Placing the Indian Placement Program

Two weeks ago I caught a few minutes of a story on NPR about the Church’s Indian Placement Program. I happened to tune in as a former Placement student told of her positive experience in the program: with primary children singing “I Am a Child of God” in the background, she described how the loving environment of her foster home and the gospel principles she learned changed her life. “How nice,” I thought, and went back to preparing Sunday dinner.

I was surprised and distressed, then, to hear read on the air the following week a listener’s very negative response. The letter read, “We listened in growing horror [to the report on the Indian Placement Program.] What if blond-haired, blue-eyed children who’d been raised in the Mormon tradition had been spirited away by night, by bus, to be schooled in the Navajo way? Would those children have been taught that everything they already believed was evil, and that they were inherently sinful by their birth into a godless culture?” The unfairness of the criticism was breathtaking, and it prompted me to find the original story online to see what could have elicited this reponse. As it turns out, the perturbed listener could not have been listening very closely to the story, which provides at least a rudimentary explanation for why Native American peoples are of special interest to Mormons, not because of their “inherently sinful” nature or “godless culture” but precisely because of their divine nature and prophesied cultural potential. Furthermore, the story makes it clear that Native American children were not “spirited away,” but were placed in foster homes at the request of their natural parents, who often preferred the Program to the boarding school alternative.

I don’t know much about the Indian Placement Program, and I don’t intend to mount a defense of its effectiveness. My rudimentary research (here, here, and here) shows that it functioned between 1954 and 1996, matching Native American children with LDS families, mostly in the Western US, where they lived and studied as part of the family during the school year; the program appears to have been an early and formative component of what is today LDS Social Services, and was in many ways the spiritual child of President Kimball; its stated purpose appears to have shifted over the years, from a frank socialization effort to a multicultural-educational experience. I was struck by what seemed to me a slightly disingenuous silence on the issue of proselyting in the Church-friendly materials I read: the program seems to me–and to most observers and participants–to have been transparently designed to provide LDS instruction at least as much as quality public education, but this objective seems to have disappeared from Church descriptions of the program, perhaps as that effort has come to be seen as politically incorrect.

Many Indian children undoubtedly benefited greatly, both spiritually and educationally, by the experience. But it’s hard to know whether the program was a success overall–even difficult to know what criteria would constitute “success”–even though the program has been the subject of numerous theses and dissertations, and even one government study: its effects were certainly as varied as its participants, and its results, spiritual and cultural, mixed. But there’s a larger lesson to be learned here, perhaps: the NPR story and the irate response made clear to me the danger of judging religious behavior without contextualizing the behavior in belief. I am guilty of this myself: it’s shockingly easy to be shocked by the (supposed) rudeness of Evangelicals, or the oppressiveness of Catholics, or the wishy-washiness of Unitarians. It’s much more difficult to do the intellectual and emotional work of understanding those postures in their context of belief–but that effort is absolutely necessary for righteous judgment of self and other.

48 comments for “Placing the Indian Placement Program

  1. Christian Cardall
    February 10, 2005 at 11:50 am

    It seems safe to assume that viewing Native Americans as descendants of Lehi was the ideological motivation for initiating the program. Was the rise of the Mesoamerican limited geography model a factor in the program’s demise?

  2. annegb
    February 10, 2005 at 11:50 am

    I worked in the multi-cultural center of the university many years ago. I met a lot of Navajo and Hopi kids. My next-door neighbor took in an Indian placement child. I never met anybody who benefited from this program, including the girl next door.

    I think it’s a barbaric practice and I totally oppose it. The money could have been spent improving schools on the reservation. I know President Kimball loved those people and he wanted to help, but I think it was the wrong way to go about it. I think it would have been much more loving AND effective to improve their standard of life and education at home, rather than take them out of their home. I think it was one of those rather selfishly altruistic programs which leave those who do it feeling better about themselves for doing nothing, really.

    I hated foster care. I didn’t care that these people had indoor toilets and better food and I had shoes without holes. It’s a terrible feeling to be “taken away.” you guys. Really awful. But if they had given us better watch care at home, improved our toilet facilities and loved us where we lived, my sisters and I would have been far better off.

  3. February 10, 2005 at 11:52 am

    I have known a few native americans who were in the program growing up. They had the sorts of feelings you might expect– they loved their foster families, but felt in some ways that they were straddling two cultures and didn’t completely fit into either one. I have never read a good history of the program, or a study of its effects. But I am sad that it has been discontinued.

