On March 5 of this year, UVU hosted a panel discussion on the Mountain Meadows Massacre featuring Rick Turley, Will Bagley, and Forrest Cuch and was moderated by Alex Caldiero. Brent Brizzi was on the scene and has provided a transcript of the proceedings. He consulted a recording and notes provided him by the participants. Thank you, Brent for you hard work putting this together for those of us who couldn’t make it.
Alex Caldiero: Welcome, the title of this event is “Perspectives on a Massacre-A Panel Discussion on Mountain Meadows.” The key word here is perspectives. Tonight, before I introduce the panel though, let me introduce the panel. In alphabetical order: [This elicited a healthy laugh from Will Bagley] Will Bagley: Independent Historian and Columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, [Will interrupted; former columnist] Former? Alright. Public Historian, and Utah native Will Bagley has written and edited more than a dozen books on overland emigration, frontier violence, railroads, mining and Mormons. He attended Brigham Young University, and was a President Scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he graduated in 1971 with a degree in History. From 2000-2004 he published more than 200 columns and articles in the Salt Lake Tribune. His books include: “Frontiersman, Abner Blackburn’s Narrative,” which won the 1991 Evans Manuscript Prize. In 1997 the Arthur H. Clark Company launched a documentary history: “Kingdom in the West, The Mormons and the American Frontier.” Mr. Bagley as a series editor. The eleven published volumes have won a variety of awards, and Journal of the West called the series, “one of the happiest events” in a recent western publication. He is the author of “Blood of the Prophets-Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows,” University of Oklahoma Press 2004. That’s Will in the center.
Forrest Cuch, Director of the Division of Indian Affairs. Forrest is an enrolled member of the Ute Indian Tribe; he was born and raised on a Uintah and Ouray Ute Indian Reservation in Northern Utah. He attended public schools until grade 9 where he attended/graduated from Wasatch Academy, Mt. Pleasant, Utah. 1973 he graduated from Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioral Sciences. After graduation from College, Forrest served as Education Director for the Ute Indian Tribe for the period 1973 to 1988, during this time he developed many educational programs which greatly benefitted the Ute People, including efforts leading to the publication of the Tribe’s history book A History of the Northern Ute People, University of Utah Press 1982. More recently, Forrest was editor in the Fall 2000 publication A History of Utah’s American Indians, Utah State University Press. Forrest Cuch.
Last but far from least, as the saying goes. Richard E. Turley was appointed Assistant Church Historian and Recorder for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Prior to this appointment he served for fourteen years as Managing Editor of the Church Historical Department. Four years as Managing Director of the Family History Department, and eight years as Managing Director of the combined Family and Church History Department. In these roles he oversaw the Church Archives and Records Center, The Church History Library and the Museum of Church History and Art, and the Church Worldwide Family History operations, including documentary, microfilming, and digital imaging projects. His books include “Victims, The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann case,” Urbana University of Illinois Press 1992, and it’s often cited history of the famous Hofmann forgery, murder, case of 1980’s. He served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Church Historian’s Press, as Chairman of the Editorial Board for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and as General Editor of the Journals of George Q. Cannon series. He has co-authored with Lael Littke, a children’s book called “Stories from the Life of Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 2003. Along with Ronald W. Walker and Glen Leonard, he recently published the book, “Massacre at Mountain Meadows, New York, Oxford University Press, 2008.
BTW, all these books are available in the back, after the presentations. I want to thank the panel for agreeing to come together for this, and thank you all for being here tonight. As I said before, the word is perspectives, and I just wanna give you the facts, you know what I mean, the facts, just the facts ma’am, remember that. Even the facts are really interesting. I’m gonna give you about three versions of the facts. [laughter]. The raw data, you know the raw data, three versions. If you want to know where the sources are you’ll have to see me later.
Version #1, Mountain Meadows Massacre, the worst slaughter of white civilians on the westward trek. In 1857 a wagon train of some thirty families moved through Utah on the way west, tension was high as Governor Brigham Young, spiritual leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, and the Federal Government with the widespread expectation of an invasion by U.S. Troops, as the emigrants, numbering as many as 150 people including dozens of children, rode west they clashed with local Mormons and Indians. Mormon leaders incited the Indians to attack the train at Mountain Meadows in September 1857. The emigrants circled their wagons, and drove off the first attack, when a 2nd assault also failed, the Mormon Elder, John D. Lee and others promised the emigrants a safe conduct if they would leave all their goods behind. When the emigrants followed Lee out of the circle of wagons, a mixed force of Indians and Mormons lying in wait, rose up and slaughtered all but seventeen children, believed to be too young to remember. John D. Lee was later tried and executed for the act, he went to his grave claiming he was a scapegoat.
Perspective #2 of the facts, [laughter] Led by Captain John T. Baker, and Alexander Fancher, a California bound wagon train from Arkansas camped in this valley in the late summer of 1857, during the time of the so-called Utah War. In the early morning hours of September 7th a party of local Mormon settlers, and Indians attacked and laid siege to the encampment. For reasons not fully understood, a contingent of territorial militia joined the attackers. This Iron County militia consisted of local Latter-Day Saints, Mormons, acting on orders from their local religious leaders and military commanders headquartered thirty five miles to the west of Cedar City. Complex animosities and political issues, intertwined with deep religious beliefs, motivated the Mormons in the exact cause and circumstances, fostering the sad event that ensued over the next five days at Mountain Meadows still defy any clear or simple explanation. During the siege fifteen emigrant men were killed in the fighting or while trying to escape. Then Friday afternoon September 11th the emigrants were persuaded to give up their weapons and leave their corralled wagons in exchange for a promise of safe passage to Cedar City. Under heavy guard they made their way out of the encirclement, when they were all out of the corral, and some of them more than a mile up the valley, they were suddenly and without warning attacked by their supposed benefactors. The local Indians joined in the slaughter, and in a matter of minutes fourteen adult male emigrants, twelve women, and thirty five children were struck down. Nine hired hands driving cattle were also killed, along with at least thirty five other unknown victims, at least 120 souls died in what became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Number three: Again, on September 11th 1857 Mormon settlers in Southern Utah used a false flag of truce to lull a group of California bound emigrants from their circled wagons and then slaughtered them. When the killing was over more than one hundred butchered bodies lay strewn across a half mile stretch of mountain land meadow. Most of the victims were women and children, the perpetrators were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aided by Indians. One of the bitter ironies of the Mormon history is that some of the people who had long deplored the injustices of extra-legal violence became its perpetrators. In carrying out the Mountain Meadows Massacre they followed a familiar step-by-step pattern used by vigilantes elsewhere. Finally, on September 11th 1857 some 50-60 local militiamen in Southern Utah, aided by American Indian allies massacred about 120 emigrants who were traveling by wagon to California. The horrific crime which spared only 17 children, age 6 and under occurred in a highland valley called Mountain Meadows, roughly 35 miles southwest of Cedar City. The victims, most of them from Arkansas were on their way to California with dreams of a bright future. So those are the facts. The way we’re going to run this is, basically that each of the speakers will give their pieces, what they have found, the main argument they have of how they see this event. We’ll go right down the line right here 1,2,3. After each one has presented their side of the story, there’ll be five minutes of just answering back and forth to each other. There’s two responses, they may respond back to the person that has asked you a question, and once we get that finished, we’ll open up the questions to the audience, and hopefully a good time will be had by all [laughter].
