In 1977, Utah State University professor S. George Ellsworth asked ten dozen scholars, members of the Mormon History Association, to list their choices for the top ten books written in the field of Utah and Mormon studies. The criterion he used in that survey was excellence in both scholarship and literary quality. Standard titles such as Great Basin Kingdom and The Mountain Meadows Massacre topped the list, followed by others such as Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi and Homeward to Zion. A similar survey taken a few years from now may find John Peterson’s Utah’s Black Hawk War on many scholars’ ten best books list. Every student of Utah and Mormon history must hereafter consider Peterson’s account of the clash of Mormon and Native American cultures in nineteenth-century Utah.
Peterson, who now teaches at the Salt Lake City, University Institute of Religion (on the campus of the University of Utah) tells his readers that the relationship between the LDS Church and Native Americans is of singular importance in Latter-day Saint history. For not only is there a past but also an anticipated future to this story. According to Latter-day Saint doctrine, the “remnant of Israel” described in the Book of Mormon includes many present-day Native Americans. The faithful return of this remnant is fundamental to the timetable of eschatological events foreshadowing the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the interaction between the Saints and the Native Americans is of great consequence.