In 1830, with the Book of Mormon hot off the press, Joseph Smith sent missionaries to the Native Americans to teach them of their heritage as descendants of Father Lehi and the house of Israel. The federal government threw them out and wouldn’t let them preach, but regardless, the idea that Native Americans will be blessed by the restoration of the gospel and the history contained in the Book of Mormon is rooted deep in Mormon history and doctrine [fn 1].
However, the Book of Mormon also teaches that God brought about the genocide against the Native Americans because they were wicked. According to the Book of Mormon, and as Church leaders continue to teach, Christopher Columbus was inspired by God to sail out and discover the Americas for the Europeans. Nephi saw this in vision (1 Nephi 13:12). Christopher Columbus wrote about how he felt the guiding hand of God in his explorations, and knew that he had a role in spreading Christianity. Latter-day prophets picked up on this and praised Columbus’s faith and courage to act on his beliefs.
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) revered Columbus as being inspired of the Lord: “A host of critics have spoken out against [Christopher Columbus]. I do not dispute that there were others who came to this Western Hemisphere before him. But it was he who in faith lighted a lamp to look for a new way to China and who in the process discovered America. His was an awesome undertaking—to sail west across the unknown seas farther than any before him of his generation. He it was who, in spite of the terror of the unknown and the complaints and near mutiny of his crew, sailed on with frequent prayers to the Almighty for guidance. In his reports to the sovereigns of Spain, Columbus repeatedly asserted that his voyage was for the glory of God and the spread of the Christian faith. Properly do we honor him for his unyielding strength in the face of uncertainty and danger” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 73–74; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 52). [Source]
Why was the land of the Americas taken from the descendants of the Lamanites and given to the Europeans? Because they were wicked. The idea that the Lord gives land to the righteous and takes it away from the wicked is firmly rooted in the Old Testament. From the destruction of Jericho to the destruction of the kingdom of Israel after King Solomon, land is passed around to different peoples based on their righteousness and God’s will. Nephi taught this while exhorting his brothers to help him build the ship. You can read the entire lecture in 1 Nephi 17:29-38 which he neatly summed up in verse 37-38.
37 And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked.
38 And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes
The Old Testament’s stories about how the Israelites conquered the promised land are pretty awful. The Lord commanded the Israelites to massacre entire cities. War crimes and atrocities were the Lord’s method of choice to clear the people from the promised land and give the land to the newly-freed Israelites. See the Old Testament books of Deutoronomy, Joshua and Judges.
It’s equally as horrifying to read about the methods the European settlers used against the Native Americans. The Europeans enslaved Native Americans and worked them to death. They sent blankets infected with smallpox that wiped out 90% of entire tribes. They used guns against people armed with tomahawks. They slaughtered buffalo to deprive Native Americans of food. They passed laws and forcibly relocated entire nations of people.
The Book of Mormon teaches that this judgment came directly from God. “I have visited them [Lamanite descendants] in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:34). Nephi’s younger brother Jacob echoed this teaching: “I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles” (2 Nephi 10:18). The Native Americans suffered because they were wicked; they deserved it; God sent Europeans to do this to them, so all the atrocities committed by the European settlers were God’s judgment upon them.
Saying that a race of people deserve to be persecuted and destroyed is racism. The Book of Mormon teaches a fundamental and damaging racism towards Native Americans, and then tries to turn it into a blessing. After the Gentiles “afflict” the Native Americans, they will be taught their Israelite heritage and blessed by the gospel (see 1 Nephi 22:5-9). Europeans will destroy the Native Americans, and then save them by preaching the gospel. The White Savior trope is also racist.
I’ve never seen the Church disavow that teaching the way they’ve disavowed (without apologizing) the racism that caused the priesthood ban against the Blacks. President Nelson has reached out to the NAACP, and was recently awarded the Gandhi-King-Mandela Peace Prize for his efforts to build bridges with Blacks.
But what about trying to build bridges with the Native Americans? Or even just acknowledging the harm done? God promised Nephi that the Gentiles would not “destroy the seed of thy brethren” (1 Nephi 13:31). The Church needs to speak up and help this prophecy along, because the European descendants are still trying to destroy the Native Americans.
In the past few years, news broke about the discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves where thousands of indigenous children died at residential schools in Canada. The residential schools were part of the government’s forced assimilation, in which it took some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children over a period of more than 100 years and forced them to abandon their native language and convert to Christianity. America has similar blood on its hands. Residential boarding schools closed decades ago, though their legacy and damage done still exists.
Currently, groups and individuals within the United States are working in several ways to destroy and weaken Native American culture, people and lands. The genocide is ongoing; it isn’t a past event that we, the descendants of the European colonists, can express regret over and move on. The idea that this land was given to Christians and they have a duty to convert the Native Americans continues to do significant damage today.
I’ve got one example for you today, but this is far from the only way bad actors within the United States continue to attack and erode the culture and rights of Native Americans.
Indian Child Welfare Act and Brackeen v. Haaland
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 to stop the practice of taking Native American children from their families and tribes. As many as 35% of Native American children were being taken from their families—often without evidence of abuse or neglect that would be considered grounds for removal—and placed with non-Native families, with the intent to deprive them of their Native family or culture. These children were being removed from intact families, and taken from the reservation even when they had extended family who were willing and able to take them in. The Indian Child Welfare Act worked to protect the best interests of Native American children and keep them connected to their families and tribes.
(The Church’s Indian Placement Program, which operated from the 1950s through the 1990s, was directly related to its theology about the destiny of Native Americans, and a way to assimilate Native American children into Christian culture. I’m not very familiar with the Indian Placement Program, but it appears to have been voluntary and open only to those whose parents requested it and for people who had already been baptized. The Church opposed the ICWA. See Entangled Histories: The Mormon Church and Indigenous Child Removal from 1850 to 2000, Margaret D. Jacobs, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 42, No. 2 (April 2016), pp. 27-60 at page 51. The ICWA did not interfere with the Church’s Indian Placement Program because those children were not adopted – merely sent to live with a white LDS family during the school year.)
The ICWA, passed in 1978, is an early example of woke politics. “Woke” is basically the idea that white Christian America has harmed people of color and minorities, and that we should do something to stop the harm and even heal problems as much as we can. The ICWA identified a serious harm – white Christians were taking 25% to 35% of Native American children away from their families and tribes and giving them to white Christians to assimilate into mainstream culture – and stopped it from happening.
In 2016, the Brackeens, an Evangelical Christian couple who felt God had called them to open their home to more children, began fostering a baby boy who had been born to a Navajo mother and Cherokee father. They were ultimately able to adopt the boy, though it was difficult. When the Brackeens tried to adopt the boy’s sister, they were blocked. There are a lot of details that I’m skipping, but the result was that the Brackeens challenged the ICWA for, among other things, discriminating on the basis of race because the ICWA prefers to place Native American children with Native American families, either extended family or other non-relatives in the tribe.
