Larry Echo Hawk and Lamanite Identities

By October 17, 2012

When Larry Echo Hawk was sustained as a Seventy earlier this month, he became just the second self-identifying North American indigenous person to serve as a General Authority. His call came over two decades following the excommunication of his predecessor, George P. Lee, and three decades following the church’s decision to discontinue its programs aimed at American indigenes: the Indian Student Placement Program, the Indian Seminary, and BYU’s Indian programs. Echo Hawk’s experience therefore presents a window into how at least one Mormon Native reared during the twentieth-century’s ?Day of the Lamanite? continues to appropriate and utilize a Lamanite identity, at least for a predominantly white audience. Since the early 1990s, Echo Hawk has commented on this subject in talks given at BYU, LDS Church News interviews, and his recent conference talk .

As Armand Mauss has argued, ?the Lamanite identity had different meanings and uses depending on the experiences and relationships that the Indian Mormons had had with their white coreligionists and the church more generally? (All Abraham’s Children, 129). Mauss suggests at least four ways that Mormon Natives have self-identified as Lamanites. First, some never fully internalize the identity, preferring instead to appropriate it ?for short-term access to certain material and educational resources accompanying membership and activity in the LDS Church? (All Abraham’s Children, 134). Others seek to balance both Lamanite and Indian identities, but Mauss contends that this often proves difficult, as these individuals eventually emphasize one over the other. Another group embraces the positive aspects of a Lamanite identity as a way to assimilate into Anglo-dominant Mormon culture, which results in a rejection of much of their traditional heritage. A fourth group utilizes a Lamanite identity to claim special status in the church, to the point of asserting superiority over those they consider gentiles, or members of European descent (All Abraham’s Children, 129-35). In his public discourses and statements, Echo Hawk fully embraces the more positive aspects of a Lamanite identity, and even incorporates more negative aspects to explain why his Pawnee ancestors were devastated by colonialism. Yet Echo Hawk also speaks proudly of his Pawnee heritage and some traditional practices, suggesting that he fits loosely in Mauss’s second group of Mormon indigenes who seek to balance their competing identities.

Echo Hawk was born on August 2, 1948 in Cody, Wyoming, although he was raised primarily in Farmington, New Mexico. As a child, he heard oral traditions of his nineteenth-century Pawnee forebear, who was given the name of a Hawk to symbolize his prowess as a warrior who preferred others to proclaim and “echo” his deeds throughout the village. The first Echo Hawk endured the devastating impact of colonialism and forced removal of the Pawnees from their Nebraska homeland to a small reservation in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). ?That is a painful history,? Larry Echo Hawk stated in a BYU speech. ?But the pain was not limited to one generation. In his childhood my father was taken from his parents by the federal government and sent to a boarding school far distant from his home. There he was physically beaten if he spoke the Pawnee language or in any way practiced his native culture or religion? (BYU 2007, 1). Echo Hawk felt the sting of his sister being sent home from school, apparently for being indigenous. He himself recalled ?sitting in a public school classroom and hearing the teacher describe Indians as ‘savage, bloodthirsty, heathen renegades’? (BYU 2007, 1). Yet at home, Echo Hawk witnessed aspects of his parents’ culture that he deeply admired:

My parents practiced a tradition that had been handed down from generation to generation in our family known as the ?Indian giveaway.? In times of celebration as well as in times of mourning, in the Indian culture you give what you have to others to bless their lives. Thus, when I was growing up, I saw my parents take people into our home to help sustain them. In the early years of my life I thought I had more brothers and sisters than I really did. I saw my father give his prized possessions away to other people simply because they admired something that he had, and he demanded that they take it. My father exemplified strength of character through giving what he had to help other people (BYU 1995, 5).

In the late nineteenth century, the US government applied strict regulations in an effort to stomp out the ?giveaway? among indigenous peoples confined to reservations, reasoning that the practice was socialistic and inconducive to the ?American way of life.? Yet the practice survived, often in clandestine forms, and instilled in young Natives such as Echo Hawk cherished values.