  4. Ana
    February 10, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    What I haveis not analysis or argument about Indian Placement, but story. I’d apologize for that, but I’m learning it’s really just how I function.

    My mom had a Navajo foster brother, Sam Enoah, through the Indian Placement Program in the early 1970s. He thrived as the youngest brother in my mom’s family for five years. They adored him. He seemed happy. Then, when he was thirteen, the family moved to a different neighborhood while he was home on the reservation. It’s hard to say whether it was the move that threw him, or being thirteen and starting to need to come to terms with his ethnic identity. Following that summer, he ran away from Bountiful several times and eventually ended up back on the res permanently. After many run-ins with the law, he went to prison for a stabbing. There, we understood he got clean from the substances that had come to control his life. After his release, he no longer fit with the destructive patterns his family had established. He was killed by his brother. The murder weapon was a concrete block.

    I remember Sam from my very young years, before things started to go really bad. I remember him as funny and silly, my brown-skinned uncle accepted just as easily as all the white-skinned uncles. I remember very clearly the trajectory of his demise. The last time I saw him, he’d shown up at my grandparents’ house unexpectedly, drunk and scraggly, when I was perhaps eight or nine. My last memory of him is watching him wolf down a huge dinner at my grandma’s table, unable to raise his bloodshot eyes to meet any of ours.

    When my grandpa died in 1998 after a long decline with Parkinson’s, the last words his wife spoke to him were, “Go find Sam.” He was barely conscious, but he nodded. We think he heard.

    My beautiful, African-American son, Samuel, came home eight months later. I am unashamed about seeing my mission as an adoptive mom as — in addition to building a family for myself — a mission of gathering, bringing children into the covenant who never would have landed there otherwise. IP was an awkward attempt to do the same thing.

    There are environments in which a person has very little chance of ever learning the gospel or even creating a successful, responsible life. It’s not PC to say that some cultures are not constructive places for children to grow up. But an alcoholic family on the res is not. A fatherless, poor family could be, but in my son’s case it was not.

    IP was awkward for two main reasons that I can see: (1) The LDS families did not have permanent stewardship; it remained a foster situation, and kids were required to shuttle back and forth between Anglo LDS culture and their birth culture. If permanent placement was not possible, it probably shouldn’t have happened. (2) There was little if any instruction or motivation for families (at least during the time my family experienced the program) to encourage their foster kids to embrace and celebrate the positive aspects of their birth heritage — this is generally considered essential for successful transracial family placements.

    I can’t say I have a better solution for situations like Sam Enoah’s, except that child welfare services through the states should be carried out without regard for ethnicity, even for Native Americans, and then include plentiful instruction about cultural issues for foster and adoptive families. That’s not the current state of affairs. Also, I wish we had more LDS families willing to foster and adopt through regular, recognized means, not special programs like IP, even if they’re able to multiply and replenish the old-fashioned way.

  5. Rosalynde Welch
    February 10, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    Ana, thank you so much for the heartbreaking story and the wise comments.

  6. MDS
    February 10, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    I’m old enough to still remember the old Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, and their sports teams playing against the local high schools when I was in elementary school. This was related to the placement program somehow, but I’m not clear on how they determined which kids ended up in placement and which at the boarding school.

    I have spoken to lots of families over the years who had placement kids, and many of those relationships are still good and positive, with obvious love between the kids and the placement families. Unfortunately, I have also heard some comments that come across as a little bit condescending with respect to the Navajo culture and what some placement families seemed to think of as their role with respect to that culture.

    In many ways, I think today’s PEF is the latest reincarnation of and designed with the same concerns as the placement program.

  7. February 10, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    Just to reply to Christian’s comments, I find that the DNA debate of the last couple of years has had the unfortunate effect of making some think that a mesoAmerican BoM setting would imply that American Indians aren’t heirs of Lehi. I’d disagree. I think the focus on genetic lineage is unfortunate. I’m not at all convinced it is DNA that is at issue in the Book of Mormon any more than every heir of Judah is necessarily related to Israel.

  8. Rosalynde Welch
    February 10, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    Christian: would that policy responded so sensitively to nuances in doctrine! I suspect, though, that the discontinuation of the program had far more to do with the (necessarily belated, creaky, improvisational) workings of programs through organizations than with BoM apologetics.

