As stated Wikipedia, the Indian Placement Program was a program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1947 to 2000, in which LDS Native American students were placed in LDS foster homes during the school year, with the hopes that they would assimilate into American/LDS culture. Beginning in the 1970s, however, the Indian Placement Program came heavy under criticism. Supporters believed that exposure to white culture was beneficial to Native American children, and that it improved educational and economic opportunities, while critics believed the program undermined the children’s Native American identity. In 2000 the last student graduated from the program, though the program never was officially discontinued.
Matthew Garrett is currently an associate professor of history at Bakersfield College in California, teaching United States, California, and Native American Indian history courses. His dissertation and forthcoming book manuscript explore the LDS Indian Placement Program. He is also a devoted husband and the father of three adorable little girls.
Wow, perhaps my favorite podcast of them all. First, John Dehlin, CONGRATS! You are the man.
I must talk with Matthew Garrett at some point. Here is a list of the reasons why:
I am a card carrying Muscogee Creek Indian. My grandparents came to Taft, Ca. in 1937, my aunt and uncle came two years later and lived in the infamous Weed Patch encampment.
I was raised as an urban Indian, I joined the LDS church in 1958 and served a Navajo Mission 1960-1962.
I remember Spencer Kimball and Boyd Packer visited the Rez. I later married a relative of Spencer Kimball.
A decade later, working as a librarian in the Aerospace Industry, I became the stake coordinator of the Placement program. I oversaw approximately thirty-five students in a large Southern California stake.
We had our own placement student in our home, who is very successful and lives in Salt Lake today. There were many failures as well. I visit Native American churches in Southern California today.
I no longer attend the LDS church.
Yes, we should chat. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Maybe John can exchange our contact info?
active member.1/2 thlinget indian
I grew up in the era; I even had a Lamanite brother, for a short time, before he got so homesick that he ran away and went back to the reservation.
Back then, we didn’t call it the “Indian placement program,” either. We called it the “Lamanite placement program” because the church’s prophets, seers, and revelators were still teaching that the Native Americans were the principle ancestors of the Lamanites. This was also “back in the day” when church leaders were still teaching the Book of Mormon doctrine that the Lamanites, upon repentance and acceptance of Mormonism, would become a “white and delightsome” people.
Although I knew Native Americans who benefited from the program, overall, I think the Lamanite placement program was wrong. It takes a heavy dose of arrogance, I think, to presume that Native Americans need to be “assimilated” into American culture. Today, thankfully, more “inspired” minds understand the value in preserving Native American culture — something that’s easier to do, once you stop thinking of Native Americans and their culture as “dark and filthy” (which is how the Book of Mormon described them).
I noticed the name too. It was always known as the Lamanite Placement Program.
We had a ‘Lamanite’ son. The program was an abysmal failure in all the cases I knew of. It reminds me now of the residential schools; trying to breed the Indian out of the Lamanite to make them white.
I didn’t know at the time why his mother was so worried about him going into the program; now I know. He didn’t fit in, eventually after a year and a half he went home, married and had a son. The marriage broke up, he was drinking, didn’t know who or what he was and ended up hanging himself in his friend’s garage. It’s a sad memory and not until I attended his funeral did I fully understand how hard it was to try to settle into the white culture. We are so uptight and reserved compared to the Bloods of Southern Alberta.
You may be right.
However, all I know is that every day for a few months I went to a strange neighbor’s house to play with “Charlie”. I can’t remember when he showed up and I was too young and naive to realize when he left that I’d never not see him ever again. The white mother sent me what would have back then been a big package of “sugar babies” (If she wanted to say thanks it would have been Reese’s) saying “thanks for being a good friend to “Charlie”. It came as a shock to me because back then it was all about childhood which meant being a child and finding somebody to play with. Charlie was fun, and my little seven year old heart loved playing with him.
I get it today. But I miss Charlie.
I still miss my IPP ‘sister’ Rena—54 years. We kept in touch for awhile.