When he was fourteen, Echo Hawk’s family converted to Mormonism. A diligent Priests Quorum advisor challenged Echo Hawk to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, which he did after suffering an injury that nearly took his eyesight. Echo Hawk later stated: ?I’m very proud of my Indian heritage. . . . I think that my Indian identity was strengthened by reading the Book of Mormon. In the early years of my life, there were times when I questioned who I was as a person and what my Indian identity meant. But after I was baptized and read the Book of Mormon, that all changed. I did not feel inferior but very proud of my heritage? (Church News 1991). Although he does not mention the word ?Lamanite? here, this statement suggests that Echo Hawk found in the Book of Mormon an identity that was far preferable to the images he saw in school and elsewhere in white American society. Echo Hawk expanded on this theme when he told BYU students that

it seemed to me that the Book of Mormon was about my Pawnee Indian ancestors. The Book of Mormon talks about the Lamanites, a people who would be scattered, smitten, and nearly destroyed. But in the end they would be blessed if they followed the Savior. That is exactly what I saw in my own family?s history. When I read the Book of Mormon, it gave me very positive feelings about who I am, knowledge that Heavenly Father had something for me to accomplish in life, and instruction in how I could be an instrument in His hands in serving the needs of other people? (BYU 2007, 4-5).

Echo Hawk therefore drew upon Book of Mormon prophecies to interpreted his people’s experience with American colonialism and to develop a hope that he, as a descendant of the Lamanites, would be blessed. To paraphrase the title of his 1995 BYU speech, he found in the Book of Mormon the key to ?achieve and preserve the promise of America.?

There is no indication, at least in his public statements, that Echo Hawk participated in the church’s programs for indigenous youth, such as the Indian Student Placement Program or the Indian Seminary. In this sense, his experience was very different from Navajo George P. Lee, five years Echo Hawk’s senior and one of the first Native children placed in an LDS home under the ISPP. Yet the two young men shared a deep admiration for then-apostle Spencer W. Kimball. Echo Hawk explained that ?he was one of my greatest mentors. At church in New Mexico, people talked about the apostle who had a great love for Indian people. The name of Spencer W. Kimball was revered. . . . The wonderful thing about him was that he befriended us [Indian youth] all very quickly. This was a real feat because it is not easy to get close to Indian youths? (BYU 2007, 5). As for BYU, Lee attended in large part because the university was the next step in what Mauss calls the ?conveyer belt? of the church’s programs (All Abraham’s Children, 83). Echo Hawk attended BYU on a football scholarship, where he played safety. He did, however, participate in the school’s Indian programs upon arrival (BYU 1995, 4). Kimball continued to impact Echo Hawk as an undergraduate, even sealing the Pawnee to his wife, Terry, in 1968. The apostle spoke to the student body about a vision of the Lamanites obtaining educations, entering professions, and being elected to political office. Echo Hawk carried an excerpt from Kimball’s talk in his scriptures for years, which served as a challenge and a blueprint for his life (BYU 1995, 4-5; BYU 2007, 5-6).

Upon graduating, Echo Hawk attended law school at the University of Utah, specializing in Indian law. He was tribal attorney for the Shoshone-Bannock tribe in Idaho from 1977 to 1985, as he sought to utilize new laws to increase tribal self-determination and economic independence. From 1982 to 1986, he served in the Idaho state legislature, and from 1986 to 1990 as the Bannock County prosecuting attorney. In 1990, he was elected the attorney general of Idaho, and was the first Native American elected to a statewide constitutional office (i.e., governor, secretary of state, attorney general, etc). Four years later, he launched a bid to become the first Native governor in American history. Upon losing, he joined the faculty at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, and serving as a bishop and stake president at the university. In 2009, he accepted Barack Obama’s invitation to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During the confirmation process, Echo Hawk faced substantial opposition in Indian Country, as many found his commitment to Mormonism suspect and interpreted his opposition to gaming as attorney general as evidence that he did not sufficiently support tribal sovereignty. Echo Hawk evidently overcame those doubts, at least to the point of getting confirmed, but it remains uncertain to what degree his image in Indian Country improved during his time with the BIA.

