The Hopi, Mormons and Mother Earth (Part 2)

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Quite by accident I came across this Hugh Nibley article, entitled Promised Lands.  I distinctly remember listening to an mp3 of portions of this chapter/article, but it took on new light as I re-read it a couple of days ago.  The new light, as it so happens, is the discussion on Mormons, Hopi and Mother Earth, which was discussed/written about here a little over a month ago.  I almost feel ashamed that I hadn’t originally thought to see if Nibley had ever discussed what happened between the Mormons and the Hopi, but alas I did not think of it.  So, in re-stumbling upon this article, I was both excited and surprised to read what Nibley had to say on the matter.

I would encourage all to trudge on and read it, as there is a grave message included therein.  The details Nibley provides on Ernest Wilkinson, Peabody Coal, the Hopi and the Momona (Mormons) is well worth reading.

=====

Another World

When I first came to Provo shortly after World War II, I was approached by Brother Virgil Bushman, who had been called to revive the mission to the Hopi Indians after it had languished during the War. He urged me to go with him and promised me that I would see an ancient world probably much like the kind I would like to have found in the ancient Near East. I eagerly complied, and on a cold bleak morning in March we approached the Third Mesa from the west. The landscape was utterly desolate, nothing in sight but sand and rock. Brother Bushman assured me that these were the fields of the Hopi. The men would come down every morning afoot or on their donkeys to walk out into the sand for a few miles. There with a stick they pushed down five kernels of corn twenty inches into the sand, hoping that it would strike the underground moisture from the Denebito Wash.

Each stalk of corn would grow only two feet or so and never bear more than a single ear of corn. This was their staff of life, their security, their capital. And yet they had survived all the rigors of nature and the fierce pressure of white intruders since the sixteenth century. Later I learned that Sister Theresa Harvey’s house in Walpi on the First Mesa had been the first one measured by the new tree-ring dating method and was found to be over 800 years old.

I was stunned by what I saw as we came through a low arch at dawn out onto the spectacle of a splendid drama in progress. Here, on a high, bleak rock, surrounded by nothing but what we would call total desolation in all directions, was a full-scale drama in progress in the grand manner of the Ancients. The only witnesses were a few shivering little kids and some hunched up old people on stone benches. Everything was being carried out with meticulous care; all the costumes were fresh and new; there was nothing that could be bought in a store, nothing artificial—all the dyes, woven stuff, and properties were taken from nature.

What an immense effort and dedication this represented! And for what? These were the only people in the world that still took the trouble to do what the human race had been doing for many millennia—celebrating the great life-cycle of the year, the creation, the dispensations. I told Brother Bushman that there should be fifty-two dancers, and that is exactly what there were. Fifty-two was not only the sacred number of the Asiatics and the Aztecs, but it was also the set number of dancers in the archaic Greek chorus. The dancing place was the bare plot which the Greeks called the konistra, the sand patch where this world came in contact with the other, at the crucial periods of the year. That was the time when the orcus mundi was open—mundus patet; that is, when the mouth of the other world was open and the spirits of the ancestors attended the rites. By the altar, of course, was the sipapuni, the mouth of the lower world, the orcus mundi, at which the spirits from above and below could meet with their relatives upon the earth.  This was the essential year-rite, found throughout the world from the earliest times. On either side of the altar was a small evergreen, adorned like a Christmas tree with prayer feathers, for as in countless ancient societies these dramas were sacred. I have written extensively on this theme, which is called “Patternism,”1 but we can’t go into it now. Suffice it to say, it was a miracle of survival, commonly recognized as the only surviving instance of the fully celebrated year-cycle.

Almost the first house one comes to in mounting up the climb to Hotevila where this was taking place was the dwelling of Tom and Belle Kuyushva. Tom was a Kikmongui, an honored elder, the nearest thing to a chief among these egalitarian and independent people, who have always eschewed any type of power structure. He wore all the splendid regalia—the silver and turquoise of an honored person—and was present in the seat of honor several years before Brother Bushman gave his first sermon. Brother Bushman spoke only about twenty minutes, and at the end, old Tom, who knew not a word of English, came up and asked to be baptized. Brother Bushman explained, “But you have only just barely heard me speak!” “But I know it’s true,” said Tom, who was ninety years old (incidentally, all his life he had been thoroughly immersed in the doctrines and customs of his people). He pointed to his breast and said, “I know it’s true in here.”

He was soon baptized and became an elder, and we should note that he and Brother Bushman had to go clear to Gallup to find enough water for baptizing. That’s how desolate the land was; there was what they called Jacob’s Well in Oraibi, but the water was poisonous. There was indeed a spring in Hotevila, which gave the place its name. The WPA wanted, by installing a pump, to relieve the women of Polacca from the trouble of going down the long trail to the water and fetching it up again on their heads. This was vigorously opposed by all. Were these people insane to reject such a convenience? Not at all. It was a way of life that your ancestors and mine had practiced for thousands of years since the days of Rebecca at the well. When the U.S. government wanted to install electric lines in Hotevila, the people repeatedly took down the poles. The government officials would put them up again, and the people would take them down again—they actually rejected the blessings of electricity and a ready water supply. I talk about these things to show how different their ways were from ours.