If Spencer Kimball really thought the Indian kids would turn white as they participate in the program what was he thinking when white people sinned and stayed white?
Stop making sense. Rable rouser.
As for why Pacific islanders were being considered “Lamanites”, there were some leaders, like Joseph F. Smith, at least, who claimed that they were descendants of Hagoth’s people, who set out in ships in Alma chapter 63 and were never heard from again.
True…mormon tradition assigns Alma 63:5-8 as the parents of the polynesians; also because many polynesians were told they were Manasseh, not Ephraim, in their patriarchal blessings.
Whenever a primitive culture is confronted with a more advanced culture, the primitive culture usually loses out. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the sad reality of history.
I still have my doubts about which is which!
To call it the Indian Placement Program seems very disingenuous. I never heard it called that until the past 10 years or so. It was the Lamanite Placement Program. I have an “Uncle Tommy” via the Program who was Navajo-Dineh from Flagstaff AZ. A wonderful man whom I loved dearly. Brilliant artist who was making it big. But never fit in anywhere. Called himself an apple – red on the outside but white on the inside. Drank himself to death. I miss him so much.
Connell – I had no idea. Certainly didn’t mean to be disingenuous. I’m just trying to learn about this stuff.
Ego te absolvo! :)
Also, my “disingenuous” comment was also directed to the Wikipedia article and its sources. And of course, it could have been officially titled the IPP, but our family/ward/stake only called it the LPP, and I never heard it called anything else until recently.
I grew up in the California Bay Area and I only heard it called the Indian Placement Program. I’ve no idea why the difference, I was 10 and didn’t care what it was called because for a year I had a sister!
Biologically I’m part Samoan, native American, and Caucasian. I was adopted (few weeks old) and raised by 2 samoan parents. I was always taught that we were descendants of Hagoth who settled in the Pacific Islands.
Cecelia – Do you believe that you are a descendant of Hagoth?
I was convinced and even taught my own children that they were Hagoth’s descendants. Since I left the church, I haven’t had the conversation with them yet to tell them otherwise. My TBM Polynesian family members still believe we are. Anytime a general authority came to Samoa we were reminded of our lamanite heritage. No one has come to tell us different.
In my experience, most of the Native Leaders (men) who succeed in the corporate and tribal government levels served in the military. I know that the military had very little concern about the dangers of exposing them to a different culture. The most damaging culture that has most been introduced by the whites is actually dependency. As one Alaskan Native gentlemen told me, “we were happy, until a social service worker convinced us that we weren’t.”
Welcome back, John. Yet again you’ve expanded our insights into the Mormon world intersecting with the world at large. Matthew Garret did a marvelous job telling the story in a nutshell. Your questions as always brought out the nuances. Your conversation at the end of the second episode made the story itself more relevant and thought-provoking to me. We’ll say we heard here first, “Correlation is Assimilation!” Priceless.
Connell, and others, Re the name Lamanite Placement Program, I’m curious about where you grew up. I grew up in northern Cache Valley, and I always heard the program referred to as the Indian Placement Program. But it was an uncorrelated church, and I wonder if there were geographical differences and time differences in the way the program was referred to. I think we tended to be less pious than some other parts of Utah, so maybe we weren’t as inclined to include Lamanite in the name. I’m not trying to downplay the religious motivations of the program, just saying that we were a bit less “churchy” in our approach to life. I’m also wondering if people in some places were uncomfortable with the term Indian and substituted Lamanite. But those are just guesses.
I’m from Syracuse (North Davis County) – VERY orthodox in that folk mythology kind of way. “If Aunt Thelma dreamed it, it’s true.” Uncle Tommy lived there in the 1950s. I grew up in the 60s and 70s calling it the LPP.
I would second Paula’s comments that an uncorrelated church probably led to variations, and I would imagine that over time the name shifted as well. In the earliest records I found it was called “the outing program,” and elsewhere it was simply called “placement” or “the placement program.” While “Lamanite” was certainly the buzz word of the 1960s and 1970s it was falling out of use by the 1980s and 1990s.