    Good point, MDS, about PEF.

  9. Jim Richins
    February 10, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Whenever I think of the Indian Placement Program, I remember George P. Lee. As I recall, he was a product of the IP, and a heavy proponent of it. It’s discontinuation was a major factor in his apostasy, as I understand it.

    The IP may not have been the most effectively implemented program, but I think it was a valiant effort, and it is better than having not done anything at all. I am grossly ignorant of Native American issues, however, I do know that our society has a very difficult time integrating Native Americans in a way that does not destroy their cultural heritage.

  10. February 10, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    While the IP was a factor in his removal, I suspect his apostasy was related to other activities he was engaged in that came out after his rather public disagreement over IP.

  11. Jared Patch
    February 10, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t know much about the IPP, but I believe it is one of Thomas Murphy’s soapbox issues. I think he called it cultural genocide, which is hyperbole to me.

  12. annegb
    February 10, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    I heard Elder Lee speak eloquently about the gospel once at a fireside attended largely by the Native American students at the university. I went with my boyfriend at the time, a Hopi. Elder Lee spoke about his life on the res, and told the students that their tribal religions were not the true religion, that the church was true. Many of the students were offended, but I said a silent “Amen.”

    I heard later that he’d been excommunicated, the story here in southern Utah was that he’d gotten into a fight with (not a fist fight) Elder Packer, he’d been offended and apostasized. There were also allegations of adultery and I think he was charged with molesting someone.

    He came to the university a few years after that and spoke about depression in a convocation lecture. He was a different man, he was wandering rambling, he didn’t have a clear message and really it wasn’t a good speech. Very sad.

    As a foster child under the auspices of the LDS church, I am convinced that this program was a mistake. I do not think the church does a good job in its social program and weakens the power of the message of restoration by trying. I think society would be far better served if they supported existing state social programs.

  13. MDS
    February 10, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    My cursory search for info on the Intermountain Indian School shows that it wasn’t church-run at all, but a Federal Institution. My bad. Some of the information I saw indicates that the LDS residents of Brigham City and the surrounding area still thought of the school and the almost-exclusively LDS faculty and staff as playing a role similar to that of the IPP.

  14. Kevin Barney
    February 10, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Jared, re: your comment in post 11, below is my reply to Murphy, which was published in Anthropology News:

    Murphy comes down extremely hard on the Church’s Indian Student Placement Program. He writes: “The Placement Program, deemed cultural genocide by critics, removed over 70,000 Native American children from their homes from 1954-96 and placed them with urban white Mormon families in systematic efforts to turn Indians ‘white and delightsome.'” The shrillness of this statement is irresponsible and reflects a lack of scholarly balance and detachment. The Placement Program grew out of informal arrangements between Utah beet farmers and children of Navajo migrant pickers in the 1940s. Eventually it became a formal program, whereby Native American children were housed with Mormon families during the school year so that they could attend school; they returned to live with their families during the summers. The goals of the Program were both educative and acculturative. Now, perhaps trying to help Native American children gain the tools to succeed in the dominant anglo culture was not an appropriate or worthy goal. Certainly there is plenty of room for responsible criticism of the aims, administration and effects of the Program. But to evoke images of the Holocaust or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia with the incredibly hyperbolic “cultural genocide” is in my judgment an irresponsible way to go about it. To the contrary, many Native Americans have been upset that the Church has terminated or greatly scaled back both the Placement Program and other programs intended to serve Native American interests. So the Church is damned if it tries to help, and damned if it does not. To say that the children were “removed” in the passive voice ominously suggests to the uninformed reader that this was somehow done against their parents’ wishes. This is simply not true. For the reader interested in a more balanced anthropological consideration of the Placement Program, I recommend the studies indicated in the accompanying note.4

    4Bruce A. Chadwick, Stan L. Albrecht and Howard M. Bahr, “Evaluation of an Indian Student Placement Program,” Social Casework 67/9 (1986): 515-24; Bruce A. Chadwick and Stan L. Albrecht, “Mormons and Indians: Beliefs, Policies, Programs and Practices,” in Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives, ed. Tim B. Heaton and Lawrence A. Young (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 287-309; Tona J. Hangen, “A Place to Call Home: Studying the Indian Placement Program,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 30/1 (Spring 1997): 53-69; and James B. Allen, “The Rise and Decline of the LDS Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-1996,” Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, ed. Davis Bitton (Provo: FARMS, 1998), 85-119.