Richard Turley: On September 11, 1857, Mormon settlers in southern Utah used a false flag of truce to lull a group of California?bound emigrants from their circled wagons and then slaughter them. How could basically good people commit such an atrocity? The professional literature dealing with nineteenth?century American violence offers a starting point. In the early to mid?1800s, the United States could be a violent place, particularly for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. One of the bitter ironies of Mormon history is that some of the people who had long deplored the injustice of extra-legal violence became its perpetrators. In carrying out the Mountain Meadows Massacre, they followed a step-by-step pattern used by vigilantes elsewhere.
Scholars who have investigated violence in many cultures provide other insights based on group psychology. Episodes of violence often begin when one people classify another as ‘the other,’ stripping them of any humanity and mentally transforming them into enemies. Once this process of devaluing and demonizing occurs, stereotypes take over, rumors circulate, and pressure builds to conform to group action against the perceived threat. Those classified as the enemy are often seen as the transgressors, even as steps are being taken against them. When these tinderbox conditions exist, a single incident, small or ordinary in unusual circumstances, may spark great violence ending in atrocity.
The literature on the history of violence suggests other elements are often present when “good people” do terrible things. Usually there is an atmosphere of authority and obedience, which allows errant leaders to trump the moral instincts of their followers. Atrocities also occur when followers do not have clear messages about what is expected of them. Poverty increases the likelihood of problems by raising concerns about survival. The conditions for mass killing- (that I’ve just mentioned,) demonizing, authority, obedience, peer pressure, ambiguity, fear, and deprivation-all were present in southern Utah in 1857.
But the massacre did not have to happen. Environmental circumstances may create the conditions for killing, but human choice governs the final result. At each point along the chain of acts and decisions-especially in Iron and Washington Counties-a single personal choice or policy might have brought about a different result. Those who acted as they did bear a responsibility-some a great deal more than others-though we as authors of the book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows know the presumption of judging past events without having lived through them.
For too long, in our opinion writing about the massacre has been characterized by a spirit of charge and countercharge. These frames of reference usually center on personalities and conspiracies. Such questions we believe, are best answered by telling the story and letting events speak for themselves. It is for this reason that much of our book deals with the final days before the mass killing. We hope that readers, who read our book will see not scapegoats but a complex event in which many people and many forces had a role.
The principal aggressors in the Mountain Meadows Massacre were white settlers in southern Utah communities, including especially Cedar City. They bear the main responsibility for the crime. Some Paiutes participated under their influence, but they too became victims as the white perpetrators subsequently tried to shift the blame entirely to them. I for one adhere to the statement of participant, Levi Johnson, who said: “White men did most of the killing”. The Paiute people have continued to suffer unjustly under this wrongly placed burden, a burden which, as I have written elsewhere, needs to be relieved.
As for the emigrants who were the victims of the massacre, our research confirms that nothing they said or did came anywhere close to justifying what happened to them. Instead, each participant in the crime, and those around them, with their own history and emotions, saw what they chose to see in the emigrants, based on environmental factors that we describe in our book.
“So the wind grew into a whirlwind,” Juanita Brooks wrote in memorable prose. “Exaggeration, misrepresentation, ungrounded fears, unreasoning hate, desire for revenge, yes, even the lust for the property of the emigrants, all combined to give justification which, once the crime was done, looked inadequate and flimsy indeed.”
Since the time Brooks wrote these words, scholars of religious or ethnic violence have described the step-by-step process that leads to mass killing. “Violence is not only what we do to the other,” Regina M. Schwartz wrote. “It is prior to that. Violence is the very construction of the other.” As emotions build, the perpetrators become convinced that their opponents are a threat to their people and values. They claim to act defensively, even while they are the aggressors. Rumors are everywhere, and perception becomes reality. The final cataclysm is sudden and almost inexplicable.
For the most part, the men who committed the atrocity at Mountain Meadows were neither fanatics nor sociopaths, but normal and in many respects decent people. The modern age, confronted with mass violence and killings, has rediscovered a fundamental aspect of old theology. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them,” wrote Russian Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn. But, he continued; “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who wants to destroy a piece of his own heart.”
I hope that as we consider different perspectives on the massacre this evening, we will each examine our own hearts and face the uncomfortable reality evident in this crime, and many others, it is the reality that unless human beings choose to resist powerful forces, otherwise good people under certain circumstances, can commit the unthinkable. Thank You.
Will Bagley: I was entertained by the presentation of facts about this very controversial event, and I’d like to put the fact that was presented in each version was that Indians were, played a big role in it. Now, if you could take a poll in the United States in December 1857, I would guess that 98% of the American people would consider the Mormons disloyal traitors. Now, would that make it a fact? Because it took 50 years, 60 years, not quite a 100 years for the Mormon people to disprove that, but there would have been 98% of the American people who would simply accepted that as fact. There’s also the sense that the Mountain Meadows Massacre is an impenetrable mystery. I think what Rick has pointed out is; it’s not. Even more than that, even if it were a mystery it is our duty as moral citizens, and as the people of Utah, many of us with Mormon heritage, to look closely, and try to understand this. We can’t pretend it is inexplicable.
Historians agree that September 11, 1857, was the darkest day in Utah’s history. On learning of the crime, Brigham Young said: “This is the most unfortunate affair that ever befell” the LDS Church. B. H. Roberts called the murders, “the most lamentable episode in Utah history, and in the history of the church.”
For the 120 men, women, and children who were betrayed and murdered that afternoon at a remote campsite on the wagon road to California, it was over in a matter of seconds or minutes at most. For the handful of survivors and the decent men who took part in the killing, the legacy of this singular act of violence against helpless women and children lasted a lifetime. Some of those present chose death over living with the unbearable memory of the atrocity.
I researched the Mountain Meadows Massacre for more than a decade. My work on this dastardly outrage is done, leaving three very basic, difficult, and perhaps unanswerable questions. Rick described the first key puzzle:
1. What motivated decent, devout, nineteenth-century American men to commit such a treacherous act?
2. Who was responsible for the murders?
3. And finally, what role did Indians play-or not play-in the atrocity?
I traced the first question-what compelled god-fearing men who had sacrificed so much for their religion to murder about eighty women and children?-back to those sacrifices and that religion. Most of these men had abandoned several homesteads for the sake of their faith and had sworn sacred oaths to avenge the blood of their murdered prophets. Now, I want to make clear that I disagree with trying to pass this off as a generic act of western violence. It is the murder of those women and children by 19th century men that makes this such a singular act, and distinguishes it from vigilantism in California or Montana where the murder of people on back roads, this is a singular event. Juanita Brooks reached approximately the same conclusions years earlier: she also felt the “The Spirit of the Times” created by the Reformation, led to the crime. “Spurred on by inflammatory speeches of their church leaders, their determination not to be driven again, their private vows to avenge the blood of the Prophets, the promises in their Patriarchal Blessings that they would be allowed to do so,” all carried weight, Brooks concluded. As Brigham Young himself said over the graves of the victims, “Vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.” And he then supervised the desecration of that grave.
These men acted in a climate of fear in a frontier culture that was notoriously violent, but to dismiss the bloodshed at Mountain Meadows as a typical act of Western violence is trying to hide an orange in a bushel of apples. Violence in the Mormon West is exceptional: virtually every other act of violence or vigilantism west of the Missouri came from the bottom up, and happened in defiance of religious and legal authority. In Utah, the highest religious authorities-often simultaneously the highest legal officials-encouraged, sanctioned, and in several cases ordered crimes of theft, intimidation, and murder. The perpetrators viewed such acts of bloodshed and terror as righteous, religious acts. As an example later, perhaps we’ll discuss the murder in broad daylight of an American Army Sergeant on the main street of Salt Lake.