The legal argument is complex because the various Native American tribes are sovereign nations and so tribal membership is a political identity, not necessarily a racial one. The Brackeen’s case has been combined with several other cases involving white families who want to adopt Native American children. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Brackeen v. Haaland. The case was argued on Nov. 9, 2022 and the decision is expected sometime this spring.
If the Supreme Court invalidates the ICWA, it will have a devastating impact on Native Americans, and renew conservative Christian efforts to erase Native American heritage by taking their children away. Words fail me when I try to describe the trauma that must cause to parents, children, extended family and their community. There is plenty of precedent that would allow the Supreme Court to uphold the ICWA, but this particular Supreme Court has shown itself willing to mow down precedent in pursuit of a conservative agenda.
In essence, racism is hurting Native Americans from both directions. For decades, Native Americans were targeted with the racially discriminatory practice of taking their children into the foster care system in disproportionate numbers and placing them with families who would erase their connection to their roots and assimilate them into mainstream culture. This was the stated goal. Healing that damage means considering race in order to protect a race. It’s disingenuous for white people to argue that they’re being racially discriminated against because a people who have been the target of racial discrimination now have a law to protect themselves. Fairness and wokeness require that Native American identity be considered so that it can be protected.
The Church and Native Americans
The Church is not involved in the Brackeen v. Haaland lawsuit. It has quietly stepped away from advocating for the conversion of Native American tribal members, and we don’t hear much about this issue anymore. However, the damage done by the Christian attempt to convert Native Americans has never been healed. (Note that various Christian denominations had this same goal; this wasn’t unique to the LDS Church.)
There is much concern rightly expressed about the racial discrimination that kept Blacks from holding the priesthood. The Church has disavowed (without apologizing) all of the justifications and policies that were used to support the priesthood and temple ban for so many years.
No one is pressuring the Church to apologize for racism towards Native Americans. The Church can’t disavow the doctrine behind the genocide against Native Americans and the attempt to convert them. It’s baked into the scriptures. Not only did Joseph Smith believe the American continent was given to the Europeans by God because the Native Americans were wicked, but this doctrine was explicitly taught by Nephi, Enos and Moroni. To state that the way the Native Americans were treated was a tragedy would gut a major message of the Book of Mormon.
The Church has sought to excuse its racism against Blacks as policy, not doctrine. There’s a consensus that the priesthood ban came from Brigham Young and not Joseph Smith. There is no comparable loophole that would allow the Church to excuse its racism against Native Americans. The Book of Mormon teaches clear and undeniable racist doctrine against Native Americans.
[fn 1] The Book of Mormon title page claims that it is written to the Lamanites, that they might be brought to a knowledge of their forefathers and their heritage as descendants of the house of Israel. Enos received a promise that the Book of Mormon would be used to teach the Lamanites of their heritage (Enos 1:11-14). The Book of Mormon promises that the Native Americans will be part of building Zion in the latter days. In this General Conference talk from 1980, Elder Gene R. Cook rhapsodizes about the faithfulness of the Lamanite descendants in South America, telling several stories about miraculous conversions, and then using language that now is outdated for the way it sets up the white people as the wise ones bringing knowledge to the simple and humble native people of color. “There are few problems with respect to teachableness among this people. They are teachable, meek, open in their hearts, and, in this respect, much like submissive children.” You hear less language like that in the decades since then, perhaps because people have identified the White Savior trope as harmful and have pushed back against it.
- Do any of you remember the Indian Placement Program? Tell a story.
- At what point did you start to get horrified at the teaching that racism and exploitation isn’t so bad if it brings people to Christ? [I was going to try and phrase that more neutrally, but I can’t do it. Destroying a nation of people because some might get converted to Christ is horrible and I hope no one thinks conversion is a benefit of genocide, slavery and racism.]
- Should Mormon culture and Church leadership do more to heal the wounds of racism against Native Americans?
- Given how deeply Native America racism is baked into our theology, do you think the Church will ever do anything to address this issue?
My wife’s family took Indian children for several school-year terms in the 1950-1960 timeframe. They were well-behaved children, quiet and VERY afraid of this strange world not of their making. Although I suppose many white people thought this was a good, admirable, or even necessary program, it saddens me to think of the children . .
The idea of taking children from a “bad” environment and placing them in a “good” environment so that the child can learn a better way of life is a long held progressive ideology. The moral argument is children are being denied the full benefits society can offer, so government & institutions must intervene. It is moral do-goodism to suppose outsiders can identify and fix problems inherent to a certain people and culture.
We see this ideology in forced desegregation – busing as it is called – in relation to improving the mix of children in public schools. If kids are bused from the projects to the wealthy suburbs their lives will be improved.
Is this attitude of seeing social failure and wanting to help racist? And there is social failure! Anyone who spends time on Native American reservations, or in certain urban communities, sees dysfunction that has huge social ramifications.
Conservatives get criticized for not caring – for saying communities need to solve their own problems. Progressives now get criticized for caring – for recognizing there are failed communities and wanting to do something about it.
The latest Liberal mindset is to accelerate community failure by dissolving all standards of social conduct. Who are we to judge others? And so the authorities defund the police, eliminate standards of education and civility and we watch communities collapse into anarchy.
There is a better way. Jesus Christ taught a better way. For there to be a better way there must be an inferior way. Those arguing all cultures and philosophies are equally valid inherently reject the idea of a divine gospel. In broader terms, the whole notion of having schools and churches, educators and missionaries is based on the idea there exists a superior knowledge that will benefit other people.
The argument people cannot judge the superiority and inferiority of various cultures leads to the right-wing conclusion that people and cultures should be left alone to do as they please. If that is not the desired outcome, than what is the philosophical argument for social engineering that rationalizes some intrusion is necessary? Once you allow for some intrusion, what is the basis for deciding what is too much intrusion?
All this is for me to say that if you hate what LDS leaders did in their approach to help Native Americans, then you should be equally skeptical of all government social interventions. For all such programs are based on the idea that there is a disadvantaged group and they can be helped by exposing them to “modern” ideas and experiences.
something interesting to mention here is the BoM’s “Indian apocalypse”, which sort of articulates are reverse manifest-destiny. In Third Nephi 20, there are a couple passages that appear to say that the “house of Jacob” (which in BOM terms we would understand to be Native Americans) will destroy the gentiles “like lions among sheep”, BUT only if they ‘accept the gospel’. It would imply that at some future point, some significant number portion of the church membership will be native american and will walk all over the “gentiles” (whites).