Since this is Homecoming Week, I may suggest a parallel. All the time my children were growing up, it was a special thrill for all of us to go out in front of the house during Homecoming Week to watch the lighting of the “Y”—the long, zigzag trail of flickering torches creeping up the mountain (a good 1000 feet), dividing and slowly enclosing the giant emblem with mysterious flickering orange flames, until the final glory. It was exciting, strenuous, thoroughly unnecessary, and everybody loved it. How silly, how wasteful, how impractical! Now we just throw a light switch and it’s all done—as convenient and inspiring as lighting a billboard. That is the difference between our cultures. The torches on the mountainside served no practical purpose whatever, but the water trail up the mountain had been an absolute necessity for many centuries; what greater imperative than to preserve the operation just as it is, where an act of drudgery becomes an act of devotion and even fun? Pumps can and do break down.

The day after that first dance was Easter Sunday. I was met in New Oraibi by a delegation of Hopi men who announced that they had just been in a session with the Mennonite, Baptist, and Methodist missionaries who had explained to them exactly why our Book of Mormon tells very much the same story as their own traditions. The explanation was this: When the great chief Tuba (for whom Tuba City was named) became a Mormon, he went to Salt Lake City to marry his wives in the temple there. While he was there, Joseph Smith got hold of him and pumped him for all the secrets of the Hopi. Then he sat down and wrote it all down in what became the Book of Mormon. It was not hard for me to set them straight simply by throwing out a few dates. The point of this story is the promise of common ground that we have with this strange people—the Book of Mormon is their story.

There is considerable general knowledge about certain salient traits of the Hopi which are not peculiar to them but characteristic of almost all Indians. The first of these is the way they see all things together. “I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit,” says Black Elk, “and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”2 Here we have that peculiar idiom which makes the Indian a total alien to our own culture. The culture is completely religious and therefore completely consistent. If you wrote an essay on Hopi farming, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; on Hopi hunting, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; an essay on Hopi family life, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; on Hopi games the same—on everything they do and think is their religion. As they see all things as a whole, all joined in a single divine pattern, like a great sand painting, so they feel that all who share a common life should act together. I have often heard them say that when they join the Church, it will be all together—as soon as we set them the example. This mysterious but very real oneness is beautifully expressed in our scriptures, which might have been written by Black Elk: “And now behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). The Hopis have not only survived but prospered on their desolate mesas, the last place on earth anyone would covet. We find it foolish that they constantly protest the slightest change in the way of doing things—but it all hangs together, just as our projects continually fall apart as we insist on sanctifying growth and change.

From the beginning there was conflict between those who in their willingness to be ingratiating and comply to pressure from the U.S. government and those who rigidly opposed it. The one party was labeled “progressive,” of course, and the other who called themselves the “traditionals” were called the “Hostiles.” The leader of the traditional party in Oraibi was Tewaqueptewa, about whom many stories were told. I have talked with him often and bought many Kachina dolls, which he made of strictly native materials and sold for a dollar and a half apiece, never more or less. The anthropologists were fighting among themselves for these dolls, for which they could get high prices, and yet the great chief was practically giving them away. We just can’t understand a thing like that. In 1906 there was a showdown between the traditionalists and Tewaqueptewa’s party. They settled in a sensible fashion by a tug-of-war, the losing party going off to Moenkopi. Tewaqueptewa’s daughter, Mina Lansa, was entrusted with the national treasures, always kept by a woman. Her husband, John Lansa, was the leader of the traditionalists.

One evening as it was getting dark I was passing by their house, the northernmost house in Old Oraibi, when Mina came out and beckoned me vigorously to come in. I wondered what I had done wrong, because new infringements of the whites were causing considerable tension. In the house the chief elders were seated all around the room. A small kitchen table and chair were in the middle of the room and a coal oil lamp was on the table. Mina told me to sit on the chair; then she went out of the room and soon returned with a bundle, something heavy wrapped in a blanket. She put it on the table and then unwrapped it. It was the holy tablet, the Hopi Stone, no less, the most sacred possession of the people. I knew what I was expected to do and started talking.

By an interesting coincidence I had spent the previous week in Cedar City with President William Palmer, a patriarch as well as stake president, who taught anthropology in the college there. He had been initiated into the Paiute tribe, and took me out to their sacred place in the plain southwest of Parowan. The building of the highway had put an end to the rites of initiation that once took place there, but President Palmer described the teachings and ordinances as far as was permitted. In particular he told the story of the descent of the Lord from heaven as if at that place, an event much like that described in 3 Nephi.

