Essays on American Indian and Mormon History

American Indians have long played a central role in Mormon history and its narratives. Their roles, however, have often been cast in support of traditional Mormon beliefs and as a reaffirmation of colonial discourses.

This collection of essays, many the result of a seminar hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University, explores the historical and cultural complexities of this narrative from a decolonizing perspective. Essays cover the historical construction of the “Lamanite,” settler colonialism and the Book of Mormon, and connections between the Seneca leader Handsome Lake and Joseph Smith. Authors also address American Indian Mormon tribal identities, Navajo and Mormon participation at the dedication of Glen Canyon Dam, the impact of Mormon Polynesian missionaries in Diné Bikéyah, the ISPP, and other topics. Prominent American Indian Mormon voices lend their creative work and personal experiences to the book.

With the aim of avoiding familiar narrative patterns of settler colonialism, contributors seek to make American Indians the subjects rather than the objects of discussion in relation to Mormons, presenting new ways to explore and reframe these relationships.

P. Jane Hafen (Taos Pueblo) is professor emerita of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is author of Reading Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, and editor of Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems, and the Sun Dance Opera.
Brenden W. Rensink is assistant director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands.

Praise and Reviews:
“This volume will improve considerably the field of Mormon studies by contributing to its critical and intersectional turn. There has been no comparable book-length work focusing on the experiences of American Indian Mormons from an indigenous perspective. This compilation of essays brings together many voices in a way that builds strength and fosters reflection on shared issues and points of contact.”
—Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith and coeditor of Decolonizing Mormonism

Essays on American Indian and Mormon History cleverly interweaves literary and historical analysis with personal anecdotal tales from Native and allied scholars. It explores overlooked indigenous perspectives through interdisciplinary essays and vignettes that range from whimsical to factual, and thoughtfully balanced to broaden our understanding of Indian-Mormon history, memory, and meaning within a context of colonization.”
—Matthew Garrett, author of Making Lamanites:Mormons, Native Americans, and the Indian Student Placement Program, 19472000