Native American Extermination Order

What was the Native American Extermination Order?

The "extermination order" was an order issued by Brigham Young[BIO] through Daniel H. Wells,[BIO] on January 31, 1850, to stop “the operations of all hostile Indians and otherwise act as the Circumstances may require, exterminating such, as do not separate themselves from their hostile Clans, and sue for peace."[1]

An 1852 illustration of Fort Utah, present day Provo, as it looked around the time of the order.

Timeline

1847

The first company of Pioneers arrives in the Salt Lake Valley.[2]

February 1849

Little Chief[BIO] of the Ute tribe asks Latter-day Saints to intervene in an inter-tribal feud by killing a rival group of Utes.[3] The Saints take no action.[4]

March 1849

Brigham Young sends John S. Higbee[BIO] and thirty families south of the Salt Lake valley to start a settlement.[5]

March 1849

Interpreter Dimick Huntington[BIO] from the Higbee group reportedly swears an oath to the Timpanogas natives that the Saints would not infringe upon their land or rights.[6]

April 12, 1849

Isaac Higbee[BIO] reports to Brigham Young on the general peace between the settlers and the natives. He describes a skirmish between the Goshute tribe and Utes.[7]

April 18, 1849

Brigham Young advises Utah Valley Saints to be "vigilant" with self-defense with the indigenous groups but to also focus on "teach[ing] them to raise grain" and "order[ing] them to quit stealing."[8]

October 15, 1849

Isaac Higbee[BIO] again requests advice from Brigham Young regarding how to work with the Indians in Utah Valley.[9]

January 8, 1850

Brigham Young advises Utah Valley Saints that "there is no necessity" for "warring with the Indians and killing them."[10]

January 31, 1850

Brigham Young holds a council meeting regarding the attacks from Indians; Parley P. Pratt[BIO] urges "extermination," and Young calls for an expedition to "go and kill them." A war council votes to sustain Young's action.[11]

January 31, 1850

Daniel H. Wells[BIO] orders an expedition to "exterminate" all "hostile" Native Americans in Utah Valley that are unwilling to sue for peace.[12]

February 4, 1850

Major Howard Stansbury[BIO] of the United States Army "wish[es] [Brigham Young] every success in the expedition."[13]

February 13, 1850

Brigham Young sends a note to General James Little,[BIO] who was then fighting in Utah Valley, wishing him "all the success and prosperity in [his] campaign, and a safe return when it is over."[14]

February 18, 1850

Daniel H. Wells issues an order directing officials to "exterminate" all natives that will not agree to "sue for peace."[15]

February 1850

Daniel H. Wells reports to Brigham Young his success in expelling Indians from Peteetneet River (Creek) area in Payson Canyon.[16]

February 28, 1850

Brigham Young explains to Orson Hyde that the "Utah Lake Indians" had "killed many of our brethren's cattle" and "shot at the brethren at Utah" until "self-defense demanded immediate action."[17]

July 11, 1851

Over a year after the extermination order, Brigham Young advises Captain Lorin Farr[BIO] to "suffer the loss of a few horses than to slay an Indian" and to avoid violence.[18]

Why did Brigham give the extermination order?

In a February 28, 1850 letter, Brigham Young explained that he ordered the militia to attack hostile Native Americans[19] because they had fired rifles at settlers and killed livestock.[20][21]

Brigham appealed to the United States military stationed at Fort Hall, Idaho, for help, but because of the distance and depth of the snow, Brigham was advised[22] to send the local militia accompanied by U.S. Officers.[23]

Before this order (and after), Brigham encouraged peace and restraint.[24]

What was the result of the order?

The militia[25] fought with natives armed with rifles and bows[26] in the "Provo Bottoms"[27] and Payson Canyon.[28] About two dozen native combatants were killed in the Provo battle and at least one militia member was killed and several wounded.[29]

Native women and children were also brought to Salt Lake City, housed and fed for the winter, and returned to their lands in the spring.[30] Daniel Wells reported that Utah Valley was peaceful for two years afterward.[31]

Was this meant to be an extermination or genocide?