Before I began my work, Juanita Brooks had already asked and answered the controversial second question: whodunit? Who was ultimately responsible for the crime? She said in 1950: “While Brigham Young and George A. Smith, the church authorities chiefly responsible, did not specifically order the massacre,” Brooks concluded, “they did preach sermons and set up social conditions which made it possible.” After firmly fixing moral responsibility for the crime where it belongs-at the very top of a stoutly hierarchical and authoritarian culture-everything else is just inside baseball.
The last question-what role did Indians play in the atrocity?- is the most technically difficult problem a historian must face. “It is beyond the power of credulity to believe Indians could, or would have done and acted as was reported, by the Mormons,” a Los Angeles newspaper observed in 1858, and what The Southern Vineyard said then remains true today. For thirteen years the highest Mormon authorities blamed the entire affair on the Indians, and as the cover-up expanded to include a few white “renegades,” they shifted as much blame as possible to one of the least warlike tribes in the American West. As the earliest and best evidence reveals, Mormons ran the show from the moment the first shot was fired. At Cedar City in 1859, a participant confessed to a federal judge that local authorities “designated or appointed a large number of men . . . to perform the work of dispatching these emigrants.” Before they launched a devastating ambush at dawn on September 7, the men “painted and otherwise disguised themselves to resemble Indians.”
John D. Lee and a cohort of “savage” Indians did not make the initial assault: Lee and this witness said “a large number” of fellow “Latter-Day Saints” in warpaint launched it. It is long time past time to quit pretending, as Orson Scott Card did in his sendup of “Saintspeak,” that the massacre was “An unfortunate incident in which John D. Lee, a master of disguise, dressed up as dozens of Indians and single-handedly wiped out all the men, women, and children in a wagon train of Missourians passing through southern Utah.”
Anthropologist Martha Knack’s study of the Southern Paiutes listed five reasons why such blame shifting is nonsense: the military strategy was totally uncharacteristic of the Southern Paiutes; the number of warriors required “far exceeded the capacity of local Paiutes bands”; such a coordinated, inter-band operation “would have required an obedience to authority that did not exist in Paiute culture”; the attack came during the piñon harvest, “the busiest time of the Paiute year”; finally, “logistical support for such a large party” did not exist. “It seems clear that Southern Paiute culture, political structure, and economy could not have produced an action like the Mountain Meadows Massacre without Mormon stimulus and support.” So, what was the extent of Indian involvement in the atrocity?
Traditional Paiute accounts of the massacre, first published by Ron Holt and tribal historian Gary Tom in Forrest’s, Forrest Cuch’s path-breaking book, A History of Utah’s American Indians, assert that Indians did nothing more than witness the massacre. White perpetrators described a “wild and excited band of several hundred Indians.” Major John Higbee imagined four to six hundred “savages.” In contrast, participant Joel White testified there “might have been 40 or 50, somewheres along there.” Even this estimate is high: LaVan Martineau collected twenty-six accounts of war and conflict from Southern Paiute informants, but the largest “war party” he identified numbered only twelve members.
I never would have chosen to write a book about the massacre on my own hook-the thoroughly corrupted evidence offered little hope of ever finding anything resembling the truth. But I was hired in 1995 to do research for a wealthy California history buff who planned to write a novel, and the last fourteen years have been “like wrestling the devil with little prospect of victory.” Contradictory sources and outright lies have poisoned the historical record: every account is biased and can be challenged for good reason. Historians must reconstruct the event from the testimony of children, murderers, and passers-by, an immense challenge. If I have added anything to our understanding of this awful tale, it is the accounts of Rebecca Dunlap, Mary Elizabeth and Sarah Frances Baker, and Nancy Saphrona Huff. Each makes an important point: virtually all the “Indians” at the massacre proved to be painted white Mormons and not Southern Paiutes. And as that tortured soul, Nephi Johnson, told Apostle Francis Lyman, “White men did most of the killing.”
My Mormon ancestors firmly believed “The truth is mighty and will prevail.” I believe they were right, and I will stand by a statement I made years ago: “history bears witness that only the truth will lay to rest the ghosts of Mountain Meadows.” And if you’re curious where those survivor accounts are available, it’s in a book that came out to no fanfare, in an edition of 1,250 copies called “Innocent Blood-Essential Narratives of the Mountain Meadows Massacre,” it’s edited by David L. Bigler, and Will Bagley, 500 pages, and it tells the complete story, it doesn’t suddenly stop after the blood is shed. It handles the cover-up which is the key to understanding what happened. It includes perspectives from the Indians, from the passers-by, and from the Mormons themselves, and we believe it is a compelling and complete account of the massacre as you can find in documentary form.
But, finally to cast some light on a very dark subject I brought my best-seller which is not a seller, it’s a giveaway. It’s called The California Trail,” it is a publication of The National Park Service, it is the best map of the wagon road to California, the northern wagon road. I wrote the text on the back, and Harper Ferry edited it, but they’re free, and they’re sitting on the back counter, and you can pick up one on your way out. If they run out, let me know, and I’ll see if I can get you one. Thank you. [Applause]
Forrest Cuch: Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Nice to be here, beautiful school here. I had no idea they had a library this huge down here, beautiful. Mountain Meadows Massacre renders a lot of pain to my heart. I don’t know exactly what grade I was in, possibly 7th or 8th grade, and luckily the number of Indian kids was equal to non-Indian kids because it was pretty intense when the teacher essentially told the story, and held the Indians responsible, totally. This particular teacher also, I don’t recall if it was in this classroom or I learned later that the prevailing myth was that well, during the massacre there were some militiamen involved, but they killed the men, whereas the Indians were relegated to killing the women and children, blunt stones, and clubs, and objects, and that really made us feel bad. Most of us Indian kids looked at each other, then we looked at the white kids who were of course staring at us, luckily we had enough numbers to hold ourselves off, but we had a very uncomfortable situation to this day, to this very moment, because you see there are other facts that come to that, such as the analysis of the remains that were inadvertently dug up when the new monument was being constructed.
Those remains were examined, and I think about 28 individuals, some of the women and children were shot in the back of the head, execution style, .44 caliber. Which served to destroy that myth, that American Indians were killing women and children, stones and blunt objects, those children were executed. It brought back the visions I saw in Bryan Patrick’s film, “Burying of the Past”, “Burying The Past” was the name of it. I thought his documentary was fairly accurate. I wasn’t happy with the stereotypical Indian who was crazed, he showed, he was crazy eyed and wild, and he met the stereotype of a wild Indian, and he was killing people. While the militiamen were really cool and collected, I mean they seemed like they were on a rabbit hunt or something, where the Indian guy was crazy, he’d pull out a knife and stab, now that brought back horrible memories. Except for that aspect, I thought Bryan Patrick’s film was very accurate.
I was a little bit troubled, though I’m not really interested in denigrating Brigham Young whatsoever. I was a little bit troubled that he made a reference to the fact that he urged the militiamen to leave the settlers alone, the Arkansas Settlers, but the Indians can do as they wish, because it brought back memories of here again we’re going to pin this on Indian people. As my friend Will said: “Paiutes were not known to their aggressions, my people, the Utes were much more aggressive, especially after they acquired the horse. Almost all the pre-clauses that were read here, the preludes, are unacceptable to me. Any reference that the Saints were aided by the Indians is unacceptable, because to suggest such terminology is to suggest a co-conspiracy of some kind, as though the militiamen and the Indians were all huddled over, planning and plotting this horrible massacre, that’s simply not the case.