  15. Ana
    February 10, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    Anne, I can’t claim experience with all the Church’s social programs, but I think LDS Family Services is approaching a very good job with newborn adoption. Change is slow there, but it does happen, and open adoptions are now possible, a major step in the right direction. They teach potential birthmoms to make their decisions about adoption or parenting based on prayer and personal revelation. They operate education and support groups for adoptive families. They charge a sliding-scale fee based on the income of the adoptive family regardless of the race or ability of the child to be adopted (I fervently wish adoptions were universally practiced that way!). The director of the agency teaches very clearly and powerfully about adoption as a doctrinal principle and an instructive metaphor for all members of the Church. I don’t think it weakens the message of the Restoration at all. I see LDSFS adoptions as an example directly contrary to your general thought that the Church doesn’t do a good job with social programs. Although I am sure within the agency there are examples contrary to my general good perceptions of it, as well.

  16. Trenden
    February 10, 2005 at 1:48 pm

    Wow, my exposure to the program is in stark contrast to annegb’s who said, “I think it’s a barbaric practice and I totally oppose it.” I had a roommate and good friend that benefited from the program. He came strait from a reservation to Provo to live with a local family and later got his BS degree from BYU. The last time I heard from him he was headed to medical school. He lamented his siblings that stayed on the reservation as he felt they weren’t likely to do much with their lives. He felt like the reservations were basically cages for his people and was extremely grateful for the opportunity the program afforded him and the exposure it gave him to outside positive influences.

    My experience is of course anecdotal and perhaps not typical. I don’t know why the program was ended but I can’t imagine the “Mesoamerican limited geography model” or inconclusive DNA research had anything to do with it. I believe the PEF will be more successful for a variety of reasons.

  17. February 10, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    Nice discussion. You might note that there was a post on the NPR piece a couple of weeks ago at United Brethren just after the NPR show aired.

  18. Christian Cardall
    February 10, 2005 at 1:58 pm

    Clark: Yes, Gentiles become adopted heirs of Israel by acceptance of the gospel. Considering American Indians `adopted children of Lehi’ is an interesting superficial parallel, but I need help understanding this in more detail.

    I understand that references to American Indians as Lamanites in the D&C and early (and not-so-early) statements by leaders make a prima facie case for this expansive view of `children of Lehi’. But since there are alternative explanations for the existence of such statements, I naturally wonder whether there are separate reasons for viewing American Indians as `adopted children of Lehi’. Does this concept arise solely out of a need to reconcile the statements in the D&C with the Mesoamerican limited geography model?

    Getting past the origins of the idea to the substance: In the Gentile/Israel case, you have birthright blessings, either through natural birth or spiritual birth (baptism/confirmation in the true Church)—or maybe both. By this criterion, I don’t see why American Indians simply living in the same hemisphere as DNA `children of Lehi’ makes the American Indians `adopted children of Lehi,’ any more than Europeans were `adopted Israel’ simply because they lived in the same hemisphere as the Israelites.

  19. chab
    February 10, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    I think the Indian placement program was a missionary program, dressed up as an education outreach. The education part was a noble idea, but lets not hide the fact the primary purpose was to convert lamanites to Mormonism.

  20. Jim Richins
    February 10, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    It is true that George Lee had other problems, including a prediliction for polygamous teachings and molesting at least one teenage girl. I’m not sure if the molestation occurred before he was ex-ed or not, but he was “disciplined” for saying things like “polygamy is coming back” – possibly this is the source for the disagreement with Pres. Packer.

    It is also true that Pres. Kimball, as a huge proponent for the IP program, was probably largely responsible for its survival into the 80s, even after other GAs could probably see that its effectiveness was not meeting expectations (or that it was failing in some other ways). Pres. Kimball died, and shortly thereafter, Pres. Bensen terminated the program. Publicly at least, this was the straw that broke George Lee’s back.

    I just wonder if the conditions leading up to Lee’s apostasy in the early 80s, maybe even late 70s, were helped by the increasingly apparent failure of the program that was obviously a huge positive influence on him personally.

    I guess my question is whether we can fairly count George Lee as another failure of the IP, rather than a success, or was Lee’s excommunication a result of his own apostasy and not connected with the IP at all?

