On Zion's Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape

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Overview

Shrouded in the lore of legendary Indians, Mt. Timpanogos beckons the urban populace of Utah. And yet, no “Indian” legend graced the mount until Mormon settlers conjured it—once they had displaced the local Indians, the Utes, from their actual landmark, Utah Lake. On Zion’s Mount tells the story of this curious shift. It is a quintessentially American story about the fraught process of making oneself “native” in a strange land. But it is also a complex tale of how cultures confer meaning on the environment—how they create homelands.

Only in Utah did Euro-American settlers conceive of having a homeland in the Native American sense—an endemic spiritual geography. They called it “Zion.” Mormonism, a religion indigenous to the United States, originally embraced Indians as “Lamanites,” or spiritual kin. On Zion’s Mount shows how, paradoxically, the Mormons created their homeland at the expense of the local Indians—and how they expressed their sense of belonging by investing Timpanogos with “Indian” meaning.

This same pattern was repeated across the United States. Jared Farmer reveals how settlers and their descendants (the new natives) bestowed “Indian” place names and recited pseudo-Indian legends about those places—cultural acts that still affect the way we think about American Indians and American landscapes.

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Editorial Reviews

Salt Lake Tribune

On Zion’s Mount is a well-researched, thoughtful exploration of how landscape is produced by societies as a result of certain historical conditions. The book deserves praise for challenging memories that are built on first forgetting.
— Tom Harvey

Choice

This is not a conventional history of Mormon-Indian relations during the second half of the 19th century. Rather, Farmer offers an intellectual interpretation of the Utah Valley and its most identifiable landmark—Mount Timpanogos, which towers above Provo and Orem. He also explains how white people (mostly Mormons) created pseudo-Indian legends that strengthened white claims while reducing the indigenous Ute attachment to the landscape...[Farmer] compares similar legends throughout the nation and explains how they were created to reflect the prevailing ideologies of the day. As an intellectual and cultural investigation, this book ably weaves diverse fabrics of history and folklore into an understandable whole.
— M. L. Tate

American Historical Review

Just as Mt. Timpanogos is more than a simple landmark, this book is far more than the history of a mountain peak...Farmer weaves together multiple historical narratives to produce a book that is both intellectually rigorous and pleasurably accessible...This work is a study in American and Mormon pioneering and Mormon-Indian relations even as it serves to explicate the intricate relationship among geography, memory, and societal construction in the years following that initial pioneering...He has written a book that will engage historians of multiple fields and will make significant contributions to multiple historiographies.
— John P. Bowes

Utah Historical Quarterly

This splendid volume is a tour-de-force of historical scholarship that all lovers of Utah history will want to read...Ambitious, imaginative, theoretically sophisticated, and highly engaging, this volume tells the story of the creation of Mount Timpanogos as a cultural landmark and the concomitant fading of Utah Lake and the Lake Utes from most Utahns' historical memory...This book's breadth, wit, eloquence, and creative reinterpretation of local history in light of key developments in American cultural history make it a must-read.
— Brian Q. Cannon

Journal of American History

On Zion's Mount is an important book for historians of the American West and the nation as a whole. It offers an engaging look at how twentieth-century American popular culture configures, and then reconfigures, place as the stage upon which all history takes place.
— Richard G. Francaviglia