There’s some scholarship around this, what is called the “Book of Mormon Amerindian/Indian Apocalypse”, and it’s pretty interesting, in that respect, the BoM does seem to dove tail with Native American apocalyptic movements in the 19th like the Ghost Dance. I don’t think it makes the BoM or mormonism less racist, but it was an unusual thing for a white person in the 19th century like Joseph Smith to articulate, that the whites would eventually be defeated by Native Americans in the distant future.
Any I may be mistaken, I was trying to look this up but couldn’t find anything, but I recall reading about a 70 who was exed decades ago for being too much into that prophecy in Third Nephi 20 and it made a lot white mormons uncomfortable and ended up being part of the reason he ended up being excommunicated. It might have been George P. Lee, who was convicted for sexually molesting a minor, but I’m having trouble finding anything else.
Janey, this is a terrific post. Lots of stuff to dig into here, but to answer question number 4, no they won’t do anything. As you point out, this kind of God-approved genocidal thinking is so baked into Mormonism that to refute it or apologize for it or even just to suggest that the B of M is a teeny bit racist would mean that the entire structure of Mormonism would fall. It’s interesting that a lot of true believers tout the “miraculous” existence of Mormonism and talk about how “it just make sense” while those of us with a more skeptical perspective may see Mormonism as so fragile that it can’t acknowledge some generally accepted truths about social and racial justice without falling apart.
A little while back, hawkgrrrl made the comment that the B of M is essentially a handbook for white supremacy. Your post reinforces that and really, yours and hawk’s perspectives on this matter is one that I share and is also one of the big reasons that I am essentially a member in name only who attends church every Sunday just to chat with a few friends. The B of M is not only a handbook for white supremacy generally, but is also a text rife with colonialism and colonizing rhetoric, rhetoric that can also be found it the talks and writings of number of even relatively recent Mormon leaders. I’ve always been deeply mystified about the truly bizarre attempts to identify an unnamed person in the B of M with Columbus and further, the hagiographic view of Columbus that many Mormon leaders seem to possess. That includes some truly embarrassing stuff like Arnold Garr’s 1992 book on Columbus (I don’t recommend reading it). It does not take much research to demonstrate that Columbus was a delusional psychopath. Just look up the atrocities he committed as governor and viceroy of the Indies (content warning: there will be descriptions of violence and sexual abuse) for instance. And BTW, Cook’s language disturbingly mirrors some of what Columbus wrote in his journals about the “innocence” (and hence exploitability) of the indigenous people he encountered.
What’s perhaps most disturbing about all of this is that if you give genocide and other atrocities the cover of “God’s will” or “God’s promised land for the righteous”, then that not only allows racism to be excused or dismissed in the name of religion, it also gives individual members of the church the permission to hold such insidious beliefs (I’ve actually heard more than one member try to justify chattel slavery using the “God’s will” argument, e.g.). There’s a similar strain of thought, as you point out, about the genocide practiced on the indigenous peoples of the Americas; that violence and destruction are just fine as long as those things bring people to Christ. That’s the kind of baked-in racist/colonizing ideology that the B of M and other Mormon teachings engender. And I think we see the seeds of that also in the incidents and practices that you mention; the underlying assumption of much of what you document is not only that “true” religion can help “civilize” people (which is really just coded language for eradicating other cultures), but also that there is a particularly insidious strain of that kind of thinking deeply embedded in Mormon thought.
To answer your question number 3, yes, Mormon leadership and culture should do a lot more to heal the wounds of racism against Native Americans. But I just don’t see how that is going to get done any time soon. I mean, President Nelson can win an award, but until all of the upper leadership admit that the Book of Mormon is just made up and then condemn its racist and colonialist aspects (among other things), none of this will change. And, of course, the leadership will never admit such a thing. It’s important, though incredibly demoralizing, to remember that the greatest sin in Mormonism isn’t murder, or adultery or idolatry or embezzling; it’s admitting that the B of M isn’t “true”.
The White Savior trope is baked into our missionary work, especially here in Utah with the concept of “inner-city” missions. To clarify, the older fat and happy white people get called to serve or rather donate time to Spanish-speaking wards and branches.
My original comment was a a mess of various thoughts on what is a fascinating subject raised by the OP. So here is the first set of question that come to my mind.
1) Is it inherently racist for people to view another culture and see behaviors and outcomes and judge them as inferior?
2) Is it inherently wrong to judge another culture as doing inferior things?
3) What is the appropriate way, if any, to help people of another culture?
I don’t think anything will change about the Church’s teachings concerning Native Americans, like others have said, it’s too baked in and part of the foundations of Mormonism.
Another reason why I don’t think it will change is that Americans are very unlikely to really have regular interactions with Native Americans (unless you happen to live in a few specific areas and I have found the small white towns just outside of Reservations to be some of the most racist places in the US), making the issue out of sight, out of mind. Even then, regular exposure doesn’t seem to help, as I know a few people who served missions on the Reservations and they ended up having the biggest white savior complex out of any RMs I have known and engage in some of the worst victim blaming I have ever seen.
That being said, the Church has done a few things to help the Native community, such as scholarships for Natives at BYU, hosting Native Cultural events at BYU, etc. It’s not enough to make up for what they have done in the past, but it is nice to see them trying to do good for that community.
When I was a kid growing up in a suburb of SLC in the 90s there was a family in my ward who participated in this program. A Native American kid around my age lived with them for at least two (maybe more) school years. He was super cool, but he was perpetually pissed off at his host family because he said they used him as a servant – basically slave labor – to earn his keep while he was with them. On the scale of orthodoxy, this family was THE most orthodox that there was (which is saying something). The parents of that family also always seemed perpetually pissed off with constant disapproval of everything. I had no reason to believe my friend was lying about his experience and everything I ever saw from those parents was consistent with what you would expect to see from people who would do that. I’ve always wondered what happened to my friend, but I’ve never been able to find him online or anything. I can only imagine the BS he had to deal with that I was completely oblivious to at the time, especially living in that house.
Beware of ethnocentrism. Your own culture is next.
“3) What is the appropriate way, if any, to help people of another culture?”
If there is an appropriate way, it certainly isn’t by taking children away from their parents so that generational and cultural contacts are destroyed. Not exactly pro-family, eh? It was already apparent what was happening by the 1960s. The Church kept it up for decades after that.
Yes I remember the Indian Placement Program and have met both families that had native children and native adults who went through the program. That said, this whole issue is complicated.
Just as an aside, I don’t we why the word “woke” was used in trying to explain what has happened. It’s a word that has no clear meaning to people either on the right or left. It just seems to be a word to put down the left because they are thinking about the wrongs that have happened in our society and like everyone else, don’t really know what to do on a societal level. It’s used to put down people who see the past by people who want to ignore the past.
