an archive of unsettling histories, mythistories, and mystories
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
Unsettling Mormonism: From a love of nature to a dis assimilating from whiteness and settler-colonialism
Hi, I’m nic - a white (mostly British/Danish), ethnically Mormon, US American, non-binary artist who grew up on Church Welfare in Nuwu lands –– lands my people stole & named Utah's Dixie.
This project grew from the love I carry for that land–the land I was raised by & through which I redeveloped my spirituality.
After moving to New Mexico to attend University of New Mexico's (UNM) Art & Ecology graduate program I began studying settler-colonialism & learning about decolonization & Indigenous resistance from UNM faculty, students, and friends here in Tiwa lands of so-called Albuquerque.
Through this learning, I began to see that the only reason I have access to this land, this love for the land, and my land-based spirituality, is because my ancestors committed genocide, forced displacement, assimilation, and other cultural destructions against peoples Indigenous to this land –– specifically so that I could be born and raised and fed and watered and loved and saved in this land.
My body & my ancestors’ grew from stolen land, from the trauma of genocide, & the trauma of justifying, ignoring & gaslighting that truth. It is a part of my people.
How do I hold a love that grew in a massacre site?
I understood that growing our sense of entanglement with land is necessary for survival & then I began to understand that we settlers cannot reconnect with land until we connect with our ignorance –– what we've ignored. Until we work to remember our settler histories as generational Mormons & U.S. Americans –– until we reckon with what white-supremacy has intentionally whited-out, & swaddled in myths of innocence –– we cannot have a reciprocal-relationship with the land.
For me, this work is about disassimilating from whiteness & settler-colonialism through deconstructing the baseline reality that I inherited. Not only because it is my responsibility to reckon with the histories that are the reasons I exist, but also bc white-supremacy & settler-colonialism hurts us all.
Too often we ask, “how could this have happened?,” holding pity or shame in our hearts. Now I ask, “Who does this?”
Because white supremacy & settler colonialism are our issues. Our people made them, rendered them in scripture & law, built schools, churches, & government buildings to house them, made art to romanticize them, & built militaries & police departments to enforce them. And we fill these spaces with our hearts, minds, & bodies.
Who does this?
Prophet, Priest, King, Judge, Lieutenant General, Mayor, Presidential Candidate, Seer, Astrologist, Capricorn, Treasure Seeker, Scryer, Fraud and Founder of the Mormonism—Joseph Smith. 38years old. Murdered in Carthage Jail. 1844.
This is about Utah Pioneer Day.
I start with Joseph Smith ’s martyr story because the one I learned left out some context and it’s the catalyst for all that is Utah Mormonism.
Mormons are/were a Zionist religion. They gather. So when they move they bring a political and economic power block. Which upsets the settlers who’ve already claimed the areas Mormons try to settle. I don’t know the details to say yea or nay But people with power displacing People in an established area tends to be unjust.
So, it’s so-called 1844, in
Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux),
Sauk and Meskwaki,
and Peoria lands,
or so-called Nauvoo, Ill.
Joseph Smith’s a polygamist. He’s got a town of which he is the Mayor and a militia of which he is Lieutenant General (which ~2/5 the size of the U.S. army at the time).
People joining in from all over, thanks to men he’s sent off on missions (and then often marries [rapes] those mens’ wives). He’s got a U.S Presidential Campaign running with missionaries campaigning for him across the country and plans to settle in Indigenous lands settlers stole and called Oregon and California.
But he upset some of his inner-circle with polygamy (some felt isn’t wasn’t being taken advantage of enough). These men make a printing press to tell all. As Mayor and Lt General Joseph Smith ordered his militia: “Destroy the press”
The Illinois Governor is then like, “Too far!” And with Missouri breathing down his neck to extradite Smith, he orders for Joseph’s arrest
Joseph Smith is about to sneak to the so-called Rocky Mountains with his henchmen Porter Rockwell. But there’s a DM from his wife, Emma urging Smith to return and give himself up, show courage to his friends who accuse him of cowardice.
He’s arrested and murdered in his cell by People angry about things that were true and some things that were not true as none of the (white) men involved were respectable.
Truth in Mormonism has been an amorphous thing from its origins.
- After the Missouri Executive Order 44, known as the Mormon Extermination Order of 1838
(which wasn't rescinded til 1976).