No, probably not. The order resulted in two brief battles with relatively few causalities and prisoners were housed and fed and returned to their lands.[32]

The order used the word "exterminate" in this context: "Cooperate with the inhabitants of said valley in quelling and staying the operations of all hostile Indians and otherwise act as the circumstances may require exterminating such, as do not separate themselves from their hostile clans and sue for peace."[33]

So, maybe he didn’t order a mass killing, but Brigham Young was racist toward indigenous Americans, wasn’t he?

Yes, though his views seemed to generally reflect condescension and paternalism rather than hatred.[34] Brigham Young believed that indigenous Americans came from a common ancestry dating back to the Book of Mormon.[35]

Relations varied from tribe to tribe: Young developed a friendly relationship with the Shoshone,[36] even as hostilities developed among the Ute Tribes.[37]

What guidance did Brigham Young give people on how to interact with the Native Americans?

Brigham Young generally advocated for peaceful co-existence[38] and considered peace with Indians to be “hundreds and thousands of dollars cheaper” than warfare.[39]  

When Utah Valley residents complained to Brigham about the thefts,[40] he directed them to avoid, where possible, violent conflicts with the Indians.[41] Later, after a conflict between the settlers and the local indigenous groups,[42] Brigham also requested that the Saints "restore them their property, and make ample satisfaction of killing one of their tribe." [43]

How did Brigham's policy of peace work out in practice?

While Young urged moderation,[44] settlers faced ongoing conflicts,[45] so he deployed the Territorial militia under circumstances that seemed unsolvable by diplomacy.[46]

Did Latter-day Saints ever ally themselves with Indigenous groups against other white Americans?

Sometimes. Paiute Indians[BIO] allied with Latter-day Saints in the southern Utah settlements during the Utah War (1857) against U.S. federal troops.[47] A missionary to the Paiute Indians described them as the “battle ax of the Lord.”[48]

Did Church leaders meddle in native American politics?

Occasionally. For example, in the early 1850s, Commander Daniel H. Wells instructed "hostile" Utes to obey Black Hawk,[BIO] knowing that he was collaborating with Church leaders.[49]

In another example, Kanosh (sometimes spelled "Kenosh"),[BIO] the chief of Pahvants, joined the Church[50] and collaborated with Church leaders in Utah.[51]

Did the Church ever apologize or acknowledge its role in these conflicts?

Somewhat. Church Historian, Elder Marlin K. Jensen[BIO] urged Utahans to “acknowledge and appreciate the monumental loss” Utah’s native American populations have experienced.[52] However, the Church has not released an official apology for the clashes between the indigenous groups and the settlers.

Some People Say . . .

"Native Americans are the Lamanites and are the chosen people of the Lord. We should love and support them."

— overheard in Sunday School

The Facts

  • Brigham Young initially advised the Saints to have peaceful relations with the native tribes in Utah Valley.

  • Mormon settlers reported attacks and theft of livestock from Native Americans.

  • Eventually, Brigham Young ordered the militia to kill hostile natives in Utah Valley.

  • About two dozen natives were killed in the conflict.

  • There was general peace in Utah Valley for two years after the conflict.

  • After the 1850 conflict, Brigham resumed his advocacy for peaceful interactions and tolerance for Native groups.

Our Take

Conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans can conjure up thoughts of the forced dispossession, genocide, and racism that often took place in early U.S. history. Learning that early Saints had an “extermination order” for Native Americans in Utah Valley during this time can be similarly distressing. Shouldn’t members of the Church have been compassionate and peaceful? Why would Saints want to “exterminate” God’s children?

Like other settlers, the relocation of the Saints to Native lands caused a displacement of Indigenous groups. When the Saints first arrived in Utah Valley (modern Utah County), Brigham Young and the Saints made efforts to maintain peace with Native Americans for both economic and religious reasons. However, the arrival of the Saints in Utah Valley resulted in tension, violence, and eventually an order by Brigham to “go and kill them.”

In Brigham's January 1850 order, he used the word “extermination.” Brigham seems to have applied this language narrowly, to those “hostile clans” who would not accept a “sue for peace.” Both in word and in practice, this conflict does not appear to be an effort to commit genocide.

Brigham's order shows the extremes of the relationship between the Saints and Utah Native Americans throughout the 1850s. Episodes of tension and violence punctuated seasons of diplomacy and trade. Some tribes allied themselves with the Saints, while others did not. Some tribal leaders even joined the Church.

