Saturday, May 22, 2010

Indian Children in Early Utah

The following excerpts are from an article titled, "Mormon pioneers participate in the Indian slave trade," by Kamber A. Hone. The article was published in Mountainland: Our Pioneers by The Daily Herald on March 16, 1997. The article is on page 49.

"Many people may not realize that Latter-day Saint pioneers purchased Indian children and raised them with their families as early as 1847, the first year they made their new homes in the West.

"Brigham Young University assistant professor of history Brian Q. Cannon, who studied the era with his colleague, Richard Kitchen, said that for various reasons, the settlers took an interest in these children, who were usually prisoners of other tribes.

"What started as Indian slave trade became common practice among Mormons along the frontier in the 1850s.

"As part of their indepth study of the era, the scholars learned that the settlers, in some instances, rescued these children from cruel and unusual deaths. . . .

"This process that began informally in the fall of 1847, was enacted as part of law and religion in 1851 and 1852, Cannon said. In May of 1851, Brigham Young, as the Mormon prophet and Utah territorial governor, instructed the Saints to buy Indian children to 'educate them and teach them the gospel,' he said. . . .

"Even with limited access to sources, Cannon said he tried to find the best array of research to get the widest range of information about the adoption process and the practice itself. Through journals, autobiographies, reminiscences, cemetery records and government records, he and Kitchen identified and traced 244 Native American children who lived in white, Mormon households in the 19th century. . . .

"Another interesting finding of Cannon's study was the strength of the bonds formed between the Indians and their foster families. . . .

"Although not all adoptions were a favorable lifestyle for the children or the families, some proved to be very beneficial relationships."

The process of adopting Fanny into the Gardner family began with one of Abigail Sprague's brothers purchasing her. Years later, Fanny was brought to the Gardners where she spent the rest of her life. Family journals confirm that she was happy living with the pioneers, that she was included in the family the same as the other children, and that she was baptized a member of the LDS Church and received temple ordinances.

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