I will have to take a closer look at the meeting minutes, manuals, and circular letters to see if there was a general preference and if/how it changed over time. Thanks!
Matthew, I assume the Brown you mentioned in the interview who served as the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was Eddie Frank Brown, right?
Did I understand you correctly as saying he was LDS? A graduate of the placement program?
Yes, thank you for identifying the name that escaped me.
Yes, I was referring to Eddie Brown as one of the individuals who the church brought in on at least one occasion to negotiate with activist groups, and I think perhaps AIM in particular. I believe Brown was (at that time) serving as the Director of the Indian Studies Program at the University of Utah. He went on to serve in the BIA later.
Yes, he was LDS (and I think he still is). He has served in various callings (bishopric, etc.) but I do not know about his current activity in the church.
No, he was not a graduate of the Placement Program (I hope I did not imply that; if so let me correct it now). He was just one of the many Native American (I believe he is Pima) Mormons who participated in the Lamanite youth programs (various conferences, Indian Week at BYU, etc.) that expanded beyond the Placement Program.
Thanks! I’ve googled him, and found his resumé (https://aipi.clas.asu.edu/files/brown_resume.pdf), which says he is now at ASU as Director of Indian Studies.
It also says he is an “enrolled member of Pascua Yaqui Tribe and
affiliated with Tohono O’odham Nation.”
He sounds like an interesting guy. I’ll add him to my list of LDS politicians/government appointees.
Thanks for the information and the fascinating interview on Mormon Stories.
It was interesting to be reminded of Eddie Frank (Ed) Brown, especially given the matters being discussed here. It’s correct that Ed was not a participant in the Lamanite Placement Program. I vividly remember him relating the story of how he became attracted to Mormonism and ultimately converted: As I recall, it was in early adolescence that Ed was befriended by the son of Evan Mecham, a Mormon auto dealer in southern Arizona who was later elected governor of the state (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evan_Mecham). Mecham’s tumultuous term in office ended prematurely, but not before the bizarre goings on in Arizona state government were lampooned in a series of Doonesbury comic strips.
As a result of his relationship with the Mecham family, Ed became very active in the Boy Scout troop sponsored be the local Mormon church, an activity that soon led to his conversion. He served his 2-year mission stint in the far northern region of Alaska. Upon his return, Ed was informed by the future governor that his mission in Alaska very obviously had been a resounding success. Why? Because his coloring had LIGHTENED dramatically! The punch line, as Ed told the story, was that he dreaded encounters with Mecham during the weeks following his arctic sojourn because working outdoors under the Arizona sun darkened him considerably, and in short order.
Skin tone not withstanding, something of a mentor/protégé relationship between the two men apparently developed and was maintained. During his abbreviated term as governor, Evan Mecham appointed Ed Brown to be his Director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, a position Ed continued to hold for several months after Mecham was forced from office.
I share your interest in George P. Lee, John. Ironically, he may have just been ahead of his time in his deeply-held belief that some day someone besides the white gentiles could be running the show. 3 Nephi 16:10 comes quickly to mind. Any idea if any of his old conference talks that so troubled the Magisterium still exist?
Matthew, I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you have about Larry Echo Hawk, who’s now of course a Native American General Authority. I remember his October 2012 General Conference address, which seemed to me to swing a bit back towards proudly claiming a distinctly “Lamanite” identity, particularly in this quote:
“In the introduction to the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, it says that the Lamanites ‘are among the ancestors of the American Indians.’ As I read the Book of Mormon, it seemed to me that it was about my American Indian ancestors.”
He goes on to cite his great-grandfather’s experience as a Pawnee Indian in the mid-1800s as a fulfillment of Book of Mormon prophecy.