Understanding the context surrounding these conflicts, including the use of the word “extermination,” does not exonerate Saints of wrongdoing. Understanding this history is our responsibility, as well as what we do with that understanding—expressing love, compassion, and respect for all God’s children.

What's Your Take?

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These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Riley
    Everyone is unique and different in their own way. Some can reasoned with while others cannot. Some things are beyond anybody's control. All we can do is look at the past to better reform and sculpt our future.
Footnotes
  • BIOBrigham Young

    Brigham Young (1801-1877) was born in Whitingham, Vermont. He served as the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a successor to Joseph Smith. Brigham Young joined the faith in his twenties after two years of deliberation. He became the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles following the fractionalization of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio. After Joseph Smith's martyrdom in 1844, Young assumed the presidency and led the Latter-day Saints to settle in the Great Basin region. He was married to 55 women and fathered 59 children from 16 of his wives. He also served as the Territorial Governor for Utah Territory until 1857 and served as the prophet until his death.

  • BIODaniel H. Wells

    Daniel Wells (1814–1891) settled in Commerce, Illinois, before it later became Nauvoo. Prior to becoming a member of the Church in 1848, Wells provided the land for the temple and served as an alderman and justice of the peace, as well as a commissary general in the Nauvoo Legion. In 1857, Brigham Young appointed Wells as the second counselor in the First Presidency. He also served as a member of the territorial legislature and mayor of Salt Lake City from 1866 to 1876.

  • BIOLittle Chief

    Little Chief (d. 1849) was a leader of the Timpanogas Utes and allied himself with Brigham Young against other bands of Utes. In 1849, he was killed by Wanship as revenge for the death of his son.

  • BIOJohn S. Higbee

    John S. Higbee (ca. 1804–1877) was born in Clermont County, Ohio. He was a cabinet maker by profession. He was baptized in May of 1831 in Ohio, and then moved to Jackson County and eventually Nauvoo, Illinois. He served as a bishop in Nauvoo. He migrated to the Great Basin with the first wave of Latter-day Saints in 1847 and was among the first Latter-day Saint settlers to live in the Utah Valley. Higbee was later a key participant in the Mountain Meadows Massacre against the Fancher-Baker Party.

  • BIODimick Huntington

    Dimick Huntington (1808-1879) served in the Mormon Battalion and as a leading interpreter between Church members and indigenous groups throughout Utah. He engaged in extensive missionary work among tribes throughout the Utah territory.

  • BIOIsaac Higbee

    Isaac Higbee (1797-1874) was born in New Jersey and moved to Ohio. He married Keziah String in 1819 and was baptized in May of 1832. Higbee was ordained by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo to be the Bishop of the Second Ward. He traveled to the Utah Territory in 1848 and presided over the Saints in Utah Valley as stake president and as a probate judge.

  • BIOParley P. Pratt

    Parley Parker Pratt (1807–1857) was born in Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. He joined Sidney Rigdon's congregation (Campbellites) in 1829 and was baptized into the Church in 1830. He served as an early apostle in the Church. He served as a missionary in the United States and abroad. He was a writer, editor, poet, publisher, teacher, and legislator. He also explored and surveyed what is now known as Parley's Canyon. In 1857, Hector McLean, the former husband of Pratt's plural wife, Eleanor McLean, killed him while Pratt was serving a mission in Arkansas.

  • BIOHoward Stansbury

    Howard Stansbury (1806–1863) was an American major who collaborated with Utah Latter-day Saints in their expedition against Ute indigenous groups in 1850. He became a captain for the exploration and survey of the Salt Lake valley.

  • BIOJames Little

    James A. Little (1822–1850) was Brigham Young's nephew and a member of the United States military. In 1850, he helped to oversee the "extermination order" against indigenous groups in Utah.

  • BIOLorin Farr

    Lorin Farr (1820–1909) was born in Waterford, Vermont. He joined the Church at age 11, and his family moved to Ohio, then Missouri, and eventually to Salt Lake City. Farr became the first mayor of Ogden and served as a member of the Utah Territorial Legislature. In 1870-1871, he served a mission in the British Isles.