Logan Hebner, who has been collecting oral histories from Southern Paiute for several years, informed me that the most they can possibly identify were two (2) Paiutes who “may” have participated. More than likely if there were any more than that, they were probably renegade, from other tribes, possibly some Utes, my people. But they were not co-conspirators. Why would they? So hereafter when anyone uses the word or reference to aided by Indians, I would suggest that they use the word “aided by two Indians,” “aided by two Indians” hereafter, please.
I’m forced to reject most of the writings. I think Will’s book comes close authoritatively, but even yours Will, could have given some testimony, could have published some testimony of Indian eyewitnesses, because this is the official testimony of the Paiute people regarding Mountain Meadows. This is “The History of Utah’s American Indians,” we published this in 2000. Now interesting to note, when I got the manuscripts from each of the tribes, when I read the Paiute manuscript it did not include reference to Mountain Meadows. I called up the chairwoman, Geneal Anderson, who I admire very much. I said: Geneal, why isn’t the massacre in here? There was a long pause, she said: Forrest, we’re afraid, we’re afraid that the Mormon Church will retaliate against us if we tell our version, and I said: That version is what? “We have nothing to do with it, we have witnesses who saw the massacre, witnessed the fact that some of the militiamen were dressed as Indians, and witnessed that they washed themselves off in the creek.”
I informed Geneal, I said look this is a state project, it is funded by the legislature, this is professional journalism, you should not worry about that. The LDS Church will not retaliate on something like this, I think they will strive for the truth as well, they will join us in this. And so we called our scholars back, Gary Tom, and Company, and they put together, they took the testimony of several Paiute people, luckily some of the Elders were alive. I recall that our testimonies in this book corroborated three of the four witnesses that you Mr. Turley taped back in 2002 I believe, 2003. I listened to the testimony, and three of the four witnesses, their story corroborates this. I think the only one that didn’t that I missed is because he wanted you to tape him at his home, rather than there at the tribal office. So, I hold that the testimony given in this book is most accurate. I guess my biggest argument is that: By not giving reference or citation to this book, we have no voice, we have not had a voice, prior to this time, ok, that’s unacceptable. So from this day forward, this is going to be the official position of the Paiute people, and the Indian people regarding Mountain Meadows, and we will expect hereafter that this scholarly work be cited and referenced in future publications. There’s simply no excuse why the Indian version is not mentioned in any of these books.
It brings back to memory, Vine Deloria once said, “We talk…you listen.” Once again, that can’t happen anymore. Because there’s going to be folks like me that know how to write, and we’re going to publish, we’re going to research and we’re going to publish. You especially cannot ignore the Indian voice, when the Indian people have brought the responsibility for the massacre all these years. We’ve had to bear this responsibility all these years…very, very painful. What it does, is it dehumanizes, ok.
When Will was talking about the references regarding Mormon settlers in your religion by folks back east, east of the Mississippi, the feeling, the piercing, the feeling that went through your heart just then, when he was talking about that, that’s how it is for us. When people think so little of you it dehumanizes you, ok. These folks back east were basically saying “Mormon people are not human, their beliefs are so foreign, they’re not part of us, they’re not human beings.” Well that’s what happened to us, we’ve been dehumanized in the process. For a long time we’ve been victims of colonialism, ok. So much so that after you’re told to believe a certain way, after a while you believe it yourself, even if it’s the most destructive.
Only in Utah can American Indians be left out of important decisions about them. Other examples would be, we were left out of discussions regarding water rights in the western desert, land use in regards to Skull Valley, storage proposal. We’re constantly left out of discussions. What’s that all about? We’re human beings, we deserve a voice, we deserve a say. It’s got to change. The books so far, Social Studies, Holzapfel’s book blames the Indian. I’ve asked him to revise his book, he’s ignored me, that has to change.
The descendants of the massacre victims are awaiting an apology from the LDS Church. My recommendation is if and when that apology comes, that it also be extended to the Paiutes, and those of us other Indian tribes, who’ve borne some of the shame. The pain the descendants carry with them is important, because it gives them an example of how the American Indian people have carried pain over the years, and we know atrocities occurred on both sides, we know that.
But just think for a minute, that was 120, some of the Fancher’s say 121, but think about this for a minute, Fort Utah, 70 Ute killed there, 1850. What about Bear River Massacre, do you know we have recent testimony from a family that their Great-Great-Grandfather did a body count, and that work is published in a diary here, no it’s at Brigham Young, Special Collections. He did a body count, Bear River Massacre, 493, and he said to himself; “Nobody’s gonna believe this, I’d better count it over again, he did, 493.” Do you realize how significant that is? That means that the largest massacre in the Western United States occurred at Bear River, not Sand Creek over here in Colorado, not Wounded Knee, but right up here on our border, and yes we were implicated, our state was implicated. And it was not just Shoshones from the northwest Band, most of them came from Pocatello’s band in Idaho, they were the ones that raided the livestock in Cache Valley. It was the Cache Valley settlers who called upon help from the militiamen who were passing through, for whatever reason, we don’t know for sure. They went north and attacked the first innocent village. So there’ve been other examples of atrocities.
According to scholars, in the American West Center, there have been over 150 battles fought between settlers and the American Indians, save Utah. It was not a pretty picture back then, and sometimes, a lot of times our friendship back then was conditional, it was conditional upon us moving aside, giving up our land, and being good Indians. We had to move quietly, give up our lands, our water, our way of life. The Shoshones were told to either join the church and become farmers, or be killed, they quickly joined the Church and became farmers. The only problem is, during the first two years, every time they attempted to harvest their crops, cowboys from Corrine came, robbed them and destroyed their crops. It’s all right here [referring to the book, A History of Utah’s American Indians]. So there’ve been many atrocities committed, not only Mountain Meadows, other places in Utah, it’s not been a pretty picture. All the bloodshed, great amount of atrocities committed on both sides.
Back in August 2008, I interviewed Noreen Bricknand, and Jenny Quintana. Bricknand indicated that her Grandfather Josiah Gibbs wrote a book entitled “Mountain Meadows Massacre.” He took testimony from the tribes, and in this manuscript he wrote “That the Paiute tribe indicated they had no part in the massacre, the tribe witnessed Mormon Settlers bury Indian clothes two valleys over.” It’s the same testimony that’s in our book.
I’m not going to get in to the other aspects of who was responsible, I’m not going to villainize Brigham Young, the juries still out about him, there’s always been good news, there’s always been bad news. I’m going to keep that open, because I also know what it’s like to be a leader, sometimes people put you on a bronze pedestal, expect you to be perfect, that’s virtually impossible. One good thing I’ll leave with you is, I always thought it was admirable that Brigham Young suggested that maybe the two cultures should join together, come together as one, and you know, had that happened we really might have had a Zion here, could’ve been a different story altogether, but we all know that didn’t happen, ok.
