Contested Space : Mormons, Navajos, and Hopis in the Colonization of Tuba City
Brigham Young University, Department of History
M.A. Brigham Young University. Dept. of History 2010
When Mormons arrived in northern Arizona among the Navajo and Hopi Indians in the late 1850s, Mormon-Indian relations were initially friendly. It was not too long, however, before trouble began in conflicts over water use and land rights. Federal agents would soon consider their land claims. Indian agents relentlessly pleaded with Washington to establish a separate Indian reservation. They anticipated this reservation would satisfy all three parties, but its creation in 1882 only created more problems, climaxing in the 1892 death of Lot Smith at the hands of Atsidí, the local Navajo headman. Tensions continued to increase until federal agents intervened in 1900 and placed Tuba City under a Presidential Executive Order. The order withdrew Tuba City from white claims and resulted in the expulsion of the Mormons from Tuba City in 1903. My contribution is to show how the Navajo and Hopi Indians may have considered the coming of the Mormons as an invasion by a group of foreigners which led to the resulting contest between the trios for the limited natural resources of the northern Arizona desert. Tuba City/Moenkopi has a complicated history and its origins remain contested because it was claimed not only by Mormons, but also by the Navajos and Hopi. Previous historians have neglected the wealth of history that come from using Native American oral histories. This thesis will include the Native point of view but will also integrate it with Mormon and non-Mormon narratives. Doing so will provide another perspective on some of the foloowing: the founding of Tuba City, the creation of the 1882 and 1900 Executive Orders for Navajo and Hopi reservation expansions, the death of the Mormon Lot Smith, and Native American-Mormon relations in the late 1800s in northern Arizona.