In April 2012, he was called as a Seventy and he left Obama’s administration. Echo Hawk’s October 2012 conference talk continued themes and repeated stories shared with predominately white Mormon audiences for at least two decades, and likely longer. He quoted the Book of Mormon title page, which indicated that it was written for the Lamanites, although he was careful to add that the book was also for Jews and gentiles. He quoted the introduction, revised in 2007, to state that the Lamanites ?are among the ancestors of the American Indians.? Echo Hawk quoted 1 Nephi 13:10-14 to interpret indigenous peoples’ devastating experience with European colonialism as fulfillment of prophecy that the gentiles would be instruments of God’s wrath in scattering, smiting, and nearly destroying the Lamanites. Like he had done on previous occasions, he placed his ancestors within this narrative, but then quoted 1 Nephi 15:14 to describe how his immediate family had been awakened to their true Lamanite identities and found salvation through the same Jesus who appeared to their ancestors. Echo Hawk then addressed ?the remnant of the house of Israel, the descendants of the people of the Book of Mormon,? enjoining them to read the Book of Mormon, learn its promises, follow the savior’s teachings, make and keep covenants, and follow the spirit (GC 2012).

Echo Hawk’s Lamanite identity therefore embraces both negative and positive elements of the Book of Mormon narrative, at times drawing on what some would consider a justification for–and normalization of–European colonialism to explain his people’s experience. Unlike George P. Lee, however, Echo Hawk has not publicly invoked portions of the Book of Mormon text to claim a special Lamanite identity that is superior to white members of European descent. Lee equated the church’s white leadership with the gentiles of the book, without acknowledging, in Mauss’s words, that

Mormonism had long since redefined most Euroamerican Mormons as literal Israelites, descended mainly from the tribe of Ephraim. This had become an important myth in Mormonism’s emerging racialist rank-ordering of peoples in the nineteenth and early twentieth- centuries. . . . Even with that mythology receding into the past, Lee’s colleagues in the church leadership were not prepared to relinquish their own [status]. . . . It was a form of displacement, theologically if not ecclesiastically, that Lee was trying to achieve through a collective use of the Lamanite identity for himself and his fellow Indian Mormons. His excommunication was simply the LDS leadership’s assertion, perhaps an inevitable one, of its power to control the operational significance or uses of the Lamanite identity and theology set forth in the Book of Mormon (All Abraham’s Children, 134).

Echo Hawk, speaking over twenty years after Lee’s excommunication, emphasized that promises of the Book of Mormon were universal. Citing Omni 1:26, he argued that by coming unto Christ and purifying hearts, ?we will all be instruments in fulfilling the mighty promises of the Book of Mormon? (GC 2012). It should be remembered that the contexts surrounding Lee and Echo Hawk are substantially different. Echo Hawk became a general authority in his sixties, after a long life of commitment to the church without any strong ties to the church’s earlier programs. Lee, on the other hand, was just 32 when called as a Seventy in 1975, and was heavily invested in those programs. Lee carried the weight of being a product and representative of the ?Day of the Lamanite? just as it was waning, a burden that Echo Hawk does not bear.

In conclusion, Echo Hawk best fits on Mauss’s scale as someone who tries to balance both his Pawnee and his Lamanite identities, although if he leans more toward one, it is the latter. While he affirms aspects of traditional Pawnee culture, he frequently interprets his Indianness through a Lamanite lens. It remains unclear whether Echo Hawk will inspire a new generation of Mormon Natives, for whom the ISPP and other programs are distant memories, to embrace a Lamanite identity, much as Spencer W. Kimball did for him as a youth, but his full-throated endorsement of his own experience growing up as a Mormon Lamanite suggests that we will need to reassess our understandings of the lingering legacies of the twentieth century’s “Day of the Lamanite.”