Tobats was the God of all Creation; his son Shinob was the peacemaker full of love and eternally young. One day the Evil One Un-nu-pit killed Shinob. At once a great darkness fell upon “Tu-weap,” the whole earth. It was absolute blackness for three days. In this chaos and confusion everyone was groping around in howling and lamentation. Finally, a voice from the top of the mountain spoke; it was Tobats the Father. He told them to move about with outstretched arms, calling out to each other, and joining hands with whoever one touched. Thus they formed lines, and the lines were instructed to join with each other; people in the lines were to cry out for husbands and wives and children until all families had reformed. Then the noise ceased, and a voice told them to climb the mountain or mesa where Tobats was. They worked their way up the mountain, toiling in human chains and finally forming a huge circular formation on the top, with Tobats in the middle. Well, Tobats said he would shoot an arrow straight up (this is the well-known Indian and world-wide theme of the arrow chain to heaven). His arrow produced a tiny spark of light; but the second arrow brought light, which grew like an explosion until it flooded all the land. The blackbird and the flicker have been honored ever since because their feathers were used for the arrows—they are perpetual reminders of the great event.3 And thus the Indians typically reedit, according to the tribe and the land, those stories whose origin is lost in a distant past.

There were many things on the Hopi Stone that are never shown in the sketchy reproductions of it, but the main items were the wanderings of the people and upheavals of nature, the arrow-chain to heaven and the light descending from the clouds. I started to explain things in terms of what I had learned from President Palmer a few days before. As I talked the elders began whispering among themselves with some animation. Suddenly Mina snatched the stone from the table, clutched it tightly, and said excitedly, “You are a smart man—but you don’t know everything!” Was I on the right track? I suspect so, because some years later, in 1965, when I was wandering in the sad desolation of Oraibi, now emptier than ever, I was approached again with an invitation to come to the house and see the Hopi Stone again. When I got there, there was confusion and excitement; something had happened. We would have to call it off. Everyone was going to where the meeting of the Tribal Council had just been held. The Tribal Council was a creation of the BIA, compliant to the will of the powers of the East, whose authority the traditionalists had never recognized. They had just that day leased a tract of the sacred Black Mesa to the Peabody Coal Company. The company had generously offered to provide trailer houses for the entire tribe if they would move to Los Angeles. A more colossal culture gap could not be imagined.

Here it is necessary to speak of that strange passion for the land with which all Indians seem to be obsessed. This state of mind can best be explained by reference to the Book of Mormon. In his great sermon to the Nephites the Lord declares, “Behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled” (3 Nephi 15:8). “And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you” (3 Nephi 15:13). Again he tells them to “write these sayings after I am gone, . . . that these sayings which ye shall write shall be . . . manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in” (3 Nephi 16:4). We are to take note of what they have written, and it is this: “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father hath commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance” (3 Nephi 16:16). The Hopi Stone, beautifully done on highly polished porphyr, is such a writing as the Nephites were ordered to make—a deed to the land. The Lord concludes with a final repetition: “And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance. . . . And if the Gentiles do not repent . . . after they have scattered my people, . . . the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day” (3 Nephi 20:14—15, 20).

What could be clearer? This land has been given to that particular branch of Israel as an inheritance for their children in perpetuity—it is their sacred obligation to hold it for their children; they cannot possibly sell it or allow it to be taken from them. That would be unthinkable, and that we never seem to understand.

Never the Twain Shall Meet

It would be hard to imagine two cultures more opposed than our own and that of the Indians. Typical of the total misunderstanding that still prevails is a statement by Ronald Vertrees, president of the Customs Clearing House, a Denver-based drilling supply firm, in a letter to the Navajo tribal council protesting favored treatment of the council in hiring Navajos on their own reservation. ” ‘Given the historical facts, we consider ourselves to be members of the conquering and superior race and you to be members of the vanquished and inferior race. We hold your land and property to be spoils of war, ours by right of conquest. Through the generosity of our people, you have been given a reservation where you may prance and dance as you please, obeying your kings and worshipping your false gods.’ . . . Contacted Monday, Vertrees said he has no regrets about sending the letter,” which appeared conspicuously in the Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 1986, and elicited no comment.4 As is well known and often noted, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago in 1848 recognized the sovereignty of the Indian Nations. Between 1876 and 1893, trading posts, missions, and schools, were established—for profit. It was the Presbyterians and not business or government that built the small hospital. One day I picked up an old Navajo woman who had just finished making a blanket at her hogan near the sacred Blue Canyon (since dismantled by Peabody); we went to the trading station at Tuba City, where the man offered her $5.00 for her beautiful blanket. I was standing by, witnessed the deal, and instantly offered to buy the blanket. The man was furious—he had to sell it to me for $10.00 instead of the $100.00 he could have got. I gave the old lady another $5.00 and we parted happily, though I have felt guilty ever since. Later I went back but found the hogan deserted—the Navajos had been driven out.

