October28, 2007

Ignorance The Root of All Racism

Many times I have been told with intensity by people here in Utah, the Black Hawk War "that's all in the past, we should just forget about it and move on." And Nauvoo, Carthage, Illinois; Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Civil War and so forth are in the past too? Shall we apply the same mindset and forget those events and move on? Then why is it ok to apply one standard for certain people and not equally? And what about the descendants of those who's ancestors were so brutally treated, is it fair to ask them to just forget about the past and move on? It would be immoral to forget such human injustices as the Utah Black Hawk War.

The indigenous people of Utah have suffered unimaginable physical and mental torment. Exiled from their home, forced onto desolate reservations, thousands die from pandemic disease. They were blamed for mass murders. They were beheaded, and tortured. And how many died from hopelessness and despair? The honest answer will never be known.

Their mortal remains were put on public display as a mere curiosity and entertainment, what other reason could there be, perhaps to express dominance and supremacy? These are glaring examples of the "saints" mindset of arrogance, and moral ambiguities. 

As shocking the Massacre at Mountain Meadows has been to thousands of people, there is no other event comparable to the trail of tears left behind in the aftermath of Mormon domination over the Timpanogos of Utah. And last, but not least, they have been portrayed as a "loathsome" people who's dark skin is God's punishment for the sins of their forefathers. One Saint offered this explanation, "In those early days it was at times imperative that harsh measures should be used. We had to do these things, or be run over by them. It was a question of supremacy between the white man and the Indian." This statement was made by John Lowry, the man accused of having triggered the war. It is the single most honest statement I have thus far read in my six years of research of the war.

I think the time is way past due that we take a closer look at our Mormon heritage and begin asking hard questions, reading the accounts, and learning from our history how fanaticism leads to extremism?

The indigenous people of Utah are grossly misunderstood by contemporary society, as are all Native American Indians. Their complex cultures are their traditions; their languages are their traditions; their traditions are orally passed from parent to child many of which take a life time to learn. Once lost, they are gone forever. We should have an America where these unique cultures thrive. "Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality." - Abraham Lincoln

Today I was told by a influential Mormon man that he "can't see why it is such a big deal that the Utah Indians are so concerned about loosing their languages and culture." he said, "I am Scandinavian, and my ancestors came from Norway. I don't speak Norwegian or follow those traditions. My life is good and I don't feel I have lost anything." He would not allow me to speak to his comment, he kept interrupting me. But Norway, as with all Scandinavian countries, are intact, and their languages are alive as are their customs and traditions. And if this man wanted to learn to speak his native tongue and live the traditions of his ancestors, he could. But when American languages are lost, they are lost forever and with that goes their culture.

Unlike the indigenous people in Utah and elsewhere, this is their homeland. This man I spoke with had not been stripped of his ways completely. He was not forced speak English or severely punished for practicing his religion. He was not forced to dress & wear his hair a certain way. His society did not kill the white, and spare the child. He was not taken from fertile places & put far away on desolate lands. Nor were his God given staples taken far from him & his family in hopes they would starve to death. Speaking of God, he was not told he would no longer pray to Him either, or there be no more of his churches to attend. This man was not banned from town, voting, and public places.

He was not forced to sign treaties he could not read or comprehend. Treaties that "ceded" his land to non-Europeans. He was not told by General Philip Sheridan that if he did not sign, he would "walk knee deep in the blood of his people."

This man I spoke with was not ordered by the government to remain on a reservation or pay a penalty, which may be incarceration into an insane asylum, death, or maybe it would forced removal to a different reservation so he would never see his people again under penalty of death. BUT, this man's ancestors were treated in a similar fashion which was the very reason they and hundreds of thousands like them came to America to be free! Free to worship in their own way. Free to speak. Free to live their lives according to the dictates of their own conscience. Free of government dominance. Free to live in a society that believes in equality and justice as an inalienable right to live a decent life. Free to exterminate the aboriginal people who's land he stole.

See: Battle Creek & Fort Utah Massacres 1849-50