That said, there are huge problems for the church in how they have treated and still treat Native Americans. Trying to look at the theology to fix things is pointless. If the church has a living prophet then the church should acknowledge the wrong done in relation to the indigenous peoples in the past and redefine what it is to be a child of God and move forward with all people. There is to much division in religion today with people categorizing others into us and them. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the 12 tribes, jew and gentile, or sinners and saints. What I’ve learned in my life is that there is good and bad in all kinds of groups of people and we should seek after the good. The church with a living prophet should be able to proclaim how we are all God’s children put here in different circumstances to ultimately work out way back to our Lord and that there is a way to do it without putting down an entire group of people.
The bottom line is if white Evangelical/Mormon are the chosen ones, they’ve made a huge mess of things because of their singular view of the truth. If God is God of the whole earth and all its people, there needs to be an expansion in how we view the commandments as they pertain to all people worldwide.
Like you said, the title page of the BOM says that the BOM was written to them and for them….”them” = the Lamanites. So (1) who are the Lamanites? (2) what is the Church doing to ensure that the “Lamanites” are being taught from the BOM? If the Brethren really believed this we’d see more programs aimed at Native Americans. But that inconvenient DNA evidence kind of undermined the entire proposition, didn’t it?
Serious question: is it still the official position of the Church that Native Americans are at least “among the decedents of the Lamanites” or have we given up that too (note: like we gave up the “principle” decedents claim).
Beware indeed, but do good people still have a responsibility to see injustice in the world and try to fix it? A great of amount of American government is built with this single purpose – to make society better! The great question is what is injustice?
My bias is to leave people alone rather than to try to fix them. But then I am told by people better than me that my attitude is uncharitable. That I am unkind and uncaring. So the good people tell me I should stick my nose into other people’s lives! But then I am told that in the past people were mean and evil for sticking their nose into the business of other people’s lives. So I read this OP and it raises real points but also real questions, and it does not resolve any of them. I am all for a good complaint. But I also like to arrive at some improved course of action following that complaint. If we are to argue for an improved social morality, what are the principles to follow?
I do not believe the LDS Indian Placement program was motivated by racism. Rather the core motivation is moral superiority and all humans have this – being moral busybodies is what humans do best. Reality is the desire to do good led LDS leaders to reconsider the program, to modify it and then to disband it. If the motivation was something else, the leaders would have found cause to persist the program even in face of evidence of its faults.
A Disciple – thank you for that comment that so excellently showcases false equivalence, benevolent racism, and then centered your claim that you’re a kind and helpful person who is genuinely confused about why I said that genocide and cultural annihilation are bad. Really, that was fabulous.
Let’s go into your concepts.
False equivalence: busing Black children to attend school with white children is the same as kidnapping children away from their families and refusing to ever let them come home. Hmmm. Nope. A Black child who takes the bus back home at the end of the day is not in the same situation as a Native American child who is taken from home and community, never to return, who is punished for speaking their native language and forced to change hairstyles and wear clothes that look like the culture that kidnapped you. If you can’t see the difference between those two situations, then I’m at a loss to help you understand.
More false equivalence: You said, “Those arguing all cultures and philosophies are equally valid inherently reject the idea of a divine gospel. In broader terms, the whole notion of having schools and churches, educators and missionaries is based on the idea there exists a superior knowledge that will benefit other people.” If you have an idea that will improve someone else’s life, then yes, go ahead and build a school or church, and staff it with educators and missionaries. But when you think your better ideas justify kidnapping and genocide, you’ve become monstrous. Part of the reason the Native Americans on reservations struggle is because we killed 90% of their forefathers and stole their land. Maybe the solution is something other than breaking up their families.
More false equivalence: You said, “you hate what LDS leaders did in their approach to help Native Americans, then you should be equally skeptical of all government social interventions.” Again, government social interventions rarely include kidnapping and murder. Food stamps don’t destroy families and cultures. The foster care system does take children away from parents if certain conditions get bad enough, but in the case of Native Americans, the foster care system wasn’t finding those conditions. They just took the kids, even though nothing was wrong with the family they were in.
Here are answers to your other questions:
1) Is it inherently racist for people to view another culture and see behaviors and outcomes and judge them as inferior?
Yes, it is.
2) Is it inherently wrong to judge another culture as doing inferior things?
Yes, it is.
3) What is the appropriate way, if any, to help people of another culture?
Wait to be asked for help. Make it clear that accepting help is voluntary. Respect the people you’re trying to help. Learn from them. Don’t assume you know everything. Don’t look down on the people you’re trying to help.
Brother Sky – excellent comment and I give it a second thumbs up.
Zwingli – I think you’re right about why the Church won’t address this issue. There just isn’t anyone pushing to right the wrongs. We all know Black people; we all know about the harm done by the priesthood ban. There just isn’t the same attention paid to the harm done to Native Americans. This post is an attempt to raise awareness.
Instereo – I actually like the word ‘woke.’ We need some kind of a word, and the conservatives try to turn anything that means being concerned with justice and fairness into an insult. I’m woke. I’m happy to be woke. Labeling the ICWA as woke was to point out that the effort to right past wrongs has been around for a long time. I know it has some negative connotations for some people, but I reject the idea that it’s an insult. Just a different opinion and I understand where you’re coming from.
Thanks to all of you who have shared stories.
Two households in my extended family acted as IPP host families, wonderful and lovely people trying to do what their leaders asked of them. Every single kid (host and hosted) was harmed in some way by the situation. I was young at the time but from all I have heard over the years it was a truly terrible experience for all the children involved and continues to require therapy. So sad.
My own parents served as IPP hosts. I traveled to Arizona with my father on a bus to chaperone the students to Salt Lake and witnessed Navajo parents dropping off their children. I particularly remember a young father and mother sobbing and clinging to his newly baptized daughter who was leaving. She was so little and so emotional that she was barely able to life her suitcase and climb onto the bus at the last minute. It was obvious to me (I was a 18 at the time) that they had been pressured to sign their daughter up in the program. I later learned that the young father he driven his dilapidated pickup truck from Holbrook, Arizona to Salt Lake to retrieve his daughter only two weeks into the school year. He was criticized by the LDS Placement employees for not doing what was in the “best interest” of his daughter. I thought and still believe it was a noble victory for parenthood.
My parents hosted for about a decade. They never lost the “vision” of being “nursing mothers and fathers” to the “Lamanites.” On the other hand, I learned a great deal about Navajo culture and have not used the term “Lamanite” when describing America’s indigenous peoples for many decades.
“Should Mormon culture and Church leadership do more to heal the wounds of racism against Native Americans?” No, if only because I don’t think Church leaders have any good ideas that they would actually implement other than cutting checks for certain charities and even that probably doesn’t do much to go toward a systemic fix which I suspect has as much to do with geography as anything else.