At the turn of the century, schooling was compulsory for Hopi boys, who were forced to cut their hair and forbidden to speak Hopi. Those elders who protested were labeled the Hostiles. In 1891 and 1894 the Hostiles were rounded up, arrested by U.S. troops, and imprisoned for a time. In 1906 young people were sent to Carlisle Indian School in the East, smaller children were sent to Keams Canyon, and the Kikmongui, the most influential men, were sent to the Sherman Indian School in California. When Albert B. Fall became Secretary of the Interior in 1921, a familiar plot was played out. The name of Albert Fall should still ring a bell—Teapot Dome Oil and the scandals of the Harding Administration. Standard Oil had discovered the oil on the reservations in 1921, and Fall went all out to take over. “Along with various schemes to defraud the Indians of their land, oil, and mineral rights would be injected a plan by Fall’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Charles H. Burke, to deny the Indian what freedom of religion he still enjoyed.”5 “Freedom of Religion, as provided for in the Bill of Rights, rarely, until recent times, was even considered as applying to religions of the Indians of the United States [and today we still deny them peyote]. In fact, . . . it was government policy to aid missionaries in converting the Indians to one or another of the Christian denominations [and, incidentally, turned them against the Mormons]. Definite stipulations curtailing Indian freedom of religion were contained in the official Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations, often referred to as its ‘Religious Crimes Code.’ “6 The suppression of the Sun Dance ceremony at the instance of missionaries and government officials “led to the enactment of a regulation which, although aimed particularly at the Sun Dance, concluded that ‘all similar dances and so-called religious ceremonies, shall be considered ‘Indian Offenses,’ punishable by ‘incarceration in the agency prison for a period not exceeding thirty days.’ “7

“In 1922 . . . the Senate . . . pass[ed] the so-called Bursum bill, taking the most valuable agricultural lands of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.”8 In the following year Commissioner Burke wrote to all Indians: “I feel that something must be done to stop the neglect of stock, crops, gardens, and home interests caused by these dances or by celebrations, pow wows, and gatherings of any kind that take the time of the Indians for many days. . . . No good comes from your ‘give-away’ custom at dances and it should be stopped. . . . You do yourselves and your families great injustice when at dances you give away money and other property, perhaps clothing [had he never heard of Christmas?]. . . . I could issue an order against these useless and harmful performances, but I would much rather have you give them up of your own free will. . . . I urge you . . . to hold no gatherings in the months when the seed time, cultivation, and harvest need your attention, and at other times to meet for only a short period and have no drugs, intoxicants, or gambling and no dancing that Superintendent does not approve. If at the end of one year the reports which I receive show . . . that you reject this plea then some other course will have to be taken.”9 Need we recall that God commanded Moses to lead the people in the great feasts at the seed time, cultivation, and harvest? Just as he commanded them to waste their time resting on the Sabbath?

Three hundred and seventy formal treaties with the Indians, which by the Constitution are the law of the land, have nearly all been violated as ninety percent of the land has been taken from them. The Dawes Act of 1887 was held as a liberating gesture, for it allowed individual Indians to own the land privately and, best of all, to sell it, which was the purpose of the whole thing, of course. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act set up the tribal councils for a democratic representation. The Indian votes No by not voting at all—after all the Yes votes are counted, it is assumed that the rest vote No, since all must vote. Oliver Lefarge explained that to the Commission, but they went ahead and installed Tribal Councils with the tiniest possible number of Indians approving—the No-votes did not count.

In 1946 the Indian Claims Act compensated Indians in money for their lands, but deprived them of all title. The government could claim to be acting in good faith, since we sincerely believed that anything could be honestly and fairly had if enough money was offered for it. The most vicious proviso of the Act allowed lawyers to receive ten percent of the fee that was paid, and an army of lawyers descended from all sides to help the Indians settle the compulsory compensation. The Utes did not want the money—they wanted the land, and they still say so. But Ernest L. Wilkinson was able to make a settlement for 30 million dollars, collected his ten percent and came to Provo trailing clouds of glory and talking loudly of Manifest Destiny.

I got to know him quite well, beginning with our clash at the very first faculty meeting. He had given a degree to a friend in Washington, and some of the faculty protested that degrees should be bestowed or at least approved by colleges, such being the immemorial practice of universities. Well, a paper was circulated to that effect, and some people signed it. Wilkinson stormed into that first faculty meeting in a towering rage: This has nothing to do with right or wrong, whether it was moral or immoral is irrelevant. The only question is, was it legal? Who would dare question him on a point of law? Who signed this protest? I had signed it, so I stood up, and I was the only one. “Come and see me in my office!” I did and we became good friends—being a lawyer, he was not at all upset by adversarial confrontation; in fact, he enjoyed it. I was his home teacher at the time, and he started out at the “Y” by familiarizing himself with the students with a fireside at his house, followed by other such firesides, some of which I attended. The theme of his discussion in all of these was, “What was the difference between being dishonest and being shrewd?” He illustrated each time by his own case. When he was in Washington fresh out of law school, he was looking for a job, and so found himself in Senator King’s office. The senator was not there, but the secretary allowed him to use the phone for what he said was an urgent call. It was urgent indeed, for he called up the office of Justice Charles Evans Hughes and said, “This is Senator King’s office speaking. I would like to recommend a certain young man, etc., of high qualifications to work for the Justice.” And so he became a clerk to the celebrated Chief-Justice Charles Evans Hughes—not dishonest, just shrewd.