Sources consulted:

“Idaho Attorney General is Living Example of the ‘American Dream,” LDS Church News, August 3, 1991.

Larry EchoHawk, “Achieving and Preserving the Promise of America,” May 23, 1995, BYU forum.

Larry EchoHawk, “An Unexpected Gift,” August 7, 2007, BYU speech.

“Elder Larry Echo Hawk: ‘Lifting People’ a Lifelong Choice,” LDS Church News, April 14, 2012.

Larry Echo Hawk, “Come Unto Me, Ye House of Israel,” October 2012 General Conference.

Armand Mauss, All Abraham’s Children: Changing Conceptions of Race and Lineage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).

Article filed under Biography Categories of Periodization: Modern Mormonism Race


  1. What’s really amazing is that he is a Democrat.

    Comment by Aaron — October 17, 2012 @ 7:22 am

  2. Great work David. I’m feeling a little more able to process everything I thought and felt as I listened to him speak in General Conference.

    Comment by JJohnson — October 17, 2012 @ 7:41 am

  3. George P. Lee was also an inspiration to the “other” Lamanites, those of spanish-speaking heritage. Given the declining numbers of Native Americans, Mexican Mormons took on the mantle of the Lamanite and while there were and have been more recently an effort to “drop” the identity many Latino Mormons still embrace it. It has become a challenge as Latinos from more “European backgrounds” join the pool of “Lamanaite Mormons”. One question for all those church historians: has anyone challenged or tried to explain Joseph Smith’s contention-as it is stated in Blum and Harvey’s the Color of Christ–that Jesus had a light complexion and blue eyes?

    Comment by Ignacio M Garcia — October 17, 2012 @ 8:26 am

  4. Fabulous stuff David! Also, Ignacio presents a intriguing research project for all of us to consider.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — October 17, 2012 @ 8:50 am

  5. Excellent write-up, David. This is really useful.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 17, 2012 @ 9:03 am

  6. Awesome. This is an example of historical background giving context and meaning to the present at its best. Well done, David.

    Comment by Ben P — October 17, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  7. Nice write-up, David. There really is a lot of unfinished business when it comes to LDS racial teachings. Mauss covers some of that ground in All Abraham’s Children, but the Church in general has simply avoided the topic — so terms like Lamanite, Israelite, and gentile as used in LDS discourse remain quite muddled.

    Comment by Dave — October 17, 2012 @ 9:26 am

  8. This is really helpful, David, in contextualizing Echo Hawk’s talk last week. Good stuff, and thanks.

    Comment by Christopher — October 17, 2012 @ 9:31 am

  9. Aaron, agreed that Echo Hawk’s political affiliation is another interesting component to his understanding his call.

    Thanks JJohnson, Tod, Staples, Ben, Christopher, and Dave.

    Dr. Garcia, an earlier draft of this post addressed the equally important and interesting question of how Mormon Latinos 1) appropriate Lamanite identities and 2) respond to Lee’s and Echo Hawk’s publicly-embraced Lamanite identities. Another thing I find interesting is that, while many Mormon Latinos I know self-identify as Lamanitas, no Latino GA has self-identified as a Lamanita in general conference, to my knowledge. Given the assumption among scholars that since the 1980s, the church has focused more on converting Latin American “Lamanitas” than on North American “Lamanites.”

    Comment by David G. — October 17, 2012 @ 9:32 am

  10. Thanks for writing this up. Elder Echohawk’s talk was for me the most interesting conference talk by a mile. As a white male of european descent I can scarcely imagine what it must be like to balance your Mormon and Indian identities. I was astonished at how deeply Elder Echohawk expressed his Lamanite identity. I suppose I figured that the notion that Indian equals Lamanite was an idea that had largely fallen by the wayside. Well, Elder Echohawk clearly hasn’t abandoned the idea. I felt like I was back in the 70s where that notion was taken for granted. I had an Indian Placement sister living with my family then and there was no question but that she was a Lamanite. I’m grateful Elder Echohawk wasn’t afraid to let it out. Now, if you ask me if I believe Native Americans are Laminites, well, that’s complicated. I don’t think I’m old school like elder Echohawk.