Do you think Echo Hawk is an outlier in a general trend away from Lamanite identity, or is he representative of its return, or am I reading too much into one conference talk? :)
Thanks for a great and extremely informative and fair look at a controversial piece of our history!
(Oh sorry, the link for anyone interested to Elder Echo Hawk’s talk is here.)
I must admit I do not know too much about Larry Echo Hawk. It appears that his life has been at least in part influenced by his older brother John Echo Hawk who was monumental in the efforts to empower tribes. John was an attorney who founded the Native American Rights Fund in 1970, which backed tribal sovereignty cases. Larry also pursued a career in Indian advocacy, before becoming a legislator, director of the BIA, and then recently a general authority. My assumption is that Larry Echo Hawk feels a strong commitment to Native people, as well as the Church.
That said, I’m doubtful that Echo Hawk’s appointment to the seventy represent a renewed focus on Lamanites. By the 1980s, the church followed a policy of dissolving Indian uniqueness (we might call it “ethnic correlation”); BYU Indian programs gave way to broader multi-cultural programs and Elder George Lee received instruction not to speak out to Native Americans in particular. Larry Echo Hawk’s appointment and assignment to the Philippines may demonstrate a continued effort to employ Native leaders while distancing them from Lamanite specific issues. While I agree that Echo Hawk’s Oct 2012 Conference remarks do revisit the use of Lamanites as a living people today, I am doubtful that it indicates any sort of significant cultural or policy change towards promoting a Lamanite identity as particularly special. I suppose time will tell.
Thanks Matthew, that makes sense. I didn’t know that about Larry Echo Hawk’s older brother, very interesting!
I didn’t know about Echo Hawk’s older brother either. Is the older brother LDS also?
Whether or not you see the LPP/IPP as a smoking gun, the program should probably makes all of us stop and think a bit. I fall on the side of those who feel that despite the few advantages of education and acculturation the program at its core was degrading.
This was an extremely interesting episode. Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your knowledge on the subject.
The Church has been in the Polynesian Islands of Hawai’i since the mid 1800’s. During the California Gold Rush, the first ten Mormon missionaries to Hawaii departed San Francisco on the ship Imaum of Muscat. After 20 days at sea, the ship arrived on December 12, 1850, in Honolulu Harbor at what was then known as the “Sandwich Islands” (Hawaiian Islands). A week later, nine missionaries received their assignments; two headed to the island of Kaua’i, three to Lahaina on the island of Maui, two to the Big Island of Hawaii, and two stayed behind in Honolulu. These nine missionaries formed the basis of the Sandwich Islands Mission. The first LDS Church congregation in Hawaii was established on the island of Maui in 1851. Missionaries settled on the island of Lānaʻi in 1854, and in Lāʻie on the island of Oʻahu in 1865.
The Laie Hawaii Temple was the first temple built by the LDS Church outside of the continental United States. The temple is also the oldest to operate outside of Utah, and the fifth-oldest LDS temple still in operation. In addition to initial building and construction, the temple has been dedicated for use by several presidents of the LDS Church. This includes the site of the temple being dedicated by Joseph F. Smith on June 1, 1915, the completed structure being dedicated by Heber J. Grant on November 27, 1919, being rededicated after significant expansion on June 13, 1978 by Spencer W. Kimball and then rededicated on November 21, 2010 by Thomas S. Monson following seismic upgrades and remodeling.LDS Church President Heber J. Grant presided over the Hawaiian Temple’s dedication on November 27, 1919. Grant called the Hawaiian people “descendants of Lehi” (a prophet in the Book of Mormon), and saw the future of the new temple in Lāʻie as a magnet for Polynesian converts. After the temple was completed, more Polynesians moved to Lāʻie, hoping to participate in temple ordinances. These facts are in response to the portion of the podcast stating that the church started their conversion efforts in Polynesia in the mid-1900s. Mahalo for all your time and dedication involved in bringing Mormon Stories “to the masses.”