  • BIOPaiute Indian Tribe of Utah

    The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is part of the Southern Paiutes which are a Native American people inhabiting the Great Basin. They speak a Numic language. During the 19th century the Paiutes lived in bands consisting of several families. These bands lived in different geographical territories throughout Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. Some practiced farming in addition to hunting and gathering. The Paiutes generally traveled by foot instead of by horse. The Paiutes suffered from land and water issues ever since contact with white settlers.

  • BIOAntonga Black Hawk

    Antonga Black Hawk (c. 1824–1870) was born in Summit Creek, Utah. Black Hawk was the leader of a small band of Northern Utes, possibly as early as 1847. In 1850, he served as a scout for Mormon settlers during the Fort Utah campaign and massacre. During the 1860s, he led attacks on mail routes. Tensions between Utes and Mormon settlers worsened in 1865 leading to the Utah Black Hawk War which lasted until 1872. In August 1867, Black Hawk surrendered and died in Summit Creek in 1870.

  • BIOKanosh

    Kanosh (d. 1884), was a leader of the Pahvant Ute band. Kanosh's policy was to avoid conflict with white people. In 1853, he turned over some of his band who were involved in the Gunnison massacre. Kanosh took up farming. He was baptized and ordained an elder in 1858. In 1877, Kanosh married Sally, a Native American raised in Brigham Young's household. In 1872, Kanosh was among the Ute leaders who met President Grant in Washington.

  • BIOMarlin K. Jensen

    Marlin K. Jensen (1942–) is an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He was sustained in 1989. He also served as the official Church Historian and Recorder from 2002 to 2012.

  • Wells wrote that Scott should engage in "quilling and staying the operations of all hostile Indians" in his Special Order #3 to John Scott on January 31, 1850.

    Wells also issued private orders to both John Scott and George D. Grant, imploring them to exercise

    every principle of humanity compatible with the laws of war and see that no violence is permitted to women and Children unless the same shall be demanded by attendant circumstances. The Utah Indians have been notified repeatedly of the consequences that would ensue to them if they did not cease to molest the white inhabitants and their herds. You will therefore <proceed against> them without further apprisal or notice and execute your orders.
  • Wilford Woodruff recorded Brigham Young's desire, reflected in a July 28, 1847 sermon, to interact with and convert the indigenous peoples immediately after their arrival in the Valley:

    Our people would be connected with every tribe of Indians throughout Americas & that our people would yet take their [sic] squaws wash & dress them up teach them our language. . . & learn them the gospel of there forefathers & raise up children by tham & teach the children & not many generations hence they will become A white & delightsome people & in no other way will it be done.
  • When Oliver B. Huntington was traveling through the Utah Valley in February 1849, he had a conversation with a local chief. Huntington summarized the conversation:

    [He] said "if the big captain does not kill them I will, but it will look better for you to kill your own enemies. If they are not killed now, they will soon get more men to stealing cattle and then you will come up and kill me, my men, women and children." "Tell the big ' Yabaloo Captain (white captain) to come up and kill them mean Ewtes." These particulars he told us through "Parbeleau" the half Ewte and Spaniard.
  • In early 1849, Brigham Young wanted the settlers to privilege peaceful interactions with the Indians than armed conflict. For example, in an April 1849 letter to Isaac Higbee, he wrote:

    If Elk should come to you & want to make peace, do not give them any present-but if they will be friendly, teach them to raise grain & order them to quit stealing. Your friend & brother Brigham Young.
  • The "History of Provo City," published in Tullidge's Quarterly Magazine (July 1884), recorded:

    Early in March, 1849, the first colony sent south of Great Salt Lake County set out under John S. Higbee to found Provo City. It consisted of about thirty families, numbering in all nearly 150 souls. They brought implements, provisions and seed, with about forty teams, their live stock consisting mostly of oxen and cows, with a very few horses. They were three days reaching their destination.
  • According to nineteenth-century Utah chronicler Edward Tullidge:

    [Dimick Huntington] was made to raise his right hand and swear by the sun that they would not drive the Indians from their lands, nor take away their rights. This being done the new settlers were permitted to advance.
  • Isaac Higbee described the violence:

    Since we have been here we have enjoyed health and peace among ourselves and peace with our neighbors the Indians. . .Little Chief is situated about 1/2 mile below us on the Creek and this morning about breakfast time we heard the firing of guns in that direction and soon found they had been attacked by One Ship and Goship's band the result of the battle was that Little Chiefs son got shot through the arm theey [sic] killed two horses and wounded two men and drove off all their horses and one or two of ours.
  • Brigham Young recommended a variety of self-defense measures but considered education and firm diplomacy to be the priority. He wrote to John S. Higbee regarding the Indian difficulties:

    We hasten to advise you to complete your fort with the very least possible delay, and never be caught away from your farm, and while you are building your fort, have your guns and ammunition fast by your side, and as quick as you can hoist your cannon to the top of your fort. . . If Elk should come to you & want to make peace, do not give them any present-but if they will be friendly, teach them to raise grain & order them to quit stealing.
  • Isaac Higbee described the attacks and "wish[ed] council" from Brigham Young "respecting the course we shall take":

    They have been troublesome a few weeks past they shot at Brother Nowland & Thomas about two weeks since while at work in the field last week they shot at James Ivie while passing near their camp early on wensday morning last we told two of the indians that we were mad at them because they shot at our men and stole our corn . . . some of them say that we are affraid of them and that they intend to kill the men and take the women themselves &c.
  • Brigham Young encouraged the Utah Valley settler community to stand down from attacking the local Indian population:

    As to the idea of warring with the Indians and killing them there is no necessity for it if you act wisely, and if you do kill them, you do it at your own risk.
  • By the end of the January 31 meeting, Brigham Young's views had changed substantially. John Higbee described the attacks from the Native Americans to Church leadership.

    In response, Parley P. Pratt said, "my voice is for war, exterminate them." Brigham Young followed up to Pratt's recommendation: "I say go & kill them."

    All leaders attending the meeting raised their hands in agreement.

  • On the same day as the January 31 meeting, Wells issued an order to General John Scott that he raise an army for the purposes of "quilling [sic] and staying the operations of all hostile Indians and otherwise act as the Circumstances may require, exterminating such, as do not separate themselves from their hostile Clans, and sue for peace."

  • Major Howard Stansbury of the United States military provided full moral and, to some extent, logistical support to the Utah Valley. Stansbury had been stationed in the Utah Valley as a part of the post-Mexico War American military occupation. He said:

    Should there be anything else at this late hour may occur to you I hope you will not hesitate to apply to me for it & should it be in my power, it shall be at your disposal.
  • Brigham Young supported the campaign and requested that Little would keep full records of those who participated. Young wrote to Little:

    We wish you to keep and preserve, a full and perfect muster roll of all the men under your command and of all who have been engaged from the beginning of the campaign . . . showing who has been engaged in the service, and how long, and keep a daily record of how each man does his duty &c. We also wish you to keep a daily history of all your proceedings and operations, as the same may be useful in times to come. We are expecting to hear from you again sometime during the day, and calculate to forward and then dispatch to you tomorrow evening. Wishing you all the success and prosperity in your campaign, and a safe return when it is over, we have the honour to remain as ever yours &c.
  • Wells articulated the wartime policy in firm terms. He informed officers:

    If they shall come in and sue for peace Grant it to them. If not pursue and slay them whenever they can be found. Let it be with them, "Extermination or Peace."
  • At some point after the order, Daniel H. Wells reported on the expedition's activities in fighting indigenous groups surrounding Utah Lake:

    Capt. Lamoreaux succeeded in destroying the Indians that were found on the Petetneet none of his men receiving any injury the Indians are [getting badly] used up and badly frighten. and we think they will be willing to behave themselves hereafter.
  • Brigham Young explained that the Extermination Order developed in response to Indian attacks. He told Orson Hyde:

    The Utah Lake Indians have been very hostile, killed many scores of the brethrens's cattle and threatened waylaid and shot at the brethren at Utah until self defense demanded immediate action. The case was stated to Capt. Stansbury of the Corps of United States Engineers stationed at this place also to such offices of the United States army, stationed at Ft. Hall, as happened to be here, and they also agreed that it was necessary that the Indians should be whipped and corrected, and that it belonged to the United States troops at Fort Hall to do it but the snow was so deep that those troops could not be come at, therefore it was necessary for the citizens to proceed against the Indians, which they did accompanied by some of the United States Officers.
  • The conflicts in Utah Valley continued long after the extermination order, but Young reverted to his earlier position of restraint:

    In regard to policy, whether it is better to suffer the loss of a few horses than to slay an Indian, who has all his life been taught that it is the sure way to advancement to steal. . .Tis true there may be some among them who will not listen but will steal, now what if they should? . . . do not the people all know that it is cheaper by far, yes hundreds and thousands of dollars to pay such losses than raise an expedition at this season of the year.
  • The indigenous communities of the Utah Valley area consisted primarily of Shoshone, Ute [Timpanogos], and Paiute Indians.

