Brigham Young and Mormon Indian Policies: The Formative Period, 1836–1851

Brigham Young has been acclaimed as one of America’s greatest colonizers, empire builders, and religious leaders, and there is no doubt that his achievements left an indelible imprint upon the pages of western frontier history. Many of his accomplishments, however, need to be seen against a silhouette of his experience with the native Americans. His relations with the Indians were more than pious expressions of good will or statements of empty dreams, hopes, and visions for the future of the Indians. They were also more than simple deeds of kindness or acts of violence. The relations of Brigham Young with the Indians were a blend of his social-religious humanitarian philosophy and practical measures that he thought necessary for establishing the Mormon kingdom of God on earth.

Even though he preferred to use peaceful means, he anticipated that conflicts would occur between the Saints and the Indians; so he urged his people to build forts for their protection. When the forts proved inadequate during periods of intense violence, he ordered the Nauvoo Legion to fight the “hostile” natives. Finally, when he realized that some Indian problems could not be solved either by military or peaceful means, he requested the federal government remove the Indians from the Great Basin to some remote unsettled region where the slow change of their life-style would be less troublesome.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 18:3
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