  21. annegb
    February 10, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    I don’t know, I tend to have an experience, form an opinion and cling to it until it is stomped into the ground and proven wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt. A lot of the things that happened to me happened a long time ago. I suppose improvement is inevitable.

    It is true that I know many success stories in the area of infant adoption, not so much when the children are older, as my sisters and I were.

    . So maybe it’s like everything else, good and bad. I do give them credit for trying. I spoke to somebody in LDS social services a few years back, I can’t even remember now why I spoke to him, but he was very sincere and knowledgeable, even savvy. He said the church was aware of the need for improvement, and that our church is light years ahead of other churches in its awareness of and iintent to address difficult social issues.


  22. annegb
    February 10, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    …could be wrong, but I will deny it if you quote me. :)

  23. Jed
    February 10, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    The internationalization of the church had a lot to do with the demise of IPP. By the 1970s the church was moving strongly into Latin America and Mexico, and these people too, it could be argued, had as much claim to the Lamanite label as Native Americans. (Sorenson’s revised Book of Mormon geography was out by 1985.) How could the church expend huge resources on one group and not another? By the early 1980s BYU was cutting back on its dept of Indian Education and by 1985 the dept name had changed to Multicultural Education admitting not only Natives but also Pacific Islanders and Mexicans. Since then of course there has been increasingly reluctance to apply the Lamanite label to any specific group, but whether that reluctance has more to do with the diffusion of Book of Mormon geography or with the PC movement, let the social scientists speak! BYU’s Lamanite Generation became Living Legands, if I am not mistaken, in 1998.

    Perhaps Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children has something to say on this point.

  24. John Mansfield
    February 10, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    Sending children to live with others was once not so unusual. My grandmother was sent to live with relatives so she could attend school. My grandfather, the oldest of ten, spent some of his childhood with a childless uncle and aunt to even out resources. Around the time the LDS Indian Placement program began, our Senate Majority Leader was boarding in town so he could attend high school.

    In the Four Corners area today, there are elemetary school students who ride the bus two hours each way. I would look at alternatives in that situation.

    Many other churches supported boarding schools for Indians. There is something characteristic about our program placing children with families instead. Other churches have vans to pick up the transportation impaired; we send a member with an empty seat in his car.

  25. February 10, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Chris, this probably isn’t the place for that discussion. I’ll just make one example of lineage that likely isn’t tied to genetics. Your patriarchal blessing. Do you think you are really a direct descendant of Ephraim (or whoever you are)? Yet the promises apply to you. Admittedly that can be seen as a matter of adopt at the time of baptism. But if the native Americans are at the time of baptism made descendents of Lehi, then surely we can speak of those who would be so adopted in terms of this potential.

    However this really wasn’t my point. I was more thinking of people who consider themselves Jews and how many of them are of primary European descent and how many actually are descendants, in any significant sense, of Israel. Yet we speak of them as Israel.

    Likewise if the Lehites mixed with other groups and became associated with those groups, I think the promises apply to those groups. i.e. I think we assume genetics is behind all of this. I just don’t see that. Especially given that OT people seem to focus more on peoples (i.e. nations) rather than individuals in that sense.

  26. ed
    February 10, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    All modern Europeans are direct descendants of Ephraim. He lived thousands of years ago. Populations mix. Do the math.

  27. Jim Richins
    February 10, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    “dispatch… 2087 – threadjack in progress!!”

    D&C 86 starts out with a brief explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares, and then says this:

    8 Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the apriesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers—

    9 For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God—

    10 Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.

    “…according to the flesh…” seems to clearly imply that latter day holders of the Priesthood are direct descendents of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Perhaps there is an alternative interpretation of which I am not aware.

    Nevertheless, I do agree that DNA does not determine salvation, and that an adopted descendent of Abraham is entitled to all the same blessings as a blood descendent.

  28. annegb
    February 10, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Despite the fact that he apostacised, how the heck do you spell that–you know what I mean, Elder Lee spoke wisdom that day at the university fireside when he told the Native American students that ultimately their religion, their race, was God’s race and God’s religion and we are all the same. It was a pretty powerful message and I thought, took incredible courage considering his audience.

