Fixico…I’m not Paiute…I’m Shawnee…I’d like to thank you for coming out…8 on Friday night, you could be anywhere else…I appreciate the support of all the organizations…let me begin with saying this work is monumental…a role model for scholarship, and the kind of book scholars want to write, pivotal books cause change to happen, changes of thinking and cause us to address new questions. American Indians are part of the story, but not main part.
It is a carefully conceived book, carefully written and structured, revised and revised and revised. I was asked to comment on colonialism in the west. This book does something that a lot of western scholarship does not do…when American Indians are involved, the greatest question for me is where are the Indians? It [the book] gives native people a part of the larger story of the American West…finally reached a time in American Indian history in which native people have come to center stage. Normally marginalized…we as scholars are trained to be objective, this book asks several roles of the Am. Indians, victims, victors, losers in war, mercenaries, partners in civilization, pawns of imperialism. They were victims and pawns.
As they [the natives] were written about [in the past] they represented the whole population of native peoples at the time. This book makes them present…in two ways, they were actually there at the scene, but also it’s a way of creating Indians due to the fear and paranoia of Indian attacks on trains [which the Mormons played up]…you read and get a sense of the presence of natives woven through the story…I applaud them for doing that. To write about Am. Indians is difficult. This presence I’ve talked about…there were presumptions about natives, abut BY and the Mormons knew Indians.
The presence of natives also a partnership. Both groups shared experience in a shared land. At some point they both became vulnerable to westward expansion…immigrants were coming, soldiers were coming, the natives felt that constantly, so they are in a similar position with the Mormons [who are also watching these groups coming]. 1642 skirmishes waged against Indians…Mormons felt the same way, what they had built was to be dissolved, in looking up this number of battles, it’s large…I did a quick count of the battles, 41 massacres starting from the 1500s to 1890, probably more. Of the 41, in 22 Indians were victims. So this concept of violence continued through all history.
Also, a native people often presumed other natives as the enemy. The authors touch on it, but I wish they’d gone further into how native cultures operated. In Indian country, it is tribe vs. tribe. Many cases of Indian rivalries, not just between Paiutes and Utes…To understand natives, BY understood them, [he told his people] go to them, learn their language, teach them to farm…he put himself in a precarious position, that by putting them [the people] adjacent with natives and mediators, he put the Mormon community between the Indians and the US, it was the US that had attacked native peoples. BY was smart. He understood this alliance with natives, used it to his advantage, by putting them as allies he saw the power in them. They had power because they were an ally in the eyes of BY…BY was entering this understanding of native people and their reality. The book doesn’t say it but should, when you study Indians, try to understand their reality. Native people believed in spirits and visions and ghosts. I’m suggesting that the native reality was a tandem of the metaphysical and physical…Native people also understood BY’s political position. These four points. I’ll end here: the relationship between the Indians and Mormons was precarious. Indians were distrustful of relationships between others…what this book does is it brings new perspectives, raises questions and makes us think.