Some of the atrocities that occurred in the past, are still occurring today. Indian people, Indian people really do not hold that against folks, the past, they don’t hold the past that much. What, what my people are concerned about is what’s happening today, and there’s still a few things happening today, ok. I want to encourage, on the bright side we have five, thirty minute documentaries coming out in April, part of the national PBS series called “We Shall Remain, American Experience,” so watch for those. Our state legislature appropriated money so we could develop those documentaries, those documentaries allow the tribes to tell their story, their history, they also bring us up to date on where they are today. It’s a wonderful gesture the legislature made, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get a more accurate picture of history, and for once, really get to start to know each other. Let’s end the superficial relationships that are based on inaccuracies, myth. Let’s get down to the truth, and get to know each other, once and for all. Thank You. [applause]
Alex Caldiero: At this point would you, Rick, address a question, and get a response from someone here?
Rick Turley: I think I’d like to address my question to Will. I think we agree today, the principal aggressors were white Southern Utah men. I want to ask Will about his book: “Blood of the Prophets,” specifically his statement on pages 112, and 113.
Will Bagley: Could we get some of the bookstore people bring up a copy of that? Can you bring up a copy of “Blood of the Prophets?”
Rick: The question I want to address to Will, is on pages 112, and 113 he writes the following: “The conflicts the Arkansas train encountered on the trail mattered not at all in the final balance. As the Fancher party struggled Southward it’s fate was being sealed in a September 1857 meeting in Great Salt Lake City between the leaders of the Southern Paiute Band, and the man they called Big’um, Brigham Young. The Indians included the Chief of the Paiutes, other Paiutes, and of the Deserts and Santa Clara, and Rio Virgen, and of Harmony.” Kanosh of Corn Creek was the dedicated collaborator who the Mormons rewarded with guns and wives. Ammon from Beaver Creek, the brother of the late Wakara, was presumed leader of the Ute Nation. Young-wuds (also known as Yungweids or Youngwquick) was chief of the Paiute band at Harmony, Lee’s home. Also there was the Paiute “head chief” Tutsegabit, whose good relations with the Mormons empowered him to be “a Pied Chief over 6 Piedes Bands, continuing 113-114. Historians have long assumed no detailed eyewitness account of the interview existed, but the diary of Young’s brother-in-law and interpreter, Dimick Huntington, has survived in the LDS Archives since 1859. Describing the September 1 parlay, Huntington wrote: I gave them all the cattle that had gone to California the south route, it made them open their eyes, they said that you have not told us to steal, so I have but now they have come to fight us and you, for when they kill us they will kill you, they said they was afraid to fight the Americans and so would raise allies, he’s changed that to grain in his new book, “Innocent Blood,” and we might fight. Then he writes the following: “With the Shoshones handling emigrants on the northern road, the Pahvants and Piedes now had their instructions. After their evening meeting with the Mormon prophet on September 1, the Paiute chiefs slept in Great Salt Lake City, and then left precipitously the next morning.” Later he places these men at the Mountain Meadows. Now if I personally believe that this who’s who of Indian leaders in Utah were not participants in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. So I want to know if he’s going to revise his book to edit out this portion, or whether he continues to hold to the fact that this who’s who of Mormon Indian leaders was at Mountain Meadows?
Will: I actually have thought about doing a 2nd edition of this. If I can get the twelve books I’m working on right now done, I’d probably do it. But I did want to make one point first, which is that I do cite Forrest’s book in “Blood of the Prophets,” and I do quote an interview I did with the help of Gary Tom, with Clifford Jakes, who was an elder in the Paiute Tribe, which does tell the Indian story. Now, we’re talking inside baseball here, and the details are in Blood of the Prophets, I make the first extensive use of the Dimick Huntington journal. Now doesn’t any of that strike you as remarkable? Here is an American Governor, the Indian agent in Utah whose already encouraged the Northern Tribes to attack American emigrants on the road, and now he’s giving the cattle of the trains on the southern route. And these Indians had camped with a group of American emigrants at Cord Creek, near today’s Filmore, a week before, under the tutelage of a Mormon prophet name George A. Smith, a Mormon Apostle. Now isn’t there something strange about this? Isn’t there something just a little discordant about an American official encouraging the theft of cattle. And as Rick’s book points out, the Mormon leaders in Salt Lake themselves knew that the Paiutes weren’t going to pull this off all by themselves. In a very revealing statement that is just sort of overlooked I think, in the revisions, they confess that. Now when I worked on this book in 2002, I did not have access to all the documents. In my briefcase back there, I meant to bring it, there is the latest BYU Studies. It is a collection of documents edited by Rick, and Ron Walker, and Photostats of many of those documents, and they are essentially a compilation of the documents, I asked over, and over, and over again to see, that I couldn’t see, and they are a terrifying assembly of lies. There is one statement that I would have used in my book, which is: Nephi Johnson, he said; while he was down, trying to keep the Indians from looting the wagons, who was going to get the stuff if the Indians didn’t,” ya think. He understood that when the mass killing was over that the Mormons had some older children left, and they quote, “gave them to the Indians to kill.” Now that isn’t in the Brethren’s book. But, in my book you can read another perspective on that murder, it is by Nancy Sophrona Huff who says very plainly, “when the main killing was over there was a 12 year old girl left alive, and the Mormons killed her.” Now this is a horrific event, it shows a level of calculation, and callousness that I don’t think is a typical act of violence. It’s again a pattern of blame shifting and lies. Now, in Dimick Huntington’s journal, it’s a very complicated, very simple, but very complicated document, and I made a grave error in mis-transcribing a word, “grain,” it’s actually grain, and I translated it initially as [couldn’t hear this] then as allies, but it is grain. It indicates that the Indians were telling Brigham Young, that he encouraged them to murder Americans, that they didn’t want to do it, they were going to stand aside and let the Mormons and the Army fight, and whoever won, they would help pick up the pieces. But, what the Huntington journal documents is a major criminal act. I’m not an attorney, but I’d like Rick to frame an indictment or the 27 different indictments you could frame for an act like that. Now were those Indians, now I base my account on records that Juanita Brooks published, and it was a statement from Juanita Brooks that said, she says it I think in “John D. Lee:” “the day after this meeting, the Mormon, the Indian leaders left Salt Lake,” and I found the bills of Dimick Huntington himself, who billed for keeping Indian leaders until the (1st of May, meant September), or the 1st of September, and then didn’t bill any more. Now, I think Rick may have found more bills but…
Alex Caldiero: I guess you’re not going to change that passage. [laughter]
Will: No, well in fact since I’ve learned more and more…
Alex: Are you going to change that passage?
Will: If I have a chance to revise that book, I probably would change it a bit.
Alex: You’ve got witnesses.
Will: The point is, what will I change. I will change the interpretation that key word especially. I would put more stress on the Indians not pitching into it. But I did not, I didn’t know when I wrote the piece that I would absolutely bet that any of those Indians were at Mountain Meadows. I thought the crimes were evident from that journal were sufficient to indict Brigham Young as at least an accessory to the fact. But what I did was, I quoted a bunch of Mormon sources, Tom Alexander, Thomas L. Kane, who all put Tutsegabit at the massacre.
Alex: So you’re not going to change it right?
Will: I’m going to point out that the evidence is ambiguous. Who you gonna believe in this story? My point is don’t believe the murderers, they’re liars. The whole story is this web of lies, trying to figure out what actually happened is very complicated, as Rick has pointed out.
