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
“Above all the problems the Indian has, his greatest one is the white man”
- Spencer W. Kimball, 1953
The first Mormon missions were to Indigenous nations or as Mormons call them, Lamanites nations. Mormons carried these missions into their manifest destined Zion in the west where they worked to assimilate, enslave, or massacre Indigenous peoples there. These assimilation practices are rooted in the Mormon teaching that Indigenous Peoples and white Mormons share an ancestor in the ancient House of Israel. Similarly, mormons called their enslavement practice "adoption".
This “adoption” practice later morphed into the Lamanite Placement Program (LPP) or Indian Student Placement Program, (1950’s-2000) in which more than 20,000 Indigenous children (from about 63 different tribes in so-called North America, though mostly Diné) were baptized and placed with white, Mormon families for the duration of the school year, every year, until the child graduated or left the program.
"The children in the home-placement program in Utah are often lighter
than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness...
One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were
donating blood in hopes of accelerating the process.”
- Spencer W. Kimball, GC, Oct 1960
In Mormon-written articles, the “success” of the program is measured by how white / Mormon the participants became. Mormon missions, temple weddings, and BYU attendance are all marked as successes. (There was no difference in economic success between participants and their reservation-raised peers)
Seven percent of LPP participants identified themselves as “mostly white” or “totally white.” Their peers who were raised on the reservation were twice as likely to feel that they “completely fit in” with their own people. Assimilation is genocide.
One author notes the “undoubtedly well-meaning” motives of the program’s organizers. But these “well-meaning” motives are exactly the problem. How well meaning can you be when rather than acknowledging the cultural / economic / ecological genocide that you’ve enacted on a people, you instead build a program to finish the job, to “Kill the Indian, save the Mormon." And then pat yourself on the back for it.
In an NPR podcast on the Lamanite Placement Program, a Mormon man asks:
"What is culture? And when is it good and when is it bad? And what's sacred about it? My grandmother came from Denmark." He continues, "She gave up her complete culture to come to America and be a member of The Church. Is that wrong? Is that bad? Which culture did these children give up? Did they give up their original culture where they had the gospel of Jesus Christ in their life? Or did they give up another culture that they came to when they left the gospel of Jesus Christ?"
These “undoubtedly well-meaning” “nice white” people are the definition of White Saviorism.
There is so much more that could be said about this program and its impact on the Indigenous peoples, like the on-brand cases of sexual assault filed by a few Diné against the church. One individual told his case manager that he was being beat and sexually abused who didn’t show up for 6 months and his boy scout master. Neither did anything. The abuse continued.
We could also talk about Indigenous resistance like the American Indian Movement and how they fought the LPP in congress and boycotted the 1973 general conference, beating drums, and demanding that the church donate ten million dollars to Indian social programs and return the native skulls held in the church’s history museum.
Chosen Whiteness and Indigenous Erasure in Mormonism, pt. 3: settler-colonial mythistries of the U.S.
Mormonism was Made In The U.S.A. – made on stolen Indigenous lands. Like the U.S. military, car companies, and the Boy Scouts, Mormonism also loves to Play Indian while attempting to naturalize their whiteness and/or Christianity in this land.
The mythistoric beginnings of life on earth in Mormonism occur in the Garden of Eden. Like other forms of US protestant-Christianity, Mormon-Adam and Eve are depicted as a skinny, cisgender, hetero, abled, white couple surrounded by charismatic megafauna from all over the world. Unlike other forms of US protestant-Christianity, Mormon-Adam and Eve are created on this continent, in so-called Adam-ondi-Ahman, in so-called Missouri, on Osage, Kiikaapoi, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ lands.
This is also where Joseph Smith planned to build his own settler-State of Zion to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.
This mythistry serves to both naturalize and deify whiteness and Christianity in this land. And like the Doctrine of Discovery, this narrative attempts to grant the Mormon Church – as the only Church with this supposed knowledge – divine rights to the lands.
My Great Grandma’s genealogy record goes back to Adam and Eve – fabricating hereditary ties to these stolen lands – reifying this settler-mythistry in my family history.
Mormonism teaches that God purified this continent during the Flood of Noah by committing complete genocide on all of its life.
Later, God gives his Promised Land to Lehi’s People – ancient-Israeli migrants who were white and conventionally attractive. God’s People lose the land after all the white Christians in story are killed by the “cursed” brown People.
History is blended with fiction in the Book of Mormon when an ancient white Prophet prophecies Columbus's so-called discovery of God's Promised Land. The Mormon-American history narrative continues, teaching that God guided Columbus to restore white-Christianity to His “Promised Land." This narrative doesn't address the fact that in the 100 years after Columbus's invasion of this land, 90% of its Indigenous People are killed by colonialism.
Continuing with the Mormon-America mythistry: Columbus's restoration of white Christianity to this land laid the foundation for “Our Divine Constitution” to be written and signed by a group of wealthy, white-supremacist, Christian, human-owning men who were supposedly guided by God to lay the religious-freedom-foundations necessary for the Restoration of the Only True Church.
Nineteenth century Indian-fetishes and Indigenous genocide helped Joseph Smith built a religious movement on (mis)appropriation of Indigenous lands and cultures. The Manifest Destiny-era of the U.S. settler project help Brigham Young and my People occupy the “vales of Utah” and build their Zionist State in preparation for the End of Days. This mythistry and history are soaked in the white-supremacist, settler-colonial violence of its time.