To the extent that Native American populations (at least in the U.S.) choose to remain on reservations (and many don’t), they are cut off from adequate education, access to healthcare, communications infrastructure, and a sufficient customer base on which to grow a business (which is further exacerbated by the lack of Internet access). A quick look at the highest poverty rates by reservation in the U.S. shows that none of the reservations in Oklahoma (which are close to larger cities like OKC and Tulsa) show up on the top ten list of highest rates of poverty. The list is dominated by reservations in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, all very large states with comparatively smaller populations (only Arizona is in the top half of largest states by population with a little over 7.3M people and even then it’s pretty much just Phoenix and Tucson – don’t get mad, Flagstaff).
The conclusion you might reach, and it may sound horrible to say, is that encouraging (NOT MANDATING) further emigration from the reservation and to the city and with it more integration into the larger society would be the easiest way to lift Native American peoples out of poverty (70% of Native Americans already don’t live on a reservation). I understand that that does come with cultural costs, including the erosion of language (which happens on the reservation too – just look up how many Comanche speakers are left) and religion, but that is not a cost unique to Native American peoples. Further, Native American experiences in Oklahoma suggest that there is the ability to mix with the wider world while still maintaining a tribal identity, and modern day travel and communication make staying connected easier than ever.
The alternative is to convince Congress to invest significantly larger sums in perpetuity to subsidize the cost of living on a reservation in order to increase living standards of a population of less than two million people (who are scattered across several states and who do not form a significant voting block). Then again, Church money could pay for a heck of a lot of lobbying on Native Americans’ behalf…
When one observes a culture that robs children of education and which limits the lifetime opportunities for children – all but ensuring the children grow and remain captive to the impoverished environment to which they are born – your answer comes across as an indifferent “so it should be”. Cultural failure does not offend you but members of a more prosperous culture offering a way for children to have greater opportunity and freedom, that does offend you.
What you describe is precisely the mindset that creates perpetual, multi-generation poverty for those living in slums, those living in Appalachia and those living on reservations. Your advocacy perpetuates dependency and poverty.
The LDS church did not create the reservation system. It did not create slums. It did not create broken families living in Appalachian hollars. Prosperous LDS seeing Native American poverty and understanding the root causes of it desired to provide an alternative. No kids were kidnapped as we understand that to mean. Parents voluntarily participated hoping for a better future for their children. The program was actually popular. But because the program was imperfect, here we are decades later with critics throwing stones as if they are morally superior. And yet the virtue signaling of the critics doesn’t help one person break from their impoverished captivity.
A culture that denies children economic opportunity is an inferior culture. There should be no disputing this Thankfully many, including Liberal Progressives, believe they have a responsibility to help children and their families recognize there are better patterns of living. I have personal experience with Appalachia and I know the programs to reach children and provide them an alternative are (1) done with a sincere desire to help and (2) are life-changing for good for those who take advantage.
So it is with the LDS church. The motivation was good. The benefits were real. It is unfortunate bad experiences occurred. Does your heart similarly beak for the kids who never had a chance to leave and who suffered terrible outcomes? Or is this just about blaming the easy target of the LDS church?
If good people get blamed for trying to do good, why should they bother trying? Why should people try to break patterns of dependency when there is so much opposition to doing that? The people profiting from the status quo oppose change. The people satisfied to be dependent oppose change. And now we have people with no skin in the game who defend the status quo of cultural failure out of spite – they don’t want to accept the truth that cultural values matter and that choices have consequences.
You lost me at “woke.”
There will almost always be “racism” or “sexism” basically power and tribal differentials in “scripture”. Why? I will explain. (you will find this also in the OT where only ONE tribe had the priesthood…totally normal..or in the caste structure of hinduism past. There will also be “presentism” like when Paul told women to be silent and listen to their husbands…wouldn’t go over well today. So..whats going on here. .I will tell you. Symbolism….the Lord God uses the “symbolism” in the mind of that prophet and people to teach them spiritual principals….if they see something as “bad, or evil strongly” he will teach with what they know, as they have only evolved to that point. When “the skin of blackness” was used in the book of mormon…for that time period those who left the Nephites ended up procreating with the natives, when the Nephites saw them they noticed their children were darker…hence “the curse falling upon them” because they in their circumstances saw it as a bad thing. The Prophet then using those circumstances explains whats happening in influential terms they understand..albeit their understanding was tribal. Today we know thats ridiculous but and would never use those terms or racial symbols. Thats a modern thing and its good. The book of Mormon also teaches the Lamanites at some points are “more righteous ” than the Nephites…obviously showing that skin color is not a thing in righteousness. It was a tribal association used to teach and doesn’t apply spiritually, but only to them at that time “symbolically”. Every religion does this. To catholics…sex was a carnal bad thing hence priests and nuns but it was always not so. This type of teaching has always been because people are tribal and limited to their circumstances. A person in Madagascar for instance often has white racism as they have been exploited before and their children often fear white people, they also charge white people more for products and services and justify it. Why? The “Symbol” of a white person represents to them a power differential but ….there are just as poor white people. World views control all this but he cultures symbols are based on present limited circumstances and used by “preachers” and prophets. One other instance in Abraham’s time sacrificing your children was seen as the greatest love of God …Obviously God did not want anyone to sacrifice their children (how ridiculous) but his conscience was tested by his current circumstances…and in the record we have “God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac”. No…God used the circumstances that Abraham was in to “test” him. Abraham then led a complete new culture that never did this again. And in the book of Mormon we find the Lamanites were more righteous than the Nephites when they “Love each other and their families” etc. Teaching us that skin color is only the outer symbolic meaning of that time (and tribal not true). The answer is in the symbols and what they mean to that exact culture. Once we learn the lessons…time to get rid of the tribal symbol. Peace.
The LDS Church has for sure distanced itself from the notion that we can link the Lamanites to a specific population in the Americas and the practices and ideas that stemmed from that idea. This change is most obvious in the 2007 edit to the BoM introduction. Here’s the basic rundown:
-Since the very beginning, people in the Mormon church presumed there was a link between Lamanites and native populations based on the BoM. This led to a bunch of attempted missionary work along with some questionable ideas and practices.
Fast forward a bit to 1971, when Spencer W. Kimball said that Lehi was “the ancestor of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea.”
Eyebrows were raised, but then in 1981 Bruce R. McConkie added the introduction that contains the statement, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”
Years passed, science improved, and there was a big DNA study of more than 12,000 Native Americans that concluded that the continent’s early inhabitants came from Asia across the Bering Strait.
The claims of the BoM introduction were instantly challenged, so the church made a long statement about it called “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies” which concluded with Elder Oaks saying, “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” This is because we know nothing about the DNA of the people from the Book of Mormon that allows us to try to verify where they came from…which I suppose is true.