At the second faculty meeting we got another shocker. The family that owned the farm on Temple Hill where President Wilkinson wanted the land for expansion refused to sell. President W. would appeal to eminent domain, but it was his introductory remark that rocked us: “I never yet saw a contract I couldn’t break,” he boasted. I mention this because this has been our ace-card in dealing with the Indians through the years—aptness in breaking and ignoring contracts.

When I got out of the army in 1946, I made a beeline for the Colorado Plateau, lived with a ranch family in Hurricane, and traveled all over the area in roads at that time marked on the maps with such inviting admonitions as “Do not enter without guides,” and “Carry water,” and “Make inquiries.” The impressive thing was the utter desolation into which the Indians had been turned out to starve, like the scapegoat in the desert. But before long the same vast area was buzzing with activity. Helicopters and specially equipped trucks were everywhere looking for uranium. Promptly a decree from Washington forbade any Hopi to go out of sight of his mesa. That was a hard one to enforce, so it was followed up by another that in order to operate, one would have to have at least ten million dollars capital. So the Hopis were out of it.

What a turnabout! For all those years they had nothing we wanted—having turned them out from any valuables they happened to be sitting on; but now even this desolate place had the very things we wanted most of all. We on the other hand always believed quite sincerely that what the Indians most wanted and needed must surely be our superior knowledge and technology. Technology was all we had to offer after all, but as we have seen, they refused that—even vital water pumps for Polacca were turned down, and attempts to electrify Hotevila in 1984 and 1986 were deliberately wrecked—we would say vandalized, which is exactly how the Indians reviewed our activities on the land. The supreme irony is that our technology will not work without their energy, locked up in the coal, the oil, the natural gas, the uranium, and the water, which we are exhausting at a record rate. You are probably familiar with the so-called Hopi-Navajo controversy. I have watched Hopi and Navajo barter in total silence, since neither understood the other’s language, and in perfect amity. They would meet and celebrate their pow-wows together, and everybody had a great time. But that has stopped since the discovery of coal and oil on the sacred Black Mesa—controversy has been stirred up between them, though the Hopis have been perfectly content to let the Navajos graze on the northern areas as they have for generations. The game has been to push the Navajos off land which the Hopis do not use and so let the Big Boys move into it. I heard Barry Goldwater declare on TV that if the Navajos did not move out of their homes, he, as commander of the Arizona National Guard, would send in his helicopter gun-ships and drive them out. Our little Vietnam. Finally, the so-called Trilateral Commission of energy and military interests has recommended that the entire Colorado Plateau be set aside as a “National Sacrifice Area,” in which the coal, oil, uranium, natural gas, timber, and water could be extracted, the power developed in huge coal-burning plants immune to EPA regulation against pollution, with power lines, railroad lines, slurry lines crossing the area to take the final product to the great cities of the coast and to animate the million light bulbs, which are the glory of Las Vegas. It was a sacrifice area because there would be no obligation whatever to observe any niceties in extracting the stuff and especially to restoring any of the landscape after it had been ruined. Naturally in this scheme the Hopis have been considered nothing but a primitive obstruction—hence the generous offer to move them all to the dire inner city of Los Angeles.

The Two Ways

The ancient doctrine of the Two Ways is a lively one with the Hopis. A thing is either Hopi or Ka-Hopi. When I first went there they spoke of three ways, those of the Hopi, the Pahana, and the Momona—the Mormons, which in the early days were manifestly not typically Pahana, who in fact were constantly denouncing them to the Indians. But one of the best Indian men I know told me very recently that the Indians no longer consider the Mormons their friends. And it is not hard to understand why.

There is a bitter joke among the Navajo today: “What is the Peabody Corporation?” Answer, “A bunch of Mormon lawyers getting rich.”

A list of the nineteen principal corporations seeking the wealth of the Colorado Plateau in order of the money invested begins with Pacific Gas and Electric, with the controlling stock owned by the Rothschild family. We go down the list of awesome and familiar names such as the City Bank of New York controlling the Public Service Company of New Mexico; number four in the list is the Arizona Public Service Corporation with its huge coal-burning power plants selling electricity far and wide, the main investor being the Latter-day Saint Church. We go on to Standard Oil of Ohio, controlled by British Petroleum Ltd.; the Gulf Corporation, by the Mellon and Hunt families; Utah International, by General Electric; Peabody Coal Company, by Equitable Life of New York; El Paso Gas, Coal and Power, by the Latter-day Saint Church; and so on to Shell Oil, Mobile Oil (Bankers Trust of New York, Hess family, John Paul Getty, Manufacturers Hanover Bank; Citibank, J. P. Morgan).