  29. Karen
    February 10, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    We had a placement student for a year when I was growing up. I would consider it a mixed success. It was hard on all of us, but probably good for us too. I think that ultimately he flourished when a modern high school was built in his town. He was at the top of his school and probably got a lot more attention there than he did in suburban east side salt lake. Years later, when he served a mission, our ward’s mission fund paid for it. He is a college graduate and still in contact with my parents from time to time.

    I do know that secret indoctrination was not some scary motivating factor. His mother was a very happy placement alumni and wanted her kids to have that opportunity. I was pretty young, but I remember them as being very nice people, active LDS, and grateful their son could live with us. I think ultimately, building good schools on the reservation and extending PEF to students there is probably the way to go, but I certainly can’t condemn IP as “cultural genocide.” That’s completely uninformed and judgmental.

  30. Steve S.
    February 11, 2005 at 1:32 am

    A missionary who had served on a reservation told me that one challenge in the program was that the host families usually imagined that all the placement students had been raised in the Church, but many of the students actually were recent converts, and some had joined the Church because their own families hoped that it will give them an opportunity to better themselves.

    Several placement students were in school with me, and one was in a Primary class that I taught. At the time, it seemed to me that it was a good opportunity for them. Thinking back on the years when I was in school, I remember hearing one of the students sing “Go My Son,” which expresses the hope that the placement program and other similar opportunities seemed to offer. I don’t remember all the words, but I looked them up.

    Go, my son, go and climb the ladder
    Go, my son, go and earn your feather
    Go, my son, make your people proud of you
    Work, my son, get an education
    Work, my son, learn a good vocation
    Then climb, my son, try and take a lofty view
    From the ladder of an education
    You can see to help your Indian Nation
    Reach, my son, and lift your people up with you

    Later, when I had children of my own, my wife and I ran into circumstances that made it difficult to meet some challenges that faced us as parents, and our children were sent away to live with various relatives for about a year. Although this was probably a necessary choice in response to the crisis that brought it about, the cultural shock of temporarily changing families and locations, even within the same extended family, was difficult for our children, and the lingering emotional scars from the experience have been slow to heal. The adjustment that the placement students and their families had to make must have been doubly difficult.

    In one case with which I am acquainted, a placement student abused all the children in his host family and several other children in the neighborhood, over an extended period of time, before the adults found out what had been happening. Even with a lot of help from LDS Social Services and other agencies, this was a severe trial, with long-lasting consequences, for the family and its individual members. Some of them have the opinion that their experience with the placement program was one reason that it needed to be brought to an end.

    On the subject of who is a descendent of Lehi, it is often claimed that everyone (or nearly everyone) of Western European descent is a descendant of Charlemagne. This claim is based on statistical arguments, not on genetic evidence, and it does not imply that genetic evidence of anyone’s descent from Charlemagne can be found. It wouldn’t be surprising, after the passage of enough time, if nearly everyone in the Western Hemisphere was a descendant of Lehi.

  31. David Rodger
    February 11, 2005 at 2:02 am

    Regardless of how the IPP worked out, there are many “foreign exchange” school programs that have Europeans or Latin Americans (and possibly other nations) coming to the USA to live with a family for one or two school years, and Americans who go there for the same.

    I have never heard any of those described as “cultural imperialism”, and from what I have heard, the reactions of those students have ranged from extremely positive to extremely negative, with the majority seeming to be in the positive camp.

  32. David Rodger
    February 11, 2005 at 4:51 am

    Not to hijack the thread, but here’s the theory behind Charlemagne (Holy Roman Emperor ca. 800 AD).

    It is interesting to note that in patriarchal blessings, the lineage described is not necessarily genetic, but is the lineage through which the blessings will come.

  33. Mary
    February 11, 2005 at 9:05 am

    For a fictionalized account about a Native American boy living in a dorm and then being placed in a Mormon family, read, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, written by Brady Udall.

  34. ed
    February 11, 2005 at 10:59 am


    Thanks for posting the link about Charlemagne. Lehi lived about twice as long ago as Charlemagne, and Ephraim about three times as long ago, so the case is that much stronger that absolutely everyone on their respective continents is descended from them. I don’t know why people keep talking as if descent from Ephraim would be unlikely or uncommon (unless they’re talking about patrilineal descent only).

  35. annegb
    February 11, 2005 at 11:06 am

    I don’t think you can compare the foreign exchange program to the Indian placement program. Those kids from Europe are usually the rich sometimes spoiled kids who want to come to America. And they usually land in really cushy homes.