    Comment by Sanford — October 17, 2012 @ 9:40 am

  11. David, this is a really interesting post. I found the comment that you made about wider Native American suspicion of Echo Hawk because of his Mormonism particularly thought provoking. Is there a similar suspicion of Christian Native Americans? I ask because of the role that reclaiming native religious traditions played in the Red Power movement in the 60s and 70s. People like Vine Deloria rejected traditional Christianity because of its association with colonialism and European tradition. I wonder to what extent this suspicion is specific to Mormonism and to what extent it reflects larger concerns about non-native religion. I am guessing that it is a little bit of both. I have spoken with Native American professors who feel like Mormons try to co-opt a native history while at the same time having problematic ideas about race.

    Comment by Amanda — October 17, 2012 @ 9:47 am

  12. Amanda, great question. I’m not aware of any literature that answers whether Natives are more skeptical of Mormons than other Christians, although I’ve gotten the sense that many Natives don’t like the church because of negative associations with the ISPP. You’re right that many Native activists rejected Christianity during the Red Power era, and so I agree that skepticism of non-Native religion likely plays a role here, but I’m not sure how widespread this sentiment is among ordinary Natives.

    Comment by David G. — October 17, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  13. There have been a few interesting examples published by FARMS, of how different identities have internalized the Book of Mormon.



    “Into the Desert: An Arab View of the Book of Mormon” –

    Comment by Ben S — October 17, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  14. Amazing, David. Adding this to my epilogue!

    Comment by Max — October 17, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  15. Indeed, very interesting and very helpful piece, David. Thank you.

    Comment by Ryan T. — October 17, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

  16. I should specify that I thought Elder Echo Hawk’s approach the complex and contested issues of lineage was quite sophisticated, and your application of Mauss’s categories helps make more sense of it.

    Comment by Ryan T. — October 17, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  17. Echo Hawk?s October 2012 conference talk continued themes and repeated stories shared with predominately white Mormon audiences for at least two decades, and likely longer.

    Re “likely longer”:

    Someone’s Concerned About Me,” Ensign, Dec. 1975.

    Comment by Justin — October 17, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

  18. Justin strikes!!

    Comment by Christopher — October 17, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

  19. Thanks, Ben S, Max, and Ryan. Justin, that’s a fantastic early look at Larry Echo Hawk. Thanks for finding that.

    Comment by David G. — October 17, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  20. Thanks for this interesting summary, David G.

    I enjoyed Echo Hawk’s line from the article linked by Justin about Lamanite identity and the Book of Mormon: “?Only one thing I don?t understand,? he grins. ?It says we?ll be a white and delightsome people someday. I like the color I am. In fact, I don?t know any Indian who wants to change.?

    Comment by Hunter — October 17, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

  21. sorry if some of this doesn’t make sense, i was pretty tired when i started writing this… just a couple observations….

    Just to stir a hornet?s nest, David?s take was a decent Euro-American LDS perspective on, as Allison Allred stated, ?Zelph the white Lamanite,? or as she called him, the ?paleface? Lamanite known as Mr. Larry Echo Hawk.

    As stated in the 1st paragraph, Echo Hawk, ?became just the second-identifying North American indigenous person to serve? as a GA. It?s too bad that hasn?t stop the rest of the non-GA LDS members from claiming genealogical gold by asserting their female grandmother?s relation to Pocahontas or some other ?Indian Princess.? If I only had a nickel for every time I?ve heard this?. Is his calling as monumental as we are hoping?