Following all of this, the BoM intro was edited in 2007 to read, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”
The church then had LDS spokesman Mark Tuttle make the statement, “[The change] takes into account details of Book of Mormon demography which are not known.”
So the official stance is now that the BoM is from SOME people SOMEWHERE in the Americas…but we have no idea who or where exactly.
The Church needs to get right with Native Americans, Blacks, women, and LGBT+ communities. But. It’s not going to happen in my life time (I’m 78).
A Disciple, I am agreeing with much of what you have written. When I lived and worked on a reservation one of my companions had gone on placement. His sister who served a mission in the same area three years earlier also was on placement. He was a very big supporter. He liked the idea of having running water, electricity, fresh food and not having to deal with the drugs and dirty needles. He liked not having his sister’s hand me downs. He thought he had the best of both worlds. A mother and father who loved him and taught him their heritage and an adoptive mother and father who did the same. He gracefully moved between the two worlds of reservation life and dealing with a white man’s world.
During the five months I was with him he would make no excuses when asked about if it would be better for my children to live with their parents. It was always a resounding Yes! Then there was always a long pause. Long enough that I would always feel uncomfortable. Then the comment would come, generally from the mother, that maybe someday but this is a better.
Your comparison of Appalachia with Indigenous peoples fails on more points than I care to recite. Indigenous people did not “rob” their children of an opportunity to gain an education. In many cases, Indigenous adults requested educational programs for their children. Only later did they realize that one intent was to destroy the children’s connection to their families and culture. They discovered that boarding schools were a means of cultural assimilation. Note that boarding schools for whites did not require the abandonment of cultural values. IPP was open to any child who was baptized. I know dozens of Navajo children who were baptized specifically to participate in Indian Placement. So your criticism of indigenous peoples is fallacious and quite bluntly, ethnocentric. Please stop assuming that cultural elements you find unfamiliar or which conflict with your own are automatically inferior.
I also remind folks that the IPP was instituted and grew as boarding schools were found be ineffective. The Church basically took a failing concept, buoyed it up with few proof texted verses from the Book of Mormon, and ran it on the cheap with volunteer foster parents.
Not a Cougar,
You are ignoring a lot of historical background in your analysis. Indigenous peoples were settled on lands which were the picked over remains of their homelands. They were promised under treaty government support. These treaties are regarded as the supreme law of the land under our Constitution. These treaties have been repeatedly broken. You ignore the fact that indigenous people who have very high poverty rates and other challenges even though they are off the reservation. You ignore the fact that traditionalists in the Southwest are working hard to preserve their peoples connection to the land (a value sacred to many indigenous peoples and rarely understood by outsiders) AND work to advance the social and economic well-being of their people.
I’ll close with one old Navajo/Hopi joke: What is Peabody Coal Company? (Peabody was a mining concern which promised jobs and economic prosperity to the peoples). Answer: a bunch of Mormon lawyers out to get rich quick.
Take a minute to research what happened to the people and environment from the effects of the Black Mesa mine.
“Should Mormon culture and church leadership do more to heal the wounds of racism against Native Americans.
I think the LDS church should just back off and leave the Native Americans alone.
They church has caused enough problems with the Native Americans and just about everything the LDS church does to try to “fix” something is suspect.
They almost always make it worse.
Native Americans have a complex culture and Religion of their own that the LDS church did not even try to learn about or respect before it stomped into the middle of the lives of the Natives living on the reservations.
The LDS church, as usual, though it was the solution to all problems every where and interferred into the lives of the people on the Native American reservations usually making things worse.
Do I haVe stories and evidece, yes I do.
Too many to write down here.
If the author Janey, who is making an honest effort to write about this really wants to do so I sugest she spend considerable time on a reservation talking to the NA about this.
So far the perspective is from the LDS families who took these children in.
Spend a year or so on the Navajo reservation and speak to the adults who were children sent away to live with the LDS families in Utah and listen to what they have to say about things, if you can get them to trust you enough to talk.
A Disciple – I’ve seen enough of your comments at W&T to know that you’re a right-wing troll. I’m not wasting time on trying to educate you on why racism is bad. Google “why racism is bad” and figure it out yourself. Click on every link in my post and read them all. Old Man is correct that all your comments are based on believing your culture to be inherently superior, and you’re wrong. It is helpful to have your perspective though; it makes it really obvious that racists are cruel and arrogant.
Old Man, thank you for your reply to Not a Cougar as well.
To the others – thank you for the stories. My only firsthand experience of the IPP is a vague memory of a Navajo girl who lived with my best friend’s family the year we were in 3rd or 4th grade. She was very quiet. She only came for the one year. I didn’t know any details about what was going on, and I don’t remember ever asking her about herself or what she thought of spending a year away from her family at such a young age.
Pirate Priest – thanks for that history about how the claims regarding Lamanite descendants have changed over the years.
Peter – I didn’t bring up skin color at all. I’ve heard that rationale you’re summarizing, but it just doesn’t work in the context of this post. This post is about how the Book of Mormon teaches that the Native Americans were pushed off their land and killed because they weren’t righteous enough.
Not a Cougar – I agree that the Church wouldn’t really know how to help Native Americans. The Church doesn’t apologize and I really don’t know what would help.
An critical component of this discussion is the idea of polygenism and its prominence in science during the first ~100 years of the Mormon church.
Polygenism is the now discredited theory that suggests that different races of humans were created separately and are fundamentally distinct from one another, both physically and intellectually.
Polygenism was popular in the mid-19th century, as some scientists attempted to use biology to justify racial hierarchies and the subjugation of non-white people.
The theory wasn’t discredited until the early 20th century, as new discoveries in genetics and anthropology provided evidence that all humans share a common ancestry.
Not everyone believed the theory, but there were still tons of people who genuinely believed that racial superiority was objective scientific fact. The science that finally unrooted polygenism is easy to take for granted now, but that wasn’t always the case.
Old Man, respectfully, I don’t think that “ignore” is the right verb to describe my post. I merely accept that the current geography and poverty rates are what they are. That they came about because of an evil course of dealing by the federal government doesn’t change that fact.
Also, the mere fact that some government support was promised via treaty (and largely not delivered on) means little to nothing when it comes to lobbying for additional billions in investment and subsidies. Broken promises (and that’s all those treaties amounted to after the Supreme Court decided Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock in 1903) to relatively small groups of poor people are a poor foundation on which to build a movement to get the federal government to act.
Further, I didn’t ignore that Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty than any other demographic, regardless of where they live. However, that’s not the whole story. The latest data I could find comparing rates of poverty for Native Americans living on vs. off the reservation is from 2011. The rate of poverty for those living off of reservations was a little more than half that of those living on them. So yes, encouraging Native Americans to move off reservations will lift many out of poverty.