I’m half-Tongan and growing up I was taught to view the Book of Mormon not only as scripture, but as family history. Up until very recently, I completely believed that I was a literal descendant of Hagoth’s people, after all, it was what I had been taught by my parents and CES. My patriarchal blessing says I’m from the tribe of Menassah, and I thought that through Lehi I was a literal descendant of Joseph in Egypt. I have fair skin (lighter than some of my white friends) and I thought that I was part of the fulfillment of the BoM prophecy about the Lamanites one day becoming a fair people. I knew the DNA evidence didn’t support my beliefs but I was always taught to distrust scientific evidence and figured it would be something God would reveal in his own due time. I’ve been going through a faith crisis/transition over the past year and a half and once my belief in the historicity of the BoM went out the window, so did my magical identity as a Lamanite descendant who was rising to the call of ancestors who were speaking to her through scripture as “a voice from the dust”. I feel at peace with it now, but you can imagine how upset I was.
Mimi, I totally relate to what you said. I’m half Samoan (1/4 native American, 1/4 white) and was always taught the BoM is the story of my people too. I even taught my kids that they were the very fulfillment of the Lord’ s promise to Enos that the lamanites would eventually accept the gospel. *face palm* I went through my own crisis of faith after educating myself on the BoM DNA and other early church history. It literally hurt my heart to realize my identity wasn’t what I thought. I feel bamboozled. I feel sad for my TBM family. What will they experience when they find out?
[…] on the convergence of Mormon and Native American History, was interviewed this week about the Indian Placement Program in the 1970s. It was not discontinued until 2000 when the last student […]
Thanks to all for helping me reclaim my sanity. I was sure that growing up in the 50s-60s it was referred to as the Lamanite Placement Program. Hearing all the talk about the “Indian” program, I was starting to think I mis-remembered. I think an interesting topic for a future poscast might include such things as the “Lamanite Generation,” a BYU traveling troupe that celebrated “Lamanite” cultures in song and dance.
Just a thought, the 1940s mission of the church to Native Americans was called the Southwest Indian Mission, and was still by that name in 1960. Also, here in California (where less than one percent of the people are LDS), the placement program was called Indian Placement Program. No one would have known what Lamanite meant… Utah was a different situation.
I would like to clarify something I said during the interview.
While the program tried to match children with homes that seemed a good fit based on location, rural/urban, age, gender, etc., I have also repeatedly heard stories about last minute efforts to place children in whatever home could be found. I’m sure that on any given year a small but noteworthy percent of students were place in a home simply because it was available and not because it was a particularly good fit.
My mom had an “Indian sister” live with her family in high school. She was placed through the LPP. Do you have any info Matthew Garrett, on locating someone who was in the program? All I know her name was Ruth and my mom was in Denver, CO at the time. Grandma and grandpa have both passed away, so I can’t consult with them.
This is a great podcast, it is wonderful to see John at his best doing such an important subject as the Indian Placement Program. It is also a pleasure to hear Matthew with his expertise and broad knowledge of the subject. Thank you both for the great work.
It is unfortunate that the Indians received the brunt of the blame for MMM. Most historians today agree that they either played a minimum role, or none at all in the killing. It is sad that even Juanita Brooks fell for the lies and blamed the Indians in her monumental work.
At the 21:30 mark in part one, John asks Matthew is the Indian’s that participated in the MMM were “punished” or did it “hurt them?” So little has been written from the Indians perspective. There is a reason that the Indian’s side has not been told, and it has to do with their punishment. Will Bagley writes the reason.
On page 343 of Bagley’s “Blood of the Prophets” has written: “Mormon descendants of participants number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, and even the children who survived the massacre often left large families, but the Paiute bands that were lured into the killings have vanished.”
Who’s to say they’re not descendants of Hagoth and the BOM people. Why does ones logic trump another’s spiritual prompting?