  • Brigham Young explained that the Extermination Order developed in response to Indian attacks. He wrote to Orson Hyde:

    The Utah Lake Indians have been very hostile, killed many scores of the brethrens's cattle and threatened waylaid and shot at the brethren at Utah until self defense demanded immediate action.

    Isaac Higbee reported to Young that "they continue to steal our corn and are saucy and some of them say that we are affraid of them and that they intend to kill the men and take the women themselves &c."

  • During the minutes of the January 31, 1850 meeting that would lead to the issuing of the Extermination Order, John S. Higbee recalled various violent actions against the settlers by the Indians:

    The Indians r continually unfriendly killing our cattle & stealing horses we have lost between 50, 60 head. . . . they want to fight & will live on our cattle they say they mean to keep our cattle & got & get the other Indians to kill us.

    As a result of this, Brigham gave the order.

  • Howard Stansbury, a U.S. military official involved in the planning of the order, recalled:

    The president [Brigham Young] was at first extremely averse to the adoption of harsh measures; but, after several conciliatory overtures had been resorted to in vain, he very properly determined to put a stop, by force, to further aggressions, which, if not resisted, could only end in the destruction of the colony.
  • Brigham Young recalled:

    The case was stated to Capt. Stansbury of the Corps of United States Engineers stationed at this place also to such offices of the United States army, stationed at Ft. Hall, as happened to be here, and they also agreed that it was necessary that the Indians should be whipped and corrected, and that it belonged to the United States troops at Fort Hall to do it but the snow was so deep that those troops could not be come at, therefore it was necessary for the citizens to proceed against the Indians, which they did accompanied by some of the United States Officers.
  • Brigham Young told one disturbed Utah Valley settler in 1850:

    As to the idea of warring with the Indians and killing them there is no necessity for it if you act wisely, and if you do kill them, you do it at your own risk.

    The year after the conflict, in a letter to Lorin Farr, July 11, 1851, Brigham Young wrote:

    .Do not the people all know that it is cheaper by far, yes hundreds and thousands of dollars to pay such losses than raise an expedition at this season of the year, to fight Indians.
  • The militia was made up of members of the Nauvoo Legion and residents of Utah and was led by Captain George Howland.

  • In his 1884 autobiography, Daniel H. Wells recalled:

    Indians had guns as well as bows and arrows. Before I went down they had improvised a battery and put in on truck wheels which could be shoved along before them to protect them from the Indians' fire, because the Indians would pick them off from under their cover.
  • The militia kept a journal for the expedition and on February 20, 1850, recorded:

    To day preperations were made to send a company of ^180^ men against the Indians in Utah Valley who have been committing depredations on the Inhabitants in that vicinity for some time past at about half past two.
  • Daniel H. Wells reported:

    Capt. Lamoreaux succeeded in destroying the Indians that were found on the Petetneet none of his men receiving any injury the Indians are [getting badly] used up and badly frighten. and we think they will be willing to behave themselves hereafter.
  • In a letter dated the following day (February 21, 1850), Isaac Morley wrote to David Fullmer, informing him that "there was twenty two or three Indians killed and the main body of Indians that was left here retreated in an Cannon [?] in east mountain . . . "

    Morley also reported that one militia member died, some were severely wounded, and the death of some horses.

    Daniel H. Wells reported that "During the whole expedition 27 warriors were killed."

  • In his 1884 autobiography, Daniel H. Wells provided the following account:

    During the whole expedition 27 warriors were killed. Their squaws, with their papooses and children, as is usual with them, threw themselves upon the victorious party for protection and support; we brought them to the city, fed and took care of them until spring when they ran back to their Indian camps.
  • Wells noted in his biography:

    We had peace for some time after that. Our policy was to conciliate the Indians all the time.—No trouble between 1850 and 52.
  • Daniel H. Wells wrote a summary of the operation in his 1884 biography.