    In the 2nd paragraph, David G. looks toward Mauss? work, All Abraham?s Children, and discusses the 4 ways Mauss considers Natives view themselves, but I think that this also needs to include several other influences in how Natives id themselves. This would include: 1) the evolving definition of ?Lamanite? which Mauss discusses somewhat; 2) changing Church doctrine and Church policies towards Natives; 3) Changing interests and relations in Natives from different church leaders (such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and even Spencer W. Kimball to name a few); and 4) the changing outside influences, such as social and even governmental changes which shaped LDS relations with Natives. Which are not limited to Red Power, AIM, the Civil Rights Movements, and etc.

    In paragraph 3, David G. states that Echo Hawk was born in Cody, WY but grew up in Farmington, NM. To most, an Indian is an Indian no matter what, the whole ?one-drop rule? of the south. But yes, even natives have set up their own social structure and have their own class systems like everyone else. The government has also helped shaped this with the introduction of blood quantum. Each tribe has blood quantities to qualify who is considered a Native and who is not. The government also has to legally recognize a tribe before they will consider them to be Native (we can thank Utah for helping pass this one and terminating Native tribal status to a number of tribes throughout the Nation, thanks to Orem, Utah?s Arthur Watkins). Once you survive the cut, according to tribe, there are Reservation Indians, boarder town Indians and then city Indians. Not a true boarder town, Farmington is made up of more whites than anything else, people from there are more city Indians. This is compared to George P. Lee who was born on the Ute reservation and also grew up on the Navajo reservation. Lee had experienced firsthand reservation life, were Echo Hawk had a limited familiarity with reservation life.
    I think David G. is right in looking at the differences between the two men. Lee participated in the LDS Indian Student Placement Program, a program Spencer W. Kimball argued would best serve the ?Lamanites? if they became ?civilized,? especially if they wanted to survive in a Euro-American society, which many tribes somewhat understood and looked to be a better alternative to government boarding schools. SWK believed that the best way to ?civilize? Natives was to take Native children and remove them from the negative influences of the reservation and their Native families. They would then be placed in Euro-American homes with families who originally volunteered and for some later families who were called to take in these Native children. The ISPP?s unfortunate policy partially resonated of governmental boarding school policies established by Richard Henry Pratt?s motto, ?kill the Indian, save the man.? This is what Lee grew up in. For Echo Hawk, he had the pleasure of going to school in the city and only heard stories of his family going through things like this. Lee stated despite the hardships of the ISPP he was glad for the experience and how it brought him closer to the Church.

    As stated, Lee was called to be a GA at such a young age, but he somewhat resented being called so young. All of his counterparts were older, financially established, and did not have to focus on their families, whereas he was called at such a young age, trying to finish up his education, get a decent full-time job to financially take care of his young wife and children. Again, Echo Hawk was called at a much older age and does not have to worry about this as much.

    Another difference is their interaction with SWK. Echo Hawk did talk about his limited interaction and his influence by SWK. Lee on the other hand, spent much of his time with SWK, especially traveling to a variety of engagements on the Navajo reservation and to a variety of other Indian reservations, and to a number of other Native communities. They spent a great amount of time together, and SWK was the world to Lee. In the age of the Civil Rights Movement, SWK spoke of the ?age of the Lamanites. Using powerful speeches for the older Native communities; SWK spoke constantly of Native Pride, Native Power and the importance of Natives in the Church to these older crowds. So, in paragraph 12, when David G. states, that Lee?s ?claim? to have a ?special Lamanite identity that is superior to white members? comes in large part to SWK?s teaching that Lamanites were a ?choice people.? I think Lee was emulating what he heard, saw, and was indoctrinated with. When SWK died he continued to do so, but the role and focus of Natives in the Church changed with SWK?s death, which Lee took pretty hard, especially with the Church wanting to avoid the Civil Rights issue the Nation was facing (LDS Natives also took SWK?s death hard, because there went their champion). On the other hand you had people like Ezra Taft Benson claiming the Civil Rights issue to be a communistic ploy to thwart democracy, or even Bruce R. McConkie taught ?Mormon Doctrine? and opened a can of worms when talking about other races. Echo Hawk was occupied with other things in his life, but for me, I think Echo Hawk was more able to enjoy the benefits of Lee?s and SWK?s hard work.