My mother-in-law spent five or six years in the IPP. Her first year was a disaster, as she did not have an understanding host family. Although she was reluctant, she went back the following school year and lived with a new host family in a different town. She loved them and they treated her as one of their own. She continued to return each year until she graduated from high school. They were awesome folks who showed her the love of Christ. Her IPP experience gave her educational and social opportunities that have blessed her throughout her life. She eventually earned a Master’s Degree and has led a life free of alcohol and the curse of a low socioeconomic status. She is an active member who retains her tribal identity and promotes her native heritage.
I believe that five of her younger siblings were placed in the program but each only stayed between one and three years. Their experiences were a mixed bag as some gained much from the IPP, while others detested it.
Her daughter (my wife) attended BYU on a ‘Lamanite’ scholarship and felt solely out of place as she journeyed from the reservation setting to Provo. While at BYU, she attended a Lamanite Ward (this was in the mid 90’s and it was socially called a Lamanite Ward as it was filled with Native Americans and Polynesians) and shared strong bonds with other Native students who were transported from ‘The Rez’ to the epicenter of the LDS educational universe. It was a challenge to be around traditional LDS folks who existed in a ‘bubble’ and had no clue about the challenges present outside of Mormondom. One of the great supports that helped her get through her years at BYU, were her mother’s placement family. They visited her on occasion and made sure that she did not go without. She spent holidays with them and was always welcome to visit when she needed a weekend break from her studies. After staying for two years and never quite fitting in, she transferred to a secular state university and graduated thereafter.
I greatly appreciate the content of this interview. Kudos to John, who has been instrumental in helping me journey through a faith crisis and back to church after a fifteen-year absence.
Matthew, you filled in a lot of gaps about my knowledge of the program. It is interesting to note that whenever the topic of Lamanites comes up, nearly all the church members that I talk with believe that ALL Native American Peoples are descended from Lehi and clump indigenous peoples into a similar cultural and linguistic tradition.
One last thought Matthew, have you read the book, “Navajo Tradition, Mormon Life: The autobiography and teachings of Jim Dandy?“ It is a fascinating take on honoring and blending Mormon Theology and Native Traditions. I hope to inspire a similar love for the truths found in both worlds in my infant daughter. Thanks again for the podcast. Mormon Stories has blessed my life and countless others.
Great podcast, got me wondering about connections between the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall,CT aka “Heathen School” which operated 1817-1826 contemporaneous to Joseph Smith’s coming of age years. Heathen School was an expression of the Zeitgeist that indigenous people should be educated, evangelized to white Christianity, then sent back to their original communities as evangelizing educators themselves.
It’s possible to draw connections to Joseph’s missions to the Lamanites…just wondering if any study has been done on it?
What an interesting and informative podcast. Kudos to both John and Matthew for providing such insight into a program with which I have long been fascinated.
This article caught my eye yesterday. It’s about the recent development of indigenous children being targeted for adoption by U.S. adoption agencies (since the supply of children from international and domestic sources has dried up.) As I read through the article, John’s words from the podcast continued to echo through my heart and mind: “It’s a really serious thing to mess with with somebody’s identity, their culture, their heritage.”
I’m of Moose Cree Ancestry from Northern Ontario and the Grandson of a St.Anne’s Residential School Survivor.
Although I was not a ‘subject’ to be researched by the Mormon Church as part of their NDN Student Placement Program, I was subject to horrific abuse at the hands of my white Mormon mother and the Ward leadership did nothing to stop the abuse even after the Bishop knew what was happening to me, and rather than comply with mandatory reporting laws in Canada, he chose instead to do nothing.
I do have a friend who was trafficked from Residential School into the NDN Student Placement Program where he was literally treated like a farm animal.
He was forced to sleep in a horse stall in their barn. He was never allowed inside the family’s home even to shower or use the washroom. He was fed the ‘scraps’ off their dinner plates. He was horrifically beat on a regular basis for not working the farm hard enough and to the family’s standards.
What the Mormon Church has done to Indigenous the children through their NDN Boarding Schools as their Student Placement Program was GENOCIDE!