  • The order was issued on January 31, 1850, by Daniel Wells who was acting as the Major General of the Nauvoo Legion.

  • Brigham Young considered Latter-day Saints to be particular stewards over indigenous American salvation. For example, shortly after arriving in Utah in 1847, Young observed:

    Our people would be connected with every tribe of Indians throughout Americas & that our people would yet take their [sic] squaws wash & dress them up teach them our language. . . & learn them the gospel of there forefathers & raise up children by tham & teach the children & not many generations hence they will become A white & delightsome people & in no other way will it be done

    And in the minutes to a meeting held May 22, 1850, with native leaders, Brigham was recorded as saying:

    Tell him the Great Spirit loves them, and will bring them to the knowledge of the truth. It makes me feel bad to have to fight and hope I shall have no more of it. . .We want you to learn to raise grain and cattle and not have to go and hunt and be exposed to other Indians, but build house, raise grain, and be happy as we are.
  • Historically, Latter-day Saints have considered indigenous Americans to be members of the House of Israel and descendants of Book of Mormon people.

  • In 1851, Young told the Utah Valley settlers:

    In all of our intercourse with the snake [Shoshone] Indians, they have shown themselves friendly. the very moment our trains entered their country they have always felt safe, and it is believed that the nation at large are decidedly friendly.
  • Some of these hostilities developed at the behest of other local tribal entities. Oliver B. Huntington reported how Little Chief requested Latter-day Saints to kill "Ewtes" (Utes) and asked for "the big ' Yabaloo Captain (white captain) to come up and kill them mean Ewtes."

  • Even after the extermination order, Brigham Young continued to urge moderation. He told Captain Lorin Farr:

    Whether it is better to suffer the inconvenience of guarding and watching property, and thereby preserving it from the depredations of Indians or by neglect and inattention to their own interest, throw temptation in the way of the ignorant Indians, and then pursuing them, slay them, and take their property in retaliation not knowing even to any certainty whether they are the guilty ones or peradventure it may bay some others. I hate to be compelled to think of such things.
  • In a letter to John S. Higbee, April 18, 1849, Brigham suggested "teach[ing] them to raise grain & order them to quit stealing."

    Three weeks before the extermination order, in a letter to the Brethren in Utah Valley, January 8, 1850, Brigham told the settlers that "there is no necessity for it if you act wisely, and if you do kill them, you do it at your own risk."

    The year after the conflict, in a letter to Lorin Farr, July 11, 1851, Brigham Young wrote:

    Do not the people all know that it is cheaper by far, yes hundreds and thousands of dollars to pay such losses than raise an expedition at this season of the year, to fight Indians.
  • In October 1849, Isaac Higbee reported "Last week they shot at James Ivie while passing near their camp" and added Higbee previously told "two of the indians that we were mad at them because they shot at our men and stole our corn."

    While noting the Indians would later inform them they wanted to live in peace, Higbee continued:

    They continue to steal our corn and are saucy and some of them say that we are affraid of them and that they intend to kill the men and take the women themselves &c.

    In his journal for February 1849, Oliver B. Huntington recorded Little Chief warning the settlers that the Utes would "not near him and stop stealing the Mormons cattle" and "If they are not killed now, they will soon get more men to stealing cattle . . . "

  • In a letter dated January 8, 1850, Brigham wrote to Saints in the Utah valley, telling them:

    As to the idea of warring with the Indians and killing them there is no necessity for it if you act wisely, and if you do kill them, you do it at your own risk.
  • In a letter dated July 8, 1851, Lorin Farr informed Brigham Young of possible instances of Indians stealing horses from the settlers. He wrote:

    There has been some disturbance here of late by the Indians and as many false reports might to abroad concerning the matters I thought it would not be amiss to write a few lines to you letting you know concerning the matters. There had been give of our best horses and one colt stolen by the Indians, whether it be by the snakes or Yes we have not as yet determined. The horses were taken at three different times.
  • In July 1851, Brigham Young instructed Captain Lorin Farr, following an armed conflict with the Indians, to avoid violent retribution, and instead instructed:

    I would say raise a company of fifty men, take sufficient quantity of provisions, and the Indians horses which were brought in, and return, and seek out the Indians, restore them their property, and make ample satisfaction of killing one of their tribe, give them some presents, and explain to them how it happened, tell them that you did not intend killing him, and would not only to save your own lives
  • In his letter to John S. Higbee dated April 18, 1849, Brigham Young, while warning Higbee about Indian attacks, urged him and his community to "teach them to raise grain & order them to quit stealing."