    They had a choice, I don’t think the Indian kids really did. Trust me on this guys, it’s pretty traumatic to be taken from your home, no matter how bad it is.

    But I wouldn’t call it genocide, either. It was a well-meant program that, in my opinion, should have been handled totally differently.

  36. Tammy
    February 11, 2005 at 11:28 am

    I think the program is very definitely a classic case of doing the wrong thing for the right reason. I think these were very well meaning people who helped many individual lifes. However, while many individuals were blessed from the Indian placement program and other similar efforts by other groups, the tribes as whole were undeniably hurt. Much of their rich culture was lost as they were encourage to assmilate. I wished we could have found a way to help them without taking them away from their heritage.

  37. February 11, 2005 at 1:37 pm

    Ed – the issue is what kind of descent. If one is 1/10000th Ephraim, what does that mean? Same with native Americans.

  38. February 11, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    I served for a good part of my mission in areas of high concentration of Native Americans. I was in Oklahoma, which does not have reservations, but even without that institution, the general lives led by these people was sad. The difference the gospel brought to them was amazing. The problems with alcoholism, teen pregnancy, drugs, and other things are very apparent, but they are some of the best people I’ve ever met.

    I don’t know much about the program, but any failure of it couldn’t be as bad as the failure that would have naturally happened if these children were left in their normal society, their normal upbringing.

  39. Christian Cardall
    February 11, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Clark, I thought we weren’t discussing this. ;) But since these issues are still being mentioned I’ll throw in another 2 cents: I remember seeing an article not long ago, I think in Nature or Science, claiming that within a surprisingly small number of generations (I don’t remember the number, maybe 100 or so) after a given individual, that individual has contributed to either everyone’s genetic makeup or nobody’s genetic makeup. Very nonlinear response or something.

    Given all these kinds of population statistics issues, I’m left scratching my head about the meaning of all this literal-sounding descent stuff in the scriptures (the D&C quote above in #27 is a choice example). My patriarchal blessing sounds completely literal—loins and all that. Does it mean anything to us? We seem to want to set it aside and be `uniters not dividers.’ Yet it seemed important to the Lord, at least once upon a time.

    Cryptic, Cagey, Coy, Coquettish Clark: The brief, Delphic statements that exude profound understanding. I, being slow, need a little more help seeing how to tie things together!

  40. ed
    February 11, 2005 at 4:46 pm


    I agree, I don’t know what it “means” to be 1/10000th Ephraim. But I do know that that person is still a “literal descendent of Ephraim” by the conventional defninitions of the words. Are you using some other definition? I have never heard any doctrines preached about what “percentage” ancestry is needed to qualify for blessings. (Although I’ve heard that perhaps Brigham Young and others taught that any level of “negro blood” disqualifies one for the priesthood. That would be a nonsensical idea, since we surely all have some “negro” ancestors.)

  41. A.Frost
    February 12, 2005 at 1:22 am

    My father’s family participated in the Indian Placement Program in Show Low, AZ. His first foster brother was caught stealing the underpants of the neighborhood women, and he was sent home. The second could not escape the alcoholism that her family suffered from and died of liver failure at the ripe age of 40.

    In my father’s opinion, the IP program was an example of a well-intended program that was disastrous for many Navajo children.

  42. Jaynee Doe
    February 12, 2005 at 3:27 am

    I agree with chab’s comment, #13: “I think the Indian placement program was a missionary program, dressed up as an education outreach. The education part was a noble idea, but lets not hide the fact the primary purpose was to convert lamanites to Mormonism.”

    I will go further and state my belief that it was a blatantly racist program. We can discuss the successes and failures all we want. We can discuss whether it was on the level of cultural genocide or not. We can say the intentions were good but the process bad.

    But why only the Native-American children?

    What other Church-sponsored program(s) placed non-Native-American children from poor convert families into the homes of wealthier Mormons in order to give them a better education? Certainly these poor, convert families existed.

    Just tonight I was reading “The Lamanite and the Gospel” and “A Changing World for Barry Begay” in President Kimball’s “Faith Precedes the Miracle.” (I swear I was—what a coincidence.)

    I was struck by President Kimball’s comprehensive understanding of how horrifically the European Americans had treated the Native Americans. I was touched by his love and compassion for them, which IMO transcended his religious beliefs regarding them. I was moved by his hope for their futures.