    In the 10th paragraph, David G. states that ?Echo Hawk evidently overcame those doubts, at least to the point of getting confirmed,? to the B.I.A. and this is somewhat confusing since the president has the final say on who he appoints to this position in the Department of the Interior, it doesn?t matter if Natives like the person of not. There were still plenty of tribes who were not completely satisfied with Echo Hawk, but that happens with any governmental position.
    In the 11th paragraph, David G. pulls out the one thing that really stuck out to me, when Echo Hawk states when he was much younger he recalled reading the intro to the Book of Mormon, but in his talk he quoted the newer revision of the intro when recalling this past event that took place decades before the revision. But this whole Lamanite association that Echo Hawk is implying, the question needs to be asked; is Larry Echo Hawk a ?Lamanite?? Are Pawnees ?Lamanites?? By early Church definition, yes he is, but in the present day, maybe not? I think he is somewhat hesitant to define himself as such because the Church has redefined ?Lamanites? without providing a definition? (To tease Hermano Garcia, are Mexicans still Lamanites with this revision in the Book of Mormon?)

    Comment by Mr. Smallcanyon — October 18, 2012 @ 12:35 am

  22. Mr. Smallcanyon: Since I had you in mind as a potential reader (and critic) when I wrote this, I’ll take your assessment that the post was “decent” for a “Euroamerican” as a compliment (grin). Thank you for raising these additional points, many of which I wanted to address in the post, but it was long as it is.

    On Lee’s relationship with SWK, I think you’re right that Lee modeled much of his Lamanites-as-chosen discourse on SWK. I suspect, however, that Lee went beyond SWK, especially in his late-1980s letters that were leaked to the press that portrayed the (white/gentile) brethren as usurping the rightful place of the Lamanites in the church’s leadership. The irony, as Mauss and others point out, is that Lee was, at least in part, returning to an earlier way of interpreting the Book of Mormon that had fallen out of favor by the early twentieth century.

    On Echo Hawk’s appointment, I was referring to the period between Obama’s announcement of Echo Hawk’s position and congressional confirmation. During that time, as I recall, Echo Hawk met with tribal leaders and tried to assure them that he no longer opposed gaming and that he would be a staunch advocate of sovereignty. So while the president and congress ultimately do not feel they need tribal approval for such appointments, as you know they try to make some gestures to obtain support from Indian Country.

    On your last point, I agree that Echo Hawk’s decision to quote the revised introduction is fascinating and that it may be an implicit reference to the ambiguity many Mormon Natives feel regarding whether they are Lamanites or not. While much of the discussion of the change has focused on whether it was a response to the DNA/BoM geography controversies, I think that there is much we don’t understand about how indigenous members who have long considered themselves Lamanites/Lamanitas have responded to the altered language in the introduction (and the other controversies). I do wonder how broadly known these controversies are among rank and file members, especially those who don’t spend a lot of time on the internet.

    Comment by David G. — October 18, 2012 @ 10:31 am

  23. LOL, thanks for entertaining my post. I think you brought up some good points in your four pages of work (lol, I printed it out so I could take notes on it)…I think you are right, when the Church was moving away from singling out Natives, Lee was going grassroots, trying to go back to the way Joseph Smith taught about Lamanites and their specific role and importance within the Church.

    As to whether or not Natives consider themselves a Lamanite or not are split along generational lines. For the more recent group probably not as much, especially with the Church’s push to remove any “ites” within it’s congregations….also with the death of SWK, Natives don’t have a supporter of Native communities to tell them they should be proud of being a Lamanite.

    Most Euro-American LDS people I know of do not know anything about the controversies or concerns or debates surrounding these issues. For them, Natives are still considered to be Lamanites.

    What about the Native groups that were specifically said to be Lamanites by prophets and apostles of old, are they still considered to be Lamanites?

