs: An Ethnohistory of the Utah Paiutes (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1992).

[22] Jones, “Saints or Sinners?,” 31.

[23] Jones, “Saints or Sinners?,” 32.

[24] Jones, “Saints or Sinners?,” 34–35, emphasis in original.

[25] Todd Compton, A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013).

[26] LaFave Jones Leany, VOR File 69-125.

[27] George Wilson McConkie, VOR File 68-092.

[28] Frederick Cheney Van Buren, VOR File 69-098.

[29] Joseph Aurelius Haslem, VOR File 69-192.

[30] Lafayette Hall, VOR File 69-177.

[31] George Champ Henrie, VOR File 69-184.

[32] Emma Jarvis (Cottam) McArthur, VOR File 69-166.

[33] Norma Bringhurst Empey, VOR File 69-126.

[34] Rather, they thought he wouldn’t survive being in the canyon.

[35] Bodil Margaret Johnson Pulsipher, VOR File 70-035.

[36] Mary Ann (Adams) Starr, VOR File 69-197.