Is all this for the Indians’ own good? When the Navajos asked for an increase in the royalties they were receiving for their coal from $.15 a ton to $1.50 a ton, they were roundly denounced, according to the New York Times, by Mormon lawyers, so specified, for jeopardizing the sanctity of a contract—had they no shame?

With increasing interest in the Indians and a considerable growing literature on the subject, the Mormons are regularly given a black eye in books and articles—a black eye which they would not deserve if they would only pay a little more attention to their scriptures. There is one common ground, one common need, between us and them, and it is the Book of Mormon. Consider how much it tells us about the present situation. First of all, we accept the Great Spirit—we do not consider the Indians heathen. King Lamoni mistook the visiting superman Ammon for the Great Spirit, a mistake which his descendants have made more than once, to their loss. To his servants he said, “I know that [this] is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives” (Alma 18:4). But Ammon explained that he was not the Great Spirit, “Believest thou that there is a God?” (Alma 18:24). Lamoni: “I do not know what that meaneth” (Alma 18:25), or What are you talking about? Ammon: “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said This is God, . . . this Great Spirit . . . is God [who] created all things” (Alma 18:26—28). Can we not safely say that we believe on that same Great Spirit who is God, just as we believe in Allah when we understand who he is? Our missionaries in Lebanon had no other name for him.

In the second place we believe the one thing which the Indians are constantly emphasizing, that all things are spiritual; to be carnal minded, says the Book of Mormon, is death; but to be spiritually minded is eternal life. Carnal mindedness embraces those four things which both Nephis declare will destroy any society, namely seeking for power, gain, popularity, and the lusts of the flesh (1 Nephi 22:23; 3 Nephi 6:15). For particulars see your local TV guide. In the third place is their attitude to nature, which is their livelihood, beautifully summed up in Doctrine and Covenants 49: “For behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:19—21). This is the creed of the Hopi which so shocks us. If you live on a soaring rock 200 yards long and 50 yards wide with a hundred other families, you will find little room to accumulate the things of this world.

What we are speaking of is that ideal society described in the Book of Mormon as being established by the Lord in person, to succeed and fulfill the Law of Moses, that society which we should both emulate. Quoting from 4 Nephi, “And there were no contentions and disputations among them [the Hopi, as we all know, are the peaceable people and do everything to avoid violence—are we that way?], and every man did deal justly one with another [no money, no law courts]. And they had all things [in] common among them [“if one has corn we all have corn”]; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. . . . And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land; Yea, insomuch that they did build cities” (4 Nephi 1:2—3, 7). But it wasn’t easy—they had to work at it exactly as the Hopis do, meticulously carrying out all the prescribed functions. These are, it is true, mere “forms and observances,” but they “point their minds forward,” as with the Nephites—did not old Tom in Hotevila instantly recognize and accept the gospel because he was the most thoroughly trained man of the village in his own religion? “And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord. . . . And . . . there was no contention among all the people, in all the land” (4 Nephi 1:12—13). To this day and against fearful cultural and economic opposition, the Hopis persist in their fasting and their prayers; they meet together unfailingly to pray each week—all the villages come together for ceremonies at one place. There the Baho-feathers are always in evidence, for they are the call to prayer. But the dances are also accompanied by sermons, teaching things of life and death, even as temple sessions of the Latter-day Saints in the early days were followed by dancing,10 and as the great celebrations of Israel as ordered by Moses always required rejoicing and dancing to the sound of the timbrel, the sackbut, and the drum. I have seen such happy ring dances of Jewish elders performed near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem while members of our Latter-day Saint tour group expressed lively disapproval of such undignified goings-on. In the times of upheaval and destruction, the legends tell us, the Hopi have survived by coming together on the mountain tops and singing together, uniting their voices in praise, until the evil passes. Even so I can still hear my grandmother fervidly singing, “When thy judgments spread destruction, keep us safe on Zion’s hill; singing praises, singing praises, songs of glory unto thee,” etc.11 That goes back to the Jaredites and their sing-ins while they crossed the violent ocean (Ether 6:9).

After two hundred years the Nephites relaxed and reverted to the easier program of privatization: “And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes; [business was booming] and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ. . . . And yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel. . . . And this church did multiply exceedingly . . . because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts” (4 Nephi 1:25—28). This is surely an ominous statement. The people claimed to worship Christ, and they did have parts of the gospel, but Satan was their inspiration. We will consider their condition later, but first let us ask whether there is any chance at all of our two cultures merging with their present teachings intact. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read that “My gospel shall go unto the Lamanites” (D&C 28:8) and all nations through the Book of Mormon. “And this was their [the Nephites’] faith—that my gospel . . . might come unto their brethren the Lamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions” (D&C 10:48). That broad and inclusive term includes a rich ethnic mix, specified in the Book of Mormon as Nephites, Zoramites, Mulekites, Jaredites, and others who may have become Lamanites; there are as well broad implications of other people, including “former inhabitants of this continent” (Joseph Smith—History 1:34), making contacts. “They did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers [how very Indian!]. . . . And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers [also very Indian, that obsessive faith in prayer itself] will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people” (D&C 10:50, 52).