Alex: Rick, would you respond to that?…Briefly. [laughter]
Rick: Will called his book “Blood of the Prophets” [pause for effect] Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and the key pieces of evidence he uses to indict Brigham Young is the September 1st meeting that he mentioned. [Will interjects: “No, the coverup”, then laughs heartily] If in fact these Indian leaders did not go down and participate in the massacre, and we think the evidence shows they did not. In fact elsewhere in his writings, Will refers to the participants at Mountain Meadows, the Indian participants as freebooters. The list in the Brigham Young meeting is a who’s who of Indian leaders, not freebooters. So, you can’t have it both ways Will. Either this meeting had an impact on the massacre, or it did not.
Will: Ok, Rick, what do you.
Alex: Hold it, hold it. Do you have a question for him?
Will: I have a question for him. What do we make of this meeting Rick? Rick, what do you make of this meeting?
Rick: The Mountain Meadows Massacre occurs against the backdrop of the Utah War, and Brigham Young as he was preparing for the arrival of the Federal Army, sought to get the friendship of the American Indians, so that upon the arrival of the Army, he hoped they would side with him. Now from an Indian perspective as best I can discern it, I’d be interested in Forrest’s take on this. To the Indians this essentially looked like a very unreasonable proposition. They said: “you mean this powerful force is coming from the East, and you’re going to be here in the west, and you want us to be in-between? Their response was; “we’re going to go out, we’re going to raise grain, as this account said, we’re going to go up in the hills, we’ll negotiate with the victor. I do not believe that these Indians were at Mountain Meadows. Check the appendix to our book.
Alex: Forrest, do you have a question for one of the other panelists?
Forrest: [Pause for effect] No. [lots of laughter]
Alex: Let’s open it up to the audience, please.
Q: I’m a Social Scientist and this is a methodological question. About five or six years ago, when your book came out Will, I wrote you because all the people who participated are dead, and the only methodological sources we have are writings on the time, and in order to be sure events were recorded accurately, we kind of have to eliminate secondary sources, go to the primary sources, and so you sent me three documents. I said send me the three best documents you have. Dimick Huntington’s is the major one that you pointed out. I read the first two analytically, and I could find no antecedent references at all to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. There was con-cause, but without antecedents you have nothing.
Will: What were the sources?
Q: I don’t have the actual references. I remember the Dimick Huntington one because after one, that statement was in there, and I thought to myself, I don’t think he was referring to anything south, and when you have a controversial issue where people’s reputations are on the line, it seems to me you have to bend over backwards to be fair, whether it’s the Indians who were unjustly labeled, or the Church leaders in Salt Lake who were unjustly labeled, you have to do that. Unless, we can go inside and look at the historical methodology. So my question to you is: How do you justify, oh, BTW when I sent back my comments, you wrote back to me saying: “you know that Brigham Young is guilty, so admit it.” That was not an historical statement. I threw my hands up and said well.
Will: What’s your name? [Answer: Dr. Smith]
Q: It was in Hawaii, and we emailed back and forth, you remember. So how important is it to be methodologically careful is my question to you?
Will: Well, actually my recollection is different. Dr. Smith sent a letter to me before the book was published, saying that you heard that was what I was going to say. So he wasn’t really looking at the evidence. The first response that I got was before the book had come out. So if we want to talk about methodology, I think that’s a little corrupt. Now, I have studied Brigham Young very, very closely. I do admit that it is a circumstantial case that Brigham Young directly ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre, however I believe that the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing, and the most compelling evidence is the cover-up. It’s the public approval of an act of vengeance, it is Brigham Young’s public statements. Brigham Young is lying; he lies again, and again, and again. Now, Rick and I drove down today, and I told him that recently I’d done an article, it’s in this Journal of Mormon History on Brigham Young and the Handcart disaster. I was shocked. If anyone here believes that Brigham Young was any kind of a humanist, read that article. This is a man who will put a steam engine ahead of the interests of a thousand people, starving and freezing in the mountains. This is a man who eventually I believe gives up his principles, and is essentially in it for the money [at this point somebody yelled something out, attempting to interrupt Will]. My opinion of Brigham Young has gone no place but downhill since I wrote Blood of the Prophets, but I think, essentially to answer your question, the worst indictment of Brigham Young is in the cover-up, and I think that Rick’s got, I told him this afternoon, Rick’s got a hard road to hoe to prove that that cover-up was really just cooperation, and that he didn’t know about this.
Alex: I think we know how you feel about that.
Will: I feel very strongly about that.
Alex: Do we have another question?
Q: In this meeting that was described, in the pages that were read, sort of a who’s who meeting of the Indian leaders of Utah, and then if I understood your question to him correctly, what you were asking was whether it was indeed, did you call them freebooters or what? Which is no name? What does freebooter mean?
Will: Freebooter is an Indian like Ninos, (I believe) who is said, he’s a colorful character, he’s in the Deseret News, he’s said to be at one time a slave to Brigham Young, at other times, Kanosh the Pahvant leader whips him publicly at Fort Harmony, John D. Lee’s Fort. These were unattached Indians who were picked for random violence. Another point I make in “Innocent Blood” is, Rick’s identified 25 Indians that he thinks might have been at Mountain Meadows, he lists 25 Indians, but only about 20 of them, most of them say they weren’t there. So a freebooter would have been a freelancer, somebody who showed up, hoping to get some of the booty or whatever.
Q: So then, I guess what you were asking was whether it was indeed the freebooters, or whether it was this group. Have you published differing accounts that one was there, and that the other was there? My question is which one was there? Were these people there or not?
Will: I think Rick’s got that point. I don’t.
Q: I’m asking you directly.
Will: Ok, where was Ammon?
Q: I’m asking you if this group of leaders was there at the Mountain Meadows?
Will: Maybe. [laughter] that’s as good as it’s going to get. One of the leaders we know is in Southern Utah by the time the massacre is taking place, Ammon.
Rick: One of the leaders does make it to Southern Utah, the only one we can document is Ammon, and we have more than one source indicating that Ammon’s role in Southern Utah was a peacemaking role. He did not participate in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Do you believe Ammon participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre?
Will: Maybe. [laughter] No, no I don’t think Ammon did. I, and again many of the sources denied that Kanosh was there. Kanosh was the kind of guy that would have done a good job with this. Now, I think Rick’s, I’ll concede the point, there’s no proof that any of these men who met with Brigham Young were there, except some interesting statements by Kanosh, that Tutsegabit’s was there, he lists a number of people who were there. Ammon’s role as a peacemaker; a wagon train right behind the Fancher Party is attacked in Beaver, in the middle of a settlement. Now, according to the Mormon accounts, Ammon was a peacemaker, but what’s going on here? How many Indian attacks happen in the middle of a town? It’s the ambiguous nature of the evidence, it’s so difficult, and I’ll grant Dr. “” that. When you’re dealing with a mass of lies, such as the evidence for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, who you gonna believe? I think Rick’s laid out a pretty good standard, how you try to sort through some of this, but it’s complex, and proving anything is extremely difficult, but if I did have to revise it, I’ll be explicit, I would extend it. There’s no direct evidence any of the men meeting with Young were at Mountain Meadows, but that doesn’t mean that the orders hadn’t been carried south before, that they didn’t go south with George A. Smith, which is what I think we posited in “Innocent Blood.”
Alex: Forrest has got a comment.
Forrest: I would just like to say that I think most of this is speculative, besides if that many Indians would have showed up, the Mormon Militia wouldn’t have had to dress up as Indians. [laughter and applause]
Q: Will, this is the 2nd time that I’ve heard you make the statement that the violence in Utah was like no other violence in the west because it was from the top down. Now at WHA (Western History Association), there were several well known western historians who took issue with that.