    However, I was disheartened at his belief that Barry Begay needed to go into a “fantastic new program” where “Barry may go to a far-away city and live in a good home, attend a superior school, and be given other advantages not afforded on the reservation.” Why couldn’t Barry have stayed home with his family and experienced growing up in the Church just like the poor, non-Native-America converts?

    I realize the proponents of the program did not realize how racist it was; nevertheless, it was racist. What other races were given the same “opportunity,” as a matter of policy, by the Church?


  43. David King Landrith
    February 12, 2005 at 10:19 am

    The notion of ethnic identity is rooted in jingoism. Nor does the introduction of cultural relativism mitigate its shortcomings. Whether it is used to bolster the position of the master race or the oppressed minority,it is a wrongheaded and harmful notion. And it’s perverse to label as racist those who do not pay homage to it.

  44. lenora enoah
    February 21, 2005 at 3:54 pm

    i am sam enoah’s sister and read ana’s story about my brother, sam. i just wanted to let you know that he never went to prison for murder. yes, he did have a problem with alcoholism; however, your conjectures are really just that, conjectures about my brother’s life.
    i am curious about “the destructive patterns” my family had for sam. i, too, grew up on the LDS Placement Program and i can certainly give you an earful of factual information instead of the theories that some of you have out there. i was on the program, in fact, for my entire childhood. please contact me ana as i do want to have you contact me, lenora enoah

  45. a.h.
    February 25, 2005 at 10:00 am

    Lenora – What was your experience with the IPP? Was it positive? How voluntary was it really?

  46. Darrell Watchman
    April 14, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    I grew up in northern Utah a BIA brat at Intermountain Indian School, Brigham City. I knoew IPP students and later at the Univ. of Utah, met more IP students from all over Utah. I’ve listened in interest to how the LDS families, communities converted young Native Americans to LDS. I worked for the LDS church in SLC during the late 1970s and gained much insight on the inner workings of the LDS church through my employment at the Deseret News Press at SLC, UT.

  47. Thomas P Henry
    May 15, 2005 at 4:28 am

    I had to laugh at some of the comments I read. How these poor children were “taken away” and that they would have a better home life if left alone. There was no home life. I have a sister, yes sister, who is Navajo, and she would cry when she had to go back to “home”, on the reservations. She children are my nices and nephews. She is my childrens aunt. She has taught our family as much as we have taught her. We were not a rich family, but we are a happy, strong family. I love the traditions that Roxanne taught my family and never was she told that her ways of life were evil. The do remember us talking about how we belived differently on some things, but alike a many. I’m gratiful for the program and for it’s giving me, another sister. I hated the end of school because it would be three months till we were a family again. Thank you IP for opening my life up to anothers view points and way of life.

  48. Donald L. Pine
    August 26, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    I had to add my two cents. I was on IPP from middle 1970’s -late 1980’s. I participated in the program from South Dakota.(SIOUX) I know that some of the participants had a negative experince but mine was just the opposite. My family treated me just like one of their own. They expected me to work on the farm, do household chores and to pray in family prayers, they never treated me as a slave or hired help. They expected me to behave in school and to do my best. They always praised my Lamanite heritage and said many times how much I blessed their lives. They also taught me that I needed to get an education so that I may return to the lamanite people someday and help them. I believe that IPP allowed me to experince a way of life that I would never have had stayed on the rez. I served a mission to Portugal, have degrees and have been sealed for time and eternity to a lovely fellow IPP participant who also served a mission to the Phillippines. All because of the IPP
    I currently teach school on the navajo indian reservation, just completed a Masters Degree in Education and serve a Lamanite Branch as the Branch President. these blessings have come as a result of the IPP. I believe that when Spencer W. Kimball created the IPP it was with the belief that someday our people would rise, get educated and be the leaders our people so badly need.The talents Heavenly Father has blessed me with are now being used to bless my Lamanite people. I believe I have met and will continue to meet what heavenly father expects from me.
    haven’t you ever thought that Heavenly Father would someday send down Lamanite Prophets in our day?LIke Samuel the Lamanite. (Believe me not all of the lords chosen are just anglo). And that he knew that those individuals would need to know how to walk in both worlds?(White and Indian)
    my four children are growing up in the church, in a home where alcohol and drugs are not prevelent where the priesthood resides and is honored. who knows maybe someday my children will sit in the highest councils of the church.

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