    In a letter dated January 8, 1850, only weeks before the Extermination Order was issued, Brigham, to the Brethren in Utah Valley, wrote:

    As to the idea of warring with the Indians and killing them there is no necessity for it if you act wisely, and if you do kill them, you do it at your own risk.
  • In the minutes for the meeting held January 31, 1850 (which would lead to the decision to issue the Extermination Order), John S. Higbee gave his account:

    the Indians r continually unfriendly killing our cattle & stealing horses we have lost between 50, 60 head. they cannot sustain themselves there. we drive our cattle down in the morning & bring them up at night. The Indians fired their guns at our boys & they found one [illeg] with 4 arrows another with a tomahawk in it they say the Mormons are no [illeg] they want to fight & will live on our cattle they say they mean to keep our cattle & got & get the other Indians to kill us.
  • For example, in 1853, as Shoshone were engaging in a slave-raiding expedition, Brigham Young, then the territorial governor, sent a band of troops to the southern settlements. Young warned:

    If [Wakara] becomes hostile, and wishes to commit depredations upon the persons or property of this people, he shall be wiped out of existence, and every man that will follow him. This is my calculation, and I wish you to be ready for it.

    Troop presence inflamed indigenous hostilities, leading to a series of deaths throughout the Southern settlements, both among Native Americans and the Latter-day Saint settlers.

  • In the September 1857 massacre at Mountain Meadows, Paiute Indians collaborated with Latter-day Saints to attack a company of migrants traveling through Utah, serving as the front attackers with Latter-day Saint organizers directing them.

  • David Lewis, a missionary to the Paiute, said:

    The second time I heard a Mormon preach, he declared holding up a book of Mormon, that this was a record of the red men, and of God's dealing with their fathers, and that one day we should carry this work to the Indians, ande are now living among them, and to teach htem of this work. We must treat them like children by degrees, to quit their savage customs. Shall we have no opportunities? We shall. no conquest without a struggle, no victory without a fight. Be diligent, faithful and patient, and the Lord will reward you when you have been proved. Ephraim is the battle ax of the Lord. May we not have been sent to learn and know how to use this ax with skill?
  • Wells wrote regarding the Utes in Utah Valley:

    The friendly Indian Black Hawk must be their chief and they must obey him. If they will do this we will return them their horses and become again their friends.

    In another letter to Higbee and Conners, March 21, 1850, Wells wrote of Black Hawk's role in distributing horses to the Indians:

    We send the Indian horses. We took from them by Gosephim to Chief Black Hawk at your place to deliver them to the [illeg] on their nearest relatives living. We visit you to see that every thing is done up right . We want to show the Indians that we are their friends and not their enemies.
  • The Utah History Encyclopedia entry under "Kanosh" recorded:

    In 1858 Kanosh was baptized a Mormon and he occasionally preached from Mormon pulpits, including the following: "I wish to do right and have my people do right. I do not want them to steal nor kill. I want to plant and raise wheat and learn to plow. . . . I want to learn to read and write and have my children learn."
  • The Utah History Encyclopedia entry for "Kanosh" recorded how Kanosh "was involved in the negotiations of the 1865 Spanish Fork treaty in which Utes agreed to move to the Uinta Basin."

    Then, in 1872, he and his followers gathered in the Sanpete area and noted:

    Kanosh also attended a council at Springville and joined in the complaints to federal officials and Mormon Church leaders about conditions at the Uinta reservation. That fall federal officials sent a group of Ute leaders to Washington, D.C., to negotiation peace and further land cessions in Colorado.

    In January 1856, Kenosh spoke before the Territorial Legislature on behalf of Brigham Young and the Church.

  • At the 2010 Days of '47 Sunrise Service in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Elder Jensen sympathized with Utah's indigenous populations, saying, "Resources the Indians had relied on for generations diminished, and in time they felt forced to fight for their own survival."