Will: There was one, there was my friend Kevin…
Q: And so I’m going to also mention, you still haven’t read my article on extra-legal justice. Because there are plenty of examples where towns leaders and county leaders led lynchings, and other acts of extra-legal justice, not only here in the west, but down in the south and other places like that. You need to look at the literature a little more carefully.
Will: Craig, I’ll ask you a question. Were those leaders prosecuted?
Craig: Most of them were not.
Will: Were they condemned by the local religious leaders?
Craig: Most of them were not.
Will: Have you looked at the Pike incident?
Craig: Yes, I covered that in my article. [laughter]
Will: Well what do you make of Brigham Young’s blessing to the murderer of Howard Spencer, condoning, encouraging him to use up any mobocrats he comes across? What do you think he meant by mobocrats?
Craig: Well, I think that we can be in a long discussion that really doesn’t cover Mountain Meadows, but if you want to discuss the Pike affair, and Spencer’s killing him, we need to put it into the context of what happened to Spencer, Pike’s attack against Spencer and the serious injury that he suffered. We also need to take into account the idea of lex talionis, which as you well know, at least I hope, is the idea that acts like this against your person, your family, or your manhood, in that concept at that time the idea was that it was expected that it would be punished by the person. You need to put all of that into context. Will, I’m sorry I don’t think you have.
Will: The context is…
Alex: Will, Will, you’ve got to read his article, I mean it. Do we have another question? [laughter] Let’s make this the final one; we want to end at 8:30.
Q: Thank you very much. I want to compliment all of you on the fine work you’ve done in raising this issue. The books that you’ve written are invaluable contributions to the field, and I think you all deserve a great deal of credit for the amount of time and effort that you’ve put into it. [applause] We would like to see more. My question is methodological to Mr. Turley. Many of the sources in your fine book are not accessible to scholarly review because they are proprietary, and held by the Church. Do you plan a follow-up volume to make available your primary sources at some point?
Rick: One of our goals in the writing of this book was to find every significant source about the massacre that we could uncover, and to make those available to the public. They are all available to the public now at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, we invite you all to come in and use them. Thank you.
Will: I will say that Rick provided me with copies of the handful of sources I was really most interested in, and despite the fact that we are obviously very combative about these issues, it’s a revelation that historians can look at the same evidence, and come to very different conclusions. Everybody has a right to their own history, but in point of fact, Rick and I quite like each other. [laughter and applause]
Alex: Do we have one more question? Oh, alright let’s go for it.
Q: I’m not a historian, I teach at Salt Lake Community College, and I have tried to help my students understand whenever 9-11 comes around, that there was September 11th 1857 in Utah, September 11th 1973 I believe in Chile, and September 11th in New York City, and Washington D.C. and other places. Many of my students are shocked almost to the core because they have never been taught about Mountain Meadows Massacre in any Utah history book, ever, ever, and that’s of great concern to me. My question, it wouldn’t be fair to you to say why not, but it is so hard to watch them struggle with the reality that they have great faith, admirable faith in their religion, yet as they deal with many of the facts, I think several of them come to wonder why there was a cover-up? Why didn’t the LDS Church put the full force of all of its wealth and intelligence into understanding and making clear what happened right after the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Why the cover-up? Why have we had to wait this many years? And why do we have, oh, I said I wouldn’t ask that. I don’t know the state of the history books in Utah now, but again I teach at Salt Lake Community College. 90% of my students were born and raised in Utah, who never heard of the massacre.
Alex: Rick, that might be for you.
Rick: First of all I think it is important that they understand the massacre, and I hope that the work that we have done will be part of what you can make accessible to them, to help them understand it. I also would like to announce for those of you who have not yet heard, that I’ve signed a contract with Oxford University Press to talk about the next part of the study which includes the event that followed immediately after the massacre, including cover-up, and subsequent events. So look forward to that volume in a few years.
Alex: What’s the short answer to that though? Why was there a cover-up, and why so long, why wait so long? The short answer, you know like fifteen seconds.
Rick: The short answer, [laughter] I’m writing an entire book on this, so it’s going to be difficult to give a short answer. The short answer is this, there was a cover-up, that’s the short answer.
Alex: And the answer to why there’s a cover-up is the usual answer right? Because of guilt.
Rick: In part because of guilt, but this instance was covered up because of guilt. Church leaders during the Utah War covered it up because they were at war with the United States.
Alex: Any other questions?
Q: I hope no one hates me for asking this question. Rick you mentioned that the sources used in the book are available. I’m a graduate student at the Y, I’m working under Brian Cannon, been doing some stuff on the Walker War, [couldn’t hear these few words] leader of the militia. You used the Daniel H. Wells Papers collection in the book, I was denied access to look at that collection last week, so I’m just wondering. Will you please let me look at it? [laughter]
Rick: I was not aware of that, see me afterwards, thanks. [laughter]
Q: Follow-up to the professor’s question from Salt Lake Community College. Beyond the historical cover-up, what is going to be done now? Forrest shared the experience of him finding out about the massacre. I found out about it as a Mormon missionary, which is a difficult time to deal with the questions that it brings up, and I don’t think in any way I’m alone in that…in Institute class they continue to perpetrate many of the past that we’ve talked about now, and that your book, Mr. Turley seeks to lay to rest and to look at the historical account. What role does the Church play in terms of correcting this? Cause there’s a lot of people that aren’t going to be reading scholarly work, that don’t have access to these volumes, that aren’t aware of that but need to know?
Alex: Yes, please Rick.
Rick: My hope is that the work that we have done will penetrate other things; my hope is that in the future it will be part of the curriculum.
Q: I just have a comment, and I want to share with my friend Forrest, publicly. I’ve heard you tell that story many times back when you were a youth, and hearing the massacre told, and having it blamed on the Indians, and it breaks my heart every time you share that story, and I just want to share my feelings that I’m sure everyone here in the room agrees with me. Just how sorry I am that your people, the Indian people, particularly the Paiutes were to blame for this for so long. Whites wrote them into this, and then blamed this on them, I think it’s despicable, and I’m sorry that happened. [applause]
I was content editor on Massacre at Mountain Meadows, I just wanted to read a few lines on this very subject, because I hope that this is the message that all of us hear tonight can carry out to others, so that this doesn’t have to be carried by the Paiute people anymore, as it has been. The principal Aggressors in the Mountain Meadows Massacre were white Mormon settlers in southern Utah communities. They persuaded, armed, and directed some Southern Paiutes to participate. The various groupings of native peoples designated in modern times as Southern Paiutes were not a monolithic, homogeneous group in 1857, the year of the massacre. Most of these people did not participate in the massacre. Paiutes who participated under white direction in the Monday morning attack were from Coal Creek and Ash Creek bands. They were recruited by Isaac Haight, John Higbee, Philip Klingensmith, and John D. Lee. Beginning Monday night or Tuesday morning, they were joined by some Paiutes living along the Santa Clara and Virgin rivers who were recruited principally by Samuel Knight, Oscar Hamblin, and Carl Shirts. According to Jackson, a Paiute headman living near the Santa Clara River, “whites directed the combined force of Mormons and Indians in the first attack, throughout the siege, and at the last massacre. Two major lines of Paiute oral history have developed about participation in the massacre. One line says that no Paiutes participated in the massacre. It reflects the fact that the vast majority of Paiutes had nothing whatsoever to do with the killings. The second line of Paiute oral history recognizes some Paiute participation. Again, I just wanted to voice that publicly to you Forrest, and hope that, that burden doesn’t lie anymore with the Paiutes. Thank you. [applause]
Q: I just have a comment for Forrest. I just want to clarify.