As for the traditionalists pushing their peoples to maintain a connection to the land while improving their economic situation, they truly have my sympathy. They are taking on a Sisyphean task that will, more likely than not, turn out much like it did for Sisyphus. Life is full of hard choices, and, based on the data we have, the choice to stay, and to encourage others to stay, will result in more Native American families living in poverty, with all of the negative effects that poverty brings.
My parents hosted a young girl with the “Lamanite placement program” around 1978. They were pretty much obligated to participate when called on by the Stake. Many other families in our ward and stake took in a child. There was a quota placed on the stake and each ward.
The program was a disaster, I saw it firsthand. The young girl placed with my family only lasted about 2 months. We had more internal strife in our family then we ever had before. The girl was stealing from us and kicked my sister out of a shared bedroom She returned back to AZ prematurely, after my parents told the stake it was not working out. The situation did not help the foster families or the placed kids. Our family was for helping out a person in need, but the system, structure, and obligation created by church bureaucracy was a train wreck.
Our neighbors also had a boy and I recall he may have lasted 4 months. Of all kids placed into our stake, none returned the following school year, except for 1 boy. He eventually was adopted by the family and graduated high school with us.
I now view this program like so many other LDS church programs. Someone did something kind and charitable or came up with a good idea. This may have helped someone out. Maybe it worked with the first 2 to 5 families who came up with the idea. However, then it was institutionlized and implemented on a corporate scale. Insutitional systems are for numbers and corporate meetings, not for true charity and people’s lives. Rooting someone away from their family for a program, what a shame! This program caused so much pain and problems for both the recipient and the host families.
Why is it that everytime the church does “charity, they don’t pay for it but it comes from only the members pockets?
Why can the church not allow members to come up with their own charity projects and service, instead of forcing and obligating it? And then stealing another’s idea as their own inspiration?
I think the church did this with trek trips, the giving machines, pass along cards, most mission ideas, and so many other items. Initially possibly ok idea, multipled it becomes a really bad idea.
Frankly, the church needs allow its’ members to be more charitable and Christlike on their own, instead of telling members, what to do and how to serve
Racism is evil. People trying to provide a means for others to exit lives of poverty is not racism. Arguing that it is better for people to remain in poverty than risk offending their family and culture is to promote “the soft bigotry of low expectations”
As Thomas Sowell explained:
“If you want to see the poor remain poor, generation after generation, just keep the standards low in their schools and make excuses for their academic shortcomings and personal misbehavior. But please don’t congratulate yourself on your compassion.”
My grandparents took in a Navajo child named Ernie. It worked out. He came back after a summer home over several years. He attended BYU, married a girl he met there, and brought her to meet my grandparents one time.
At the end of her life my grandmother asked me to use internet resources and find out how Ernie was. I could not find him.
My father served a Navajo mission. He learned to speak Navajo and was a teaching elder who traveled all over the mission. He came home with a deep love of Native Americans. After he married my mother he got a job as a teacher on an Apache reservation in Cibeque. We lived there until I was 5. At that point we moved off the reservation because my parents didn’t want to raise me in Apache culture.
I have many happy memories of my time on the reservation including playing with a little girl with dark skin and being confused why her hands wouldn’t wash clean…
We still have beautiful native dresses the Apache mothers made as gifts for my sister and I. My mother served as primary president in the tiny branch there.
I served a mission to New Mexico and I had the privilege of teaching many Native American people who had assimilated into the culture there.
I feel a strong connection to Native Americans and I am grateful for that.
I don’t really believe God curses or destroys anyone, unless you just blame Them for everything that happens, which is one way of looking at it, since They are responsible for creating the earth and putting us on it. I believe the Book of Mormon was filtered through Joseph Smith’s imperfect mind. I don’t take the message literally that Gd specifically intended to punish Native Americans. I think the terms of this life are difficult for everyone and God sent us here to learn and grow. To that end they typically don’t intervene in our behalf.
Some of the research shows the genocides in the Old Testament never occurred. It was written retrospectively by people that wanted to emphasize their own power with the God justified fiction.
As a parent I can’t picture leaving my child with another family for a school year, no matter how the child would benefit. I just can’t imagine how desperate those families were to do that voluntarily.
I wanted to add that my younger sister grew up to be a special Ed teacher and worked on the Navajo reservation for several years. We don’t see ourselves as white saviors. But it’s always good to try and help others as best we can, including people in other cultures. Certainly we benefit from learning from other cultures.
Taking the Book of Mormon (and parts of the Old Testament) as a prophetic document written before prophesied events took place, then there is no racism: God’s prophets simply foretold what was going to happen. Taking it as a document written later, it gives a reason that people could understand. Bad things happened, God is in charge, so here’s how we put it together. Like people saying that God took grandmother when she was actually riddled with cancer, and the cancer had nothing to do with her being wicked. Or when God takes an 18 year old in the prime of her life, but in reality she didn’t look before she crossed the crosswalk. God destroyed the kingdom of Judah and enslaved the Jews in Babylon, but we don’t call that racist: we say it was because of their iniquity. God makes His rain to fall on the just and upon the unjust; we err when we explain why the rain fell here but didn’t fall there, because we simply cannot know.
The question for us, individually and as a people, is: are we causing hurt and harm? using scriptures or history as a basis for that? Might we be wresting scriptures in ways that God didn’t intend? I have a direct ancestor family in the 1730s that were brutally killed by Indians (as they called them), and the only child who survived was working a couple of farms over, but I don’t (and shouldn’t) use that as a basis to hate Native Americans today. As for helping people on reservations, we’ve learned that taking the children in placement programs didn’t work–but I read in this string that people had to be baptized first. Maybe that was the root cause of the failure of the Church’s program. Maybe placement would have worked a little better if we didn’t have the prerequisite baptism. In other words, trying to do good but only for goodness’ sake, and not for increasing the membership rolls.
Mention was made about Native Americans in Oklahoma doing better than many people on reservations, and assimilation in White culture has been proposed. Allow me to propose another reason: Native American tribes can create/buy businesses and get very favorable treatment in getting Government contracts, and some tribes in Oklahoma have been very successful. The businesses are headquartered in northern Virginia or Chicago or other large areas, and they may employ zero Native Americans, but the profits go to the tribes. Some tribes are very aggressive and successful in this arena, and some don’t play at all; those who play can make money for their people, and those who don’t get nothing.
Parts of this discussion require humility in the face of complex, nuanced problems. “What can we as individuals/the church/the government do to heal the wounds our society has inflicted against our indigenous brothers and sisters” is a big question whose answer may vary widely depending on who you talk to. Remember that there are 574 unique tribes in the continental US and Alaska alone and treating them as a monolithic block is inadequate and superficial at best.