Would not that have a disruptive effect on their established traditions? On the contrary, it would strengthen them: “Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up. And for this cause have I said: If this generation [of Lamanites] harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them” (D&C 10:52—53). But what effect will this have on the members of the restored Church—if the Indians have nothing to lose by joining the Church, do the church members stand in any danger of contamination? Not at all! “Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church; Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my Church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil— . . . it is they that I will disturb” (D&C 10:54—56).

We need the resources of “backward people” for raw materials as we need their markets for expansion. It is the old imperialist game, with energy as the good of first intent. But they don’t need anything we have, neither our goods nor our money; all they want is the land. For that matter, our own people are soon glutted with the products of the ever-expanding corporate giants. Nothing amazed me more in the remote backwaters of the Fayyum in Egypt, among villages unchanged for five- or six-thousand years (and looking and acting very much like Hopi villages, incidentally), in this most stable of all civilizations to see the landscape dominated by enormous American billboards, “Come to Marlboro Country!” The Americans won’t take any more of the poison stuff, so now it must be forced on the poor backward Egyptians; and so now we too must be prodded, wheedled, shamed, and beguiled into buying more stuff by enormously costly and ingenious sales campaigns; every ten minutes our absorption in the soap or sport or documentary is interrupted with a “message” demanding our instant and undivided attention. No wonder we have lost all capacity for concentration or critical thought, and, above all, reflection and meditation, preeminent Indian skills.

In 1540 when Pedro de Tovar came up to Bear Chief, who was standing to greet him on the rise at Old Oraibi, the chief reached out his hand to establish the visitor’s identity by offering him the sacred handclasp, the nachwach—was he really the promised White Brother? Naturally, the Spaniard, who had come looking for gold and nothing else, thought he was asking for money and placed a gold coin in his hand. Have you any signs or tokens? asked the chief. Yes, I have money, replied the visitor. From that moment the Hopis knew it was not the one they were looking for,12 and to this day they have never been converted to Christianity. We are most fortunate in possessing Satan’s game-plan, which he gave away in a fit of temper in the Garden of Eden. The perennial source of wealth, the treasures of the earth, are to be controlled by the convenient symbols of a money economy, gold and silver; these are used to buy up kings and presidents, armies and navies, popes and priests. They are controlled by “secret combinations, to get power and gain” (Ether 8:22; cf. 8:18—19), and the result is rule by violence. Adam rejected the plan, but Cain bought into it, and so became “master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain” (Moses 5:31)—the great design which at last is nearing fulfillment in our day of converting all living things into marketable commodities.13

We may be puzzled about the Indian’s insistence in viewing all things, including the earth itself, as alive, though it is a doctrine clearly taught by Joseph Smith, Young, and other of our prophets. We say a human is worth more than an owl, but as Black Elk puts it, what do we care for humans? To reverence life is to reverence all life. “I could see that the Wasichus did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation’s hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving.”14

The first revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants puts us into the picture which the Indian sees of us: “Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. . . . The hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken [away] from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:16, 35).

And so we get to the ultimate prophecies, which we also share with the Indians.

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone. . . . But wo . . . unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles . . . [who] have scattered my people . . . and have  . . . trodden [them underfoot]. . . . At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and . . . hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations [again consult your TV Guide]. (3 Nephi 16:4, 8—10)

Note that lying comes first in the list, a judgment that few will dispute today.15 “If they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, . . . I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people . . . and I will bring my gospel unto them. . . . The Gentiles shall not have power over you; . . . and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel. But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, . . . behold, they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people . . . [to] tread them down” (3 Nephi 16:10—14). There is an ominous note here which we cannot pursue.

The promise is repeated in the last speech to the Nephites: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance (3 Nephi 16:16). And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms shall be done away. . . . But if they will repent . . . I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for an inheritance; And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem” (3 Nephi 21:19, 22—24). Throughout these explicit prophecies it is the Gentiles who join: “the Lamanites and those who have become Lamanites,” not the other way around. If we are to be saved we must move in their direction.


1. See CWHN 4:21—22, 366—67, 383; 6:preface xv, 295—310, 506; 8:247—48, 301—2, 317—18.

2. Black Elk Speaks, as told through John G. Neihardt (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 43.

3. William R. Palmer, Two Pahute Indian Legends: “Why the Grand Canyon Was Made” and “The Three Days of Darkness” (Cheney, WA: Citizen Journal Press, 1987), 21—22.

4. “Racial Navaho Letter Prompts Removal of Subcontractor,” Salt Lake Tribune, 17 January 1986.

5. Harry C. James, Pages from Hopi History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), 185.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., 185—86.