Alex: These guys don’t have any questions, but comments.
Q: When you say Indian, Indian is all of us. I’m from the Navajo Nation, and I just want to say that I use your book to teach, I teach at the University of Utah in Ethnic Studies, The American Indian Experience….My question for you is, I’ve always struggled with this. The book that has come out, you said that those are testimonies from the indigenous people, and we always run into the idea that our oral stories do not carry weight in academia, in whatever field that you’re in. I was just wondering how is it that you’re able to take these oral stories, and publish them into a book? Because a lot of times those get rejected.
Forrest: I think the jury’s still out about that though. I’m not so sure oral histories are not as valid as any other form of scholarly writing and documentation. To me, it’s the same argument that’s being used about mythology. So, I don’t agree, I don’t discredit oral histories at all, and I think they need to be uplifted more. I think the key is to document the testimony, and back it up as much as possible.
Q: So they might have been able to do it because they were testimonial, rather than oral stories?
Alex: I teach Humanities here, and I come from an oral tradition myself, the Mediterranean, and I can assure you it’s being taught here, that there are two traditions in literature, the oral and the written, and each one of them is as valid and accurate as the other, and so this thing is being, you know clarified even as we speak. So, there’s no apologies to be made for oral transmissions, of information.
Q: I’m totally in agreement with that. I want to commend you for writing the story, taking the time, and giving the Native people the opportunity to be heard. Thank you.
Will: There’s a very powerful article by Leigh Kreutzer, an anthropologist that works for the Parks Service, it’s a fascinating story, and in it she quotes Floyd O’Neil, the distinguished historian, who says: “once you write down oral history, historians will credit them.” So, it’s simply a matter of putting them on paper, because of the standards that historians apply.
Q: The questions for Forrest. My brother-in-law is half Native American. I was wondering how the effect of the LDS Church, focusing on Native Americans, affected the relationship between the people of Utah, and the United States of America, especially right after the Utah War? That aspect, and what we can do to help change.
Forrest: I think our book does a lot to answer that. I think the five part series coming out, “We Shall Remain.” We will piggyback that with our own documentaries, they’re very informative, we’ve developed teacher’s guides for those that are going to be placed in all the schools throughout the state, so we’re doing our best to retell the story. I have a bibliography on my website that brings out some of the most important books, and they’re not revisionist, these are scholarly documents like, “Invasion of America.” By Francis James, University of Chicago. “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” by my friend James Loewen. These are more accurate versions of history. Another one is “1491” by, Charles Mann, Charles C. Mann, that’s another excellent document. So the books are coming forward, excellent manuscripts, excellent documents that need to be furthered in the schools.
Q: This is for Rick Turley. I was just wondering if Brigham Young was as bad as Will says he is? [laughter]
Rick: In order to take the true measure of a person, I think you have to weigh a totality of the evidence, and there’s another side of Brigham Young that you get when you read his private correspondence, and talk to people who spoke with him. So, I think a much more balanced approach would accord him some credit, and the question of taking the value of any historical figure needs to be done in the context of the times in which they lived. There’s a historical fallacy called presentism, that essentially means we project back on people of the past, our current values. The values in the mid-19th century were much different from the values that we adhere to today. 150 years from now, the values of the people will be different from our values, and we’ll be subject to criticisms based on things we do today that we don’t know about yet. As one of my colleagues likes to say, a fish discovers water last, and we’re immersed in that set of values. Brigham Young was immersed in a certain set of values, and he operated accordingly. So I think when we judge him we need to do so in the context of the environment of which he lived.
Alex: You know there are some absolute things like racism, and killing of innocent people. I think these values transcend any time period. So I think that should be another context to be taken into consideration. There’s a balance between those two views, we cannot excuse a lot of the things that they did with that kind of rationalization, it’s kind of a little dangerous. You know so, it’s complex. I think we’ve, are we almost there, we got a question here.
Q: This was brought up earlier, the question about why the cover-up. I’m 64 years old. I began delving into the history of the first people of Utah at the age of 54, and because up until that time, I had not heard any Indian history brought into the schools I attended, and so I had a very biased opinion of the Native people consequently. My question is this: Why is it that the history and to you Mr. Turley. Why is it that the history of the first people of Utah has been ignored and left out of school curriculum? For example: When the Mormons first came to this valley in 1847, best estimates of the population, the Indian population was between 40-70 thousand. By 1909, the first official government census as I understand reported that, that population had decreased to just 2,400. Why do we ignore the tragedy of the Native people in this state? And leave it out of the curriculum?
Alex: Do you want Turley to address that?
Q: Mr. Turley to address that please.
Rick: I think the answer to that question is similar to the answer why it’s been omitted from American curriculum generally, it’s sort of been a white, and particularly a white heroes kind of approach to history in this country. I think that there’s a trend to reverse that. Forrest has mentioned some of the volumes that have come out that have begun to do that. I believe personally that Native history should be an important part of the curriculum. Sometimes we tell the story of Utah history as though there was no one here at the time that Mormon Pioneers arrived. The reality was, there was a very long history of peoples here, during that time. The near elimination of many of those populations, in some cases the utter extinction of some of those populations through white man’s diseases is one of the terrible tragedies that you mentioned that needs to be part of this. Yes, there were substantial populations that were depleted in part by the diseases that were brought, in part by the fact that whites occupied the water sources, and other resources that had been the domain of the Native people, and so that story does need to be told. I hope that this trend continues in that direction, including in our state curriculum.
Alex: One last comment from Forrest, and then I think we have arrived.
Forrest: I just wanted to explain, and give you an example of how factual information can help us all. I’ll give you an example: If you don’t know the facts about the North American conquest, some of you can be carrying some big doses of unnecessary guilt on your shoulders. The truth is 90% of American Indian people died of diseases, ok. It started on both the east and west coast, started working inland. Your ancestors, they didn’t intentionally bring over those diseases in bottles or Mason jars. There have been, there were a couple military leaders, Amherst for example, he did disperse blankets infected with smallpox, there were some accounts of that, but you see if you don’t know that, you’re perception is you killed off 90% of us with warfare, alright, that wasn’t the case. So just by getting closer to the facts, you can ease a little bit of your own tension there. But what I would encourage you to do is learn even more and more. Our numbers, we didn’t know this until the book, the recent research, and 1491 brings this out. Our numbers were conservatively 60 million in the western hemisphere, more liberal would be 100 million, but what happened by the time settlers got into the inner portions of this country, 80-90% of our people had died off, these diseases, we didn’t even have the common cold. Most of our people died not only of smallpox, but bubonic plague, especially on the coast, a variety of flu’s and common cold of course. So we’re learning a lot more about what happened, we’re learning that there were many of the tribes that were very well civilized, ok, had irrigation systems, even had plumbing systems, grew 3,000 varieties of potatoes. 60% of the food we eat today came from this hemisphere, enjoyed by American Indian people. The sad thing is that some of us didn’t learn about any of this until we got out of college. I never knew of any contributions my people made. I didn’t know anything about my history until I got out of college. That’s a sad mandate on the American school system, especially Utah school system. So I challenge you all, make some changes in that system, especially in the instances of still blaming the Indians for the Mountain Meadows. [laughter and applause] Thank you.
Alex: Thank you so much for coming Forrest, Will, Rick, and thank you all for coming. Have a good night.