Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes : Making Space On The Nineteenth-Century Western Frontier
Salt Lake City, UT
University of Utah
Authors's abstract: 'This is a story of inter-ethnic and cross-cultural connections viewed through the lenses of power, space, and place. In the last half of the nineteenth century (1862-1905) the western frontier not only became a meeting ground for Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes, but a site of cultural negotiation. This dissertation explores the normative culture of the three groups as they attempted to construct economic, political, and spiritual spaces out of the same geographic place. In 1862 Mormon ranchers moved into centuries-old Paiute space and altered its meaning. Anglo-American miners also flooded into the region and founded Pioche, Nevada, an 1870s mining boomtown. A crash of cultures quickly came to redefine the area, as shifting relationships of power, both nationally and locally, attempted to untangle the collision. The U.S. Congress exercised its power in an effort to shore up Nevada's mining frontier, while it simultaneously sought solutions to the Mormon Question and the Indian Problem. Federal intervention notwithstanding, the three groups fashioned their own space, independent of political boundaries and reservation borders that attempted to keep them separate. Mormons, miners, and Paiutes, each relied upon distinct world views as they defined and defended their ground. The Mormons and Paiutes held world views similarly religious in nature, both of which included overarching visions of themselves as chosen by their gods. The miners, on the other hand, held a world view shaped by nationalism and the western myth of mineral abundance, and they developed little long term connection to the land. A hierarchy of power soon emerged that disentangled the three groups according to each one's conformity to prevailing standards of Americanism. On a local level this hierarchy framed interactions between the groups and shaped their prejudices. The frontier proved a bewildering mixing ground of peoples, places, and values that forced Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes to sort out their own identity and find meaning in the mess.'