University of Utah historian W. Paul Reeve has written an intriguing and engaging monograph examining the dynamic interchange between Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes along the Great Basin’s southern rim. Broadly covering the last four decades of the nineteenth century, Reeves focuses his lens most closely on southwestern Utah and southeastern Nevada during the turbulent 1860s and 1870s when the clash of cultures reached its zenith.
Paiutes, Mormons, and miners possessed quite different worldviews relating to their notions about identity. The “complicated and messy” story that unfolds tackles the economic, cultural, political, and religious clashes that intertwine (and entangle) these three groups’ perspectives. A cursory list of the historical actors includes a carpetbag governor, anti-Mormon military officers, corrupt Indian agents, jury members passing contested decisions, murderous scoundrels, and even lynch mobs. Notable Mormons and Southern Paiutes include Brigham Young, Erastus Snow, Bush-head, Tut-se-gav-its, Taú-gu (Coal Creek John), and Moroni. James Ashley, Patrick Conner, Thomas Sale, and George Hearst round out the cast of politicians, military personnel, Indian agents, and mining investors.