    Comment by Mr. Smallcanyon — October 18, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  24. For me, the interesting question is whether Echo Hawk will seek to assume SWK’s “mantle” as the Apostle (er, Seventy) to the Lamanites in any kind of active way, other than occasionally addressing “Lamanites” in conference. And, equally important, I wonder whether young Native Mormons will embrace him or see him as a relic of a bygone era. My guess is that there will be a mix of both reactions.

    Comment by David G. — October 18, 2012 @ 11:42 am

  25. I don’t think that anyone can live up to the title of the “Apostle to the Lamanites.” SWK left big shoes to be filled, which no one has even come close to filling.

    SWK was fighting an uphill battle trying to educate a whole nation of Native children, he was trying to use the ISPP as a vehicle to help eradicate racism within the Church from the Euro-American members and pushed for numerous higher educational programs at BYU which has fallen by the wayside or have been reassigned to non-Native and non-minority students. Besides of all of this, he traveled miles and miles seeking out Natives. He specifically singled out and focused his work with Natives, while trying to accomidate the rest of the Church. SWK dedicated his life towards working with the Lamanites.

    there was also Jacob Hamblin who earned that title. He spent his early years working as a missionary and unfortunatley had to spend the rest of his days as a mediator between the Natives and colonizing Euro-American LDS members onto Native lands in southern Utah, which left him little time to spend with his own family. He too spent his life working with the Lamanites. but he lived decades before SWK. Hamblin was never an apostle, so that is not a qualification for being named an Apostle to the Lamanites.

    besides dedicating your life to the Lamanites, i’m not sure how one is given the title, Apostle to the Lamanites? who bestowed these titles to Kimball and Hamblin?

    is there a need to have another “Apostle to the Lamanites?” With the changing doctrines and policies regarding the roles of Natives in the Church, I don’t think there is and I don’t think there will be. I like Larry Echo Hawk, but I don’t think he will ever be given that mantle.

    Comment by Mr. Smallcanyon — October 18, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  26. It is my understanding that the main reason for people having to prove Native American ancestry to tribes and the federal government, and having to have a certain amount of Native American in them, like being half or one-quarter, was due to people, having only 1/16 or less Native American ancestry, could apply for federal government aid to start businesses and receive large amounts of monies for other things. The abuse was astronomical and real Native Americans were not getting the help they needed because Caucasions, with very little Native American blood, were taking all the money. It is unfortunate that there are tribes who still are not recognized by the federal government. I have European, Native American, and Middle Eastern ancestry.

    Comment by JR — October 19, 2012 @ 2:27 am

  27. Mr. Smallcanyon: Agreed that Echo Hawk will never be able to fill SWK’s role, especially in regards to moving church resources in such quantities toward indigenous peoples.

    JR: Blood quantum is an old concept rooted in the highly problematic notion that race is defined by blood, rather than being a culturally-constructed concept. It initially (and still is) used to define who could claim to be an “authentic” Native, which in turn regulates who has access to land and other resources. This has proven to be a very effective tool for dispossessing indigenous peoples. Even as anthropologists and others have moved away from defining race by blood, this way of thinking has continued to structure how the US government determines who can claim to be a Native and who gets resources. In part, this is a good thing, since it stops people with no indigenous ancestry from trying to make money off of Native artifacts or get the type of resources you mention. But the sword also cuts the other way, as it serves to exclude people who otherwise consider themselves members of a tribe, but don’t necessarily have the required amount of blood to be legally considered Indians. Most recently, this has been in the news as the Cherokee nation tried to expel descendants of African slaves held by earlier generations of Cherokees. These black individuals have been raised to think of themselves as Cherokees, and in all likelihood have Cherokee ancestry, but who can’t prove it. While I don’t want to stir up controversy, this also informs the Elizabeth Warren situation in the Massachusetts senate race.

    Comment by David G. — October 19, 2012 @ 10:59 am


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