- After their leader was assassinated while in jail
(because he, as mayor, declared martial law and ordered the destruction of a printing press that was, to him, a "public nuisance").
- After these people were pushed out of one town after another
(leaving most everything they owned, built, planted, etc. behind)
They walked and rode, more than 60,000 of them,
(and about as many of their cows)
halfway across the country, on the Mormon Pioneer Trail
(which follows Indigenous trails, which follow animals trails,
and the transcontinental railroad followed them all)
They trekked or trespassed (to use the colonizers word) through the lands of:
and into so-called Mexican territory during the end of the Mexican-American war. Many migrated as refugees into Mexico, into the deserts, to build their Zion – their “Deseret”
––What if, when the got to the border there had been a wall to greet them and news spreading fear of this “caravan of criminals” [as they were considered criminals in the U.S.] and their eternal families were separated and kids caged? What if what we do unto other had been done unto us?––
- After being pushed from their homes, from the lands they’d tended they pushed the indigenous inhabitants:
Nuwu (Southern Paiutes),
Newe (Western Goshutes),
and Diné (Navajo)
out of their ancestral home/lands where they'd been living for millenia.
I carry the responsibility and racism of these people with me.
Pioneer day pt 3
"One of the characteristics of trauma is the deep desire to repress it. Until you tell the story, til you face the truth of the horrors that have happened—that harm will haunt you, haunt your dreams as an individual, haunt your collective unconscious as a society.” - Reverend Serene Jones
⚠️addresses colonial violence⚠️
174 July 24ths ago (as of 2021, which was 77years before Mormon President Nelson’s born), Mormon Prophet Brigham Young overlooking the lush lake valley filled with waist-high grasses said, “This is the place.” (He didn’t but this is relatively harmless founding myth).
Soon after, Timpanogos Chief Wakara told Young that he and his People were not welcome to settle in Timpanogos home/land. Brigham said they were only passing through to California, needed to overwinter, and would continue in the spring.
Three years later, Brigham Young signed the Timpanogos Extermination Order, (12years after the Mormon Extermination Order) which killed 90% of the Timpanogos population.
"I say go [and] kill them…" said Brigham Young, "let the women and children live if they behave themselves… We have no peace until the men [are] killed off—never treat the Indian as your equal."
My People continued to pour into Indigenous lands at about 3,000 persons per month. About 20,000 Indigenous people were living in so-called Utah when Mormons arrived. 20 years later ~60,000 Mormons had moved in.
Settlers disrupted the land’s balance
(balanced because of Indigenous care).
By diverting streams, culling animals, cutting trees, and their cattle overgrazing on grasses, (sending native animals away), my people desertified this land and committed genocide against its Indigenous Peoples.
The church says Complex Circumstances led to Utahs Black Hawk War.
“It was the summer of 1847 our lives would be changed, a new people would come, not like the 'big hats' of old. These people would build fences, claim lands and disrupt our culture and way of life. Bringing confusion as they spoke of their God and peace while sharing sacks of flour laced with broken glass. Brigham Young said 'You can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder.' Destroying us with what appeared to be acts of kindness. As our Timpanogos tribal leaders Kanosh, Tabby, Washakie, Little Wolf, Wanship, Little Chief, Kone, Blue Shirt, Big Elk, Opecarry, Old Battestie, Tintic, Sowiet, Angatewats, Walkara, Graspero and others extend their hospitality to Brigham Young and his followers, they were unaware of the bloodshed that would follow, some 150 bloody confrontations between 1847-70. (See Utah Black Hawk War; Timpanogos of the Wasatch)
“By the year 1909 most of our leaders were killed many of them in the Black Hawk War, our population decreased from approximately 70,000 to about 1,300. Today our population is close to 900. The newcomers called us the "Lamanites" the chosen people, we were chosen to walk knee deep in the blood of our ancestors, to suffer from whitemans' disease, to accept their ways and beliefs or die, fighting to preserve our way of life. What choice did we have? Our ancestors blood covers the Wasatch, and then we were forgotten. We were shoved aside in the name of progress. Yet, with all this we remain.
“The time has come for the truth to be spoken. We are still here. We will not be brushed aside. We the Timpanogos people are the indigenous people of Utah, we are Shoshone. The blood of our ancestors cries out to us. They must be remembered for who they really were.”