Largely missing from this discussion are actual Native voices describing what they want and how they approach these problems. Google “Land Back” for a healthy dose of non-white-people-centric thinking.
Other parts of this discussion are much more cut-and-dried. Calling Native Americans “Lamanites” is historical and cultural erasure and is racist. Period. These peoples have actual histories and genealogies and neither Nephi, Laman, or Lemuel figure in them.
Regarding question #2 in the OP: Nothing about church history has horrified me or made my blood boil more than learning about what happened to the Timpanogos at the “battle” of Fort Utah. Mormons love to talk about Boggs’ extermination order against us but we’d do well to talk more about the extermination order that Brigham Young himself signed against the Timpanogos. Mormon militiamen virtually wiped out an entire community where BYU Provo now stands. They treated the corpses in ways I’d rather not describe here. But we don’t talk about it. Even critics of the church spend far more time talking about the MMM in which the victims were white. Will the church ever apologize for it? How can we apologize for murder when we’re still hung up on whether to apologize for the priesthood ban?
We have to be careful that we don’t oversimplify those situations. I’m not saying that the saints were without fault–but there were problems added upon problems that led to those horrific incidents. And we have to remember that we’re not merely talking about a response to petty theft. The loss of cattle, horses, and other property was a matter of life and death to those fledgling pioneers. And after losing everything in Kirtland, and then in Missouri, and then in Nauvoo, they weren’t going to let that happen again.
Jack, the incident in question was not a run-of-the-mill skirmish between hungry competitors for resources. That may have been how it started, but Brigham Young signed an actual extermination order—a needless escalation into full-on genocide.
I know it won’t change your opinion of Brigham Young, but I suggest you read the history—the events leading to the massacre, the cruel and dehumanizing language BY used in his extermination order, and the needlessly barbaric actions of the militiamen in the aftermath.
Brigham Young’s “extermination order” is a misnomer. He in no way intended that the militia should destroy all of them. Here’s the relevant part of the order:
“Cooperate with the inhabitants of said valley in quelling and staying the operations of all hostile Indians and otherwise act as the circumstances may require exterminating such, as do not separate themselves from their hostile clans and sue for peace.”
Here’s a well annotated article on the subject:
Geez, Jack, read what you posted. Translation: If they don’t plead for their lives and drop their weapons, kill them.
I might just as easily say: don’t kill them if they stop harassing you.
That is *not* extermination.
Sometimes we moderns put the worst possible spin on events from the past because we’ve lost our ability to empathize with their concerns and difficulties–let alone their culture and ways of thinking and communicating.
Sorry, If a came across a little harsh, jaredsbrother. I get impatient sometimes when people don’t see things my way–which, as you know, is always the right way. 😀
Some cultures are bad. Cultures that will kill you if you are gay are bad, cultures that view women as property are bad, cultures that accept female genital mutilation are bad, cultures that put you to death for blasphemy/apostasy are bad.
Let’s not pretend that cultures are all created equal.
Cultures, like people are not all good or all bad. All cultures and all individual people have strengths and can learn to change from harmful practices.
Kirkstall – you’re 3:03 comment was excellent and I encourage everyone to read through it again.
I don’t think we’ve got any Native Americans who read or comment at W&T. I posted this post to raise awareness of Native American issues (which are hundreds of separate tribes as you point out). We talk a lot about anti-Black racism, but I rarely see bloggernacle posts about anti-Native American racism.
For those who don’t want to google the “Land Back” initiative, here’s a paragraph from the Wikipedia that gives a basic summary:
“Land Back aims to reestablish Indigenous political authority over territories that Indigenous tribes claim by treaty. Scholars from the Indigenous-run Yellowhead Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University describe it as a process of reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction. The NDN collective describes it as synonymous with decolonisation and dismantling white supremacy. Land Back advocates for Indigenous rights, preserves languages and traditions, and works toward food sovereignty, decent housing, and a clean environment.”
There are ways to help heal some of the damage done by racism and colonization. I doubt the Church will ever throw its weight behind these efforts, or even acknowledge the need for these efforts, but at least some of us are talking about it.
A Disciple – helping people escape poverty is good. Taking away their children is bad. There are ways to reduce multi-generational poverty without taking away their children.
That was hardly harsh, Jack, so your apology is not necessary from my perspective, but I appreciate the generosity just the same.
Your assertion that empathy for all concerned is valid, of course. So, does said empathy extend to the Missourians and the Native Americans in the Utah territory who watched hordes of Mormons invade the area and make clear their plans to dominate? One might get the impression from your relentless defense of all things church that you see only one perspective.
Yes, our empathy should extend that far. And then we should try to understand the complex relations between the two groups through the intervening years.
Re: MMM: The saint’s fears were understandable. But there’s no question that what they did was wrong–terribly wrong.
I’m a little late to the conversation. I’m from Minnesota and a close friend (Native American) sent me this article called “The Truth Report”. Totaling more than 500 pages, the report released Tuesday marks the first time a major American university has critically examined its history with Native people. Do you think the Church could critically examine its history with Native people?
I was a leader for many years of summer study abroad programs for Middle and High School students from American schools. We traveled to various countries in Europe and Australasia. I spent 9 months previous to the summer travel programs preparing the students to encounter new cultures. It was always amazing to me that American students encountering new cultures for the first time had the knee-jerk reaction of “American way is good” and “other culture way is bad”. My mantra to the students (repeated 1000 times) was “this is not a good/bad dichotomy. The other culture is “different” from American culture. The other cultures love their food, language, cars, political systems, and sports teams. You love your food, language, cars, political system, and sports teams. Both are good but different from each other.” We did a lot of compare/contrast when seeing differences, but I insisted that it be done with respect and love for peoples and cultures. But the end of each summer program the American students (mostly) had really learned to love and appreciate the countries they visited and the people they got to know. The bigger question is if those same students would view other cultures/peoples in America with the same respect and love….
DeAnn S – thanks for that contribution. I read the cover story at the link you provided. Fascinating and horrifying. It would be interesting to produce a similar type of document describing the Church’s interactions with the Native Americans displaced from Utah. I can’t imagine the Church ever funding that, or committing to reparations of any type.
Your second comment about how we (Americans) automatically assume our way is best helped me crystallize just how bizarre Disciple’s comments were in this thread. He automatically assumed that white European descendant culture is superior to Native American culture. Yet, the most valuable trait a culture can possess is the ability to live peaceably without harming other cultures. “First, do no harm” would be the least we should expect from a culture. Yet not only did the Europeans colonize and destroy, but people like Disciple continue to advocate for that. “My culture is better and therefore it will help you if I take away your children and destroy your way of life.” We, the descendants of the European colonists, must unlearn that way of thinking. Our first task is to learn how to co-exist peacefully with other cultures without trying to get rid of them.