8. Ibid., 186.

9. Ibid., 187—88.

10. Heber C. Kimball Journal, cited in Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1836—1849, vol. 1 (n.p., 1979): “Pres. Young called the attention of the whole company, and gave them a message . . . that this temple [Nauvoo] was a holy place, and that when we danced we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. . . . He strongly impressed upon the mind of those present the impropriety of mingling again with the wicked after having come in here, and taken upon them the covenants” (1 January 1846).

11. William Williams, “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah,” in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), no. 83, verse 3.

12. Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi (New York: Ballantine Books, 1963), 308—9.

13. Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1991); regarding Hopis, see 268—86.

14. Black Elk Speaks, 217

15. Paul Gray, “Lies, Lies, Lies,” Time Magazine (5 October 1992): 32—38.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. I started to explain things in terms of what I had learned from President Palmer a few days before. As I talked the elders began whispering among themselves with some animation. Suddenly Mina snatched the stone from the table, clutched it tightly, and said excitedly, “You are a smart man—but you don’t know everything!”

    Had he known everything, they would have converted to Mormonism. This is the reason why, I believe, when the Brass Plates come forth and are taken to the Indians (after being rejected by the Gentiles), they will convert enmasse. The Brass Plates contain everything the Indians are looking for. Just as they convinced thousands of the Lamanites of the incorrect traditions of their fathers (Alma 37: 9), so will they likewise do the same to all the Lamanites of our day. Their traditions are sufficiently similar to what is written on the Brass Plates that they will recognize the original records upon which their traditions are based and will convert. The Brass Plates, along with the Book of Mormon, which witnesses of the Brass Plates, will be enough evidence in their view that they will be compelled to come down into the depths of humility and accept Christ as their savior.

    The Gentiles, on the other hand, should know better. Even without the Brass Plates, the prophecies of the Book of Mormon are sufficiently plain that we Gentiles ought to know our duty towards the Indians and also of the future appearance of the Brass Plates. But we don’t. Nobody tries to restore them and everybody thinks that all the prophecies of scripture going to the Gentiles of today are speaking of the Book of Mormon, not of the Brass Plates.

    It is understandable that the Gentiles will be judged by the Book of Mormon (2 Ne. 25: 22) for their negligence concerning the Indians as well as their future rejection of the Brass Plates, which is plainly prophesied to appear to them at a future day (2 Ne. 29). We are left without excuse.

    Like I said, we are doomed.

  2. Good one, accurate and interesting like hell.

  3. Mr. Ebenezer Ryder says:

    Dear Friend:
    I got your email address from Denver Snuffer’s blog site from the comments section. Allow me to introduce myself and this new blog site. I will go by Mr. Ebenezer Ryder, a nom de plume. You can call me Ebenezer or E for short. I will not use my real name to avoid any notion that I have started this blog for notoriety or to draw attention to myself. The focus will be Jesus Christ and His gospel, the teachings of His servants and the doctrines of salvation.
    This blog is being started to fill a need. DS Jr. has disabled comments on his blog and I support that. He had his reasons and stated them on his Saturday, September 25th, 2010 post. Many comments on DS Jr’s Blog were, at times, useful in my judgment, when they served to illuminate, expand, elucidate, clarify and even on occasion temper Denver’s posts and other reader’s comments. This blog will serve as a forum for readers of “From the desk of Denver Snuffer, Jr.” I’ll try this for a few months, then reevaluate and see if it’s serving the same function as the comments on the Denver Snuffer blog. If not I’ll abandon it at that time or give any interested followers the opportunity to carry on the blog.
    Here I would like to provide “rules for polite conduct” to use a DS phrase.
    Encouraged behaviors:
    1. Comments on Denver’s current or prior posts
    2. Questions and Answers related to Denver’s posts or books
    3. Introducing readers to helpful material, books and seminars
    4. Participating by submitting short essays to be posted in the daily post section (as opposed to the comment section). I really hope this will not become my blog but our blog.
    5. Summarizing from Denver’s posts, doctrines that he has taught
    6. Use your name or a pen-name or initials, i.e. “In the Dog House”, “Iraq” or “LDSanarchist” are just fine. Certain comments are appropriate as “anonymous” but try to limit those.
    Discouraged behaviors:
    1. Free association-In my judgment there was entirely too much of that on the prior website
    2. Bloviating endlessly-One comment per day please. If you have more to say, please submit it as an essay and we’ll consider posting it
    3. Un-Christian behaviors of any sort
    4. Teaching false, vain or foolish doctrine- If you want to speculate wildly, I feel this is not the right forum. The internet is full of such sites where wild speculation is the norm.
    5. Crass, crude or vulgar language, even some of Denver’s language made me blush.
    I could use your help. This blog site will serve as a proper forum only if Denver’s readers know about it. You likely know someone who reads “from the desk of Denver Snuffer” and I would like to invite them to this blog. If you would kindly email the address of any readers to my email address and I’ll forward this email to them as well.
    Sincerely,
    Mr. Ebenezer Ryder Email: MisterERyder@gmail.com Website : MrERyder.blogspot.com
    From the desk of Mr. Ebenezer Ryder, Jr.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s