History of the Church Series | BYU Studies

History of the Church Series

November 8, 2017
History of the Church Series
Cultural Conflict: Mormons and Indians in Nebraska
Lawrence G. Coates

This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Lawrence G. Coates. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

No record reveals any significant contact between the Mormons and the Indians of Nebraska before the Saints left Nauvoo; Mormon experiences with the Indians in Nebraska began during the epic march of the Latter-day Saints to the Great Basin. During the Nauvoo period, however, the Saints enjoyed a particularly friendly relationship with some Indian tribes in Iowa—the Sac, Fox, and Potawatomi. On several occasions, these Indian bands came to Nauvoo, and the Mormons frequently sent men to strengthen their ties with these friendly natives before the Mormon hegira. At the same time, Lyman Wight made contact with some Plains Indians in Texas, and James Emmett spent the winter of 1845 among the Sioux in what became South Dakota. But, apparently, no Mormons made contact with the Omaha, Ponca, Otoe, or Pawnee before 1846 when the Saints spent their historic winter among the natives of Nebraska.

Seeking a proper relationship with both Indians and Indian agents, the Mormon leaders on 20 June visited the Indian agency at Trading Point and met with the government agent and several Indian chiefs. The meeting was friendly, and the government agent promised to do all in his power to help the Mormons in their move west.6