“And behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.” - 3 Nephi 19:25
In the early 1800’s, when Joseph Smith was a boy, it was a common for the everyday white-supremacist of the time to believe that some ancient white people emigrated to this land long-ago, but were eventually wiped out by the ancestors of contemporary Indigenous People. This belief is rooted in their white-supremacist ideologies which say that only white people can build the kinds of structures, cultures, and civilizations that Europeans witnessed in the earthworks of the Moundbuilder nations and temples of Maya, Inca, Aztecs, and Olmecs. This white-supremacist logic lives not only in the Book of Mormon but in the popular conspiracy theories of "Ancient Aliens".
In this mythistry, the existence of these structures IS proof that some ancient white people have been here. So the next questions become: What happened to these Peoples? Where are they now?
As a record of its time, the 19th century, the Book of Mormon imagines answers to these questions.
The Book of Mormon introduces itself as "a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas, the [white] Nephites and the [dark] Lamanites." After centuries of war the Nephites are completely wiped out by the Lamanites who "are among the ancestors* of the American Indians." (*until 2007 this text read, “the principle ancestors”)
The main storyline of the Book of Mormon begins with Lehi’s family who are described as a “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome" people. They are Chosen by God to populate and replenish this Promised Land. This family arrives around 600 B.C. and shortly split into two groups: Nephites and Lamanites. The Nephites “were generally more righteous than” the Lamanites, who rebelled against their God, father, and brothers.
The Lamanites "were led by their evil nature (and) they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness."
To keep the "generally more righteous" Nephites from intermarrying with these evil-natured Lamanites, God cursed the Lamanites. "As they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome that they might not be enticing unto (the Nephites) the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon (the Lamanites)." God went on to warn the Nephites that if any of "the seed of (the Nephites) mixeth with (Lamanite) seed ... they shall be cursed" with the same "skin of blackness" curse.
But this white God is a merciful white-supremacist, so he makes the Lamanites and their posterity, "the American Indians," an “optimistic promise." If the Lamanites or "American Indians" forsake their People’s lifeways and accept the Book of Mormon as their history and Mormonism as their religion then “they shall (become) a pure and a delightsome People," “white like unto the Nephites,” who are “a civil and delightsome People.”
So, basically, Mormonism teaches that contemporary Indigenous Peoples are descendants of ancient white Israelis who lost their rights to this so-called Promised Land when they were cursed with "a skin of blackness" which they still carry. But if they assimilate to Mormonism and stop living their Indigenous lifeways, they will have their curse of dark skin lifted and they'll return to their original state as a pure, white, and attractive people again.
i won’t say much, I think the video says enough
I don't know this video’s name yet. I'm not even sure it is done
The video was arranged a few months ago, the audio was arranged over 3 years ago
This audio has been in my phone all those years, while in shuffle it has come on a lot in those months, so maybe it was ready to come out.
I also want to acknowledge the vast influence Latter Day Labia's work has had on me and this piece and to appreciate the work she does in that valuable archive 💙
From 1884-today everyone in my family line has been born and buried in Nuwu (Southern Paiute) land. Nuwu are descendants of Ancestral Pueblo People. They’ve been with their lands since time immemorial and still occupy parts of their lands in reservations my people helped corral them into.
Unfortunately, my People's settler violence was not new for the Nuwu.
Beginning with Spanish colonization, some Indigenous tribes assimilated to Spanish enslavement economies, exchanging stolen Indigenous people for Spanish horses which made these equestrian tribes more powerful and dominant. Nuwu people did not assimilate to the Spanish economy and so were preyed on by other Indigenous tribes with Spanish horses and sold into enslavement at Spanish markets in Santa Fe.
Mormon settlers also participated in this human trafficking and enslavement buying stolen Nuwu women and children and making them work in Mormon houses. Mormons called their Indigenous enslavement practice "adoption" and Mormon historians will claim that Mormon settlers were good to the people they'd enslaved, but other historians identified that over half of these "adoptees" died in their early 20s.
Mormon settlers continued this violence through genocide against Tonaquint and Kaibab Nuwu. Mormon settlers excessively diverted Tonaquint waters as they tried to make this edge of the Mojave desert "blossom as a rose" and in the process desiccated Tonaquint land and starved the people. In Kaibab lands the Mormon church overgrazed their cattle which depleted the native seeds, drove away the game animals, and desiccated this oasis in the desert. Through this my people caused mass death, killing 90% of the Kaibab people in under 40 years.
Large ungulates like cattle aren't indigenous to the so-called Southwest. So, as settlers overgrazed these lands they desertified them. The tumbleweeds and sagebrush that symbolize the West for so many People today are only dominant in these lands because settlers overgrazing their cattle displaced the native grasses.
Where I was raised in so-called Utah's Dixie, Indian Agent, Mayor, and Mormon Apostle – Anthony W. Ivins, with one of the largest herds on See’Veets Eng land, persuaded the people to move from their homeland along the north rim of the so-called Grand Canyon to lands left vacant after the Tonaquint genocide.
This was also an attempt to assimilate Nuwu, to get them move closer to settlers and learn to “live like white people." These assimilation programs are ongoing:
This 1875 photograph, “Baptism of Shivwits Indians,” shows a See Veets'Eng man being baptized by Mormon leader Daniel D. MacArthur in front of 130 other See Veets'Eng People. Nearly every person in the image is next-to-naked and has a bob-style haircut.
Shannon Martineau Anderson, a See Veets'Eng member says, "When you're in mourning you cut your hair... (If) you look at the pictures before the 1800's, we had long hair, that was before death hit us... every one of them (in this photo) had recently lost...an immediate family member."
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.