A Timpanogos member said, "What choice were we given? To walk knee deep in the blood of our people? Or give up our sacred land and culture and accept white man's ways? It was a matter of what's right. Our honor. Survival. Why is that so complicated?"
During this “war” the Church spent about 113 Mormon lives and over a million dollars (which was reimbursed by the U.S. and the equivalent of about $31 million today) taking ~932 Indigenous lives (in addition all the lives taken through starvation, enslavement, and drought).
This continued on throughout so-called Deseret
"May we go forward in repentance, which does not require individual culpability and shows how a community owns and understands the reverberations of its actions and its realities.
"May we seek repentance, which means to walk in a different direction. It’s so much more than, 'I’m sorry.'"
- adapted from Reverend Serene Jones
Manifest Destiny In Your Tap Water: Settler water theft, Indigenous genocide, & ecological destruction
Mormon water management is often praised for reclaiming the Arid West.
In the mid-1800's when John Wesley Powell surveyed the so-called Colorado River, he told D.C. that, because the water is mostly in canyons and the Peoples Indigenous to those lands were already living well with their water systems, settlers should not move into that area.
My mom lives on Tonaquint Drive, about a block from a petroglyph-covered boulder which is surrounded by a mostly white, affluent neighborhood with streets named Geronimo Road., Inca Circle, & Navajo Drive.
Tonaquint People had been living in this valley for millenia, descended from ancient Pueblo People, whose physical history was mostly erased as my People developed this land for themselves. This Boulder is a small remnant of what's been destroyed, unearthed, and built over.
Mormons diverted Nuwu waters for their crops and even though their leaders told them not to, they stole water directly from the Tonaquint People. Through this, Mormons committed genocide against Tonaquint People and then named streets and parks after them (no information is offered about the Tonaquint People at Tonaquint park or it's website) and they refuse to teach this history in public schools. I’d never heard of the People whose land I lived because of until I started this work.
“By direction of Brigham Young in 1869-70,” settlers built a fort over Pipe Spring “for handling the church tithing herds and as frontier refuge from Indians.” These cattle fed the laborers who built the St. George temple.
Cattle are not native to this continent, and large ungulates didn’t live in this area at all.
Mormons politicians worked to convince the Diné to allow the Glen Canyon Dam / Lake Powell to be constructed. (Part of their ongoing Indigenous assimilation project). Through the dam and its lake, we destroyed miles of river ecosystem and ~250 Indigenous sacred sites and objects.
Back home, the county’s sole water source is the Virgin River watershed. This water body is home to the Indigenous and endangered: Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Virgin Chub, Woundfin, and Virgin Spinedace and was on the 2012 “top 10 most endangered river systems in the U.S” list.
In 2015, St. Georgians used 317 gallons of water per person per day. Here in ABQ, we used 129 gallons.
ABQ’s low use is because of a campaign the city ran, which itself is because of a lawsuit won by the Isleta Pueblo. ABQ has some of the highest clean waste water standards because of Indigenous resistance.
Washington County, Utah wants a $2.4 billion pipeline (through Diné and Nuwu lands) to bring water from the Colorado River via Lake Powell to water their expanding suburban lawns and 14(+) golf courses.
How many Indigenous histories were erased as my people built their suburbs, golf courses, churches, and roads?
Lake Powell, at 42% capacity is experiencing a historic 20-year drought (last 10 years at “extreme drought”) that is projected to get worse.
Does a belief in a world-ending Second-Coming discourage care for the land and all its earthlings? Has our mythicultural “dominion over all the earth” led us to destroy it?
For more on Mormons and Water (ab)Use see:
- Neung'we Tuvip - Homeland of the Kaibab People (Kai'vi'vits), & Pipe Spring National Park
- LAND & WATER BACK: A brief & partial history of Mormon water (ab)use
I am nicholas b jacobsen, an artist, researcher, historian, educator, and organizer. I am a trans-non binary Euro-settler raised in the Nuwu lands of so-called Utah. My family has been Mormon and Utahn for as long as either of those concepts have existed. My ancestors sacrificed everything--their identities, homelands, jobs, health, & safety to become Mormon, Utahn, U.S. American, & white--to settler their Zion. I take it as my personal responsibility to unsettle what my ancestors settled. and to help my fellow settlers do the same through writing, art, and community building.