Francis Parkman Prize Committee
This stunningly original book proves that geography and our sense of place are mere creations of history, and with it Jared Farmer has proven himself a brilliant trailblazer of the past in the Wallace Stegner tradition.
David Rich Lewis
Magnificent historical storytelling, both fun and provocative. Ostensibly framed around the creation of a landmark peak in the American West, On Zion's Mount details the production of memory in the service of forgetting. Transcending the parochial nature of older Utah and Mormon histories, Farmer constructs an intellectual universe around the Mormon-Ute contest for place. He traces the physical and folkloric fallout of that complex history through to twentieth-century raconteurs, promoters, and developers who continued to reinvent the cultural landscape. Farmer is unflinching in his loving but pointed critique of a culture that venerates history and simultaneously clings to historical forgetfulness.
Clyde A. Milner Ii
Few books can match the intellectual pleasure and wonderful writing of this study. Jared Farmer helps us see a world filled with landmarks that we construct in our heads and through our actions. His insights sparkle on every page.
Alan Taylor
Beginning with a striking mountain in Utah, On Zion's Mount opens up a world of connections between landscape, folklore, history, and pop culture. In witty, lucid prose, Jared Farmer illuminates the legends Americans wove to possess Indian land. A great read, this brilliant book will intrigue anyone interested in the past, present, and future of the land we live with and weave stories about.
Richard Lyman Bushman
This multilayered, beautifully written story explains how nature alone does not create landscapes; people are always complicit. There is no better introduction to this region and to the cultural formation of landscapes than Farmer's work.
Virginia Scharff
Jared Farmer has given us a rich, graceful environmental history, all five senses engaged. With the warmth of a native son, the passionate curiosity of a born scholar, and the perfect pitch of the master storyteller, Farmer introduces us to the heart of Utah, a place long inhabited, used, fought over, mystified, stolen, mythologized, and, it seems, deliberately forgotten. On Zion's Mount is riveting, a joy to read and to pass along to devotees of the American West.
Philip Deloria
Farmer's brilliant study of the rise and fall of two linked landmarks--Utah Lake and Mt. Timpanogos--opens up the history and memory of American place-making in exciting new ways.
Elliott West
An intriguing and original book, well written, refreshingly accessible and often entertaining. It is both a history and a meditation on places, memories, and changing identities. I don't know of another book quite like it.
Salt Lake Tribune - Tom Harvey
On Zion’s Mount is a well-researched, thoughtful exploration of how landscape is produced by societies as a result of certain historical conditions. The book deserves praise for challenging memories that are built on first forgetting.
Choice - M. L. Tate
This is not a conventional history of Mormon-Indian relations during the second half of the 19th century. Rather, Farmer offers an intellectual interpretation of the Utah Valley and its most identifiable landmark--Mount Timpanogos, which towers above Provo and Orem. He also explains how white people (mostly Mormons) created pseudo-Indian legends that strengthened white claims while reducing the indigenous Ute attachment to the landscape...[Farmer] compares similar legends throughout the nation and explains how they were created to reflect the prevailing ideologies of the day. As an intellectual and cultural investigation, this book ably weaves diverse fabrics of history and folklore into an understandable whole.
Richard White
This beautifully written book, at once deeply felt and intellectually rigorous, is about what we sacralize and what we destroy. It is a story about how Mormons invented a mountain and made it sacred, and how they degraded, and then ignored, a lake that had been the center of an earlier Ute Indian world. Both events were as much about the relationship between peoples as about the relationship between people and nature, and neither of these paired events could be understood only locally. Jared Farmer makes Mt. Timpanogos a summit from which to survey the long and tangled relations of Americans with nature.
American Historical Review - John P. Bowes
Just as Mt. Timpanogos is more than a simple landmark, this book is far more than the history of a mountain peak...Farmer weaves together multiple historical narratives to produce a book that is both intellectually rigorous and pleasurably accessible...This work is a study in American and Mormon pioneering and Mormon-Indian relations even as it serves to explicate the intricate relationship among geography, memory, and societal construction in the years following that initial pioneering...He has written a book that will engage historians of multiple fields and will make significant contributions to multiple historiographies.
Utah Historical Quarterly - Brian Q. Cannon
This splendid volume is a tour-de-force of historical scholarship that all lovers of Utah history will want to read...Ambitious, imaginative, theoretically sophisticated, and highly engaging, this volume tells the story of the creation of Mount Timpanogos as a cultural landmark and the concomitant fading of Utah Lake and the Lake Utes from most Utahns' historical memory...This book's breadth, wit, eloquence, and creative reinterpretation of local history in light of key developments in American cultural history make it a must-read.
Journal of American History - Richard G. Francaviglia
On Zion's Mount is an important book for historians of the American West and the nation as a whole. It offers an engaging look at how twentieth-century American popular culture configures, and then reconfigures, place as the stage upon which all history takes place.
School Library Journal

Farmer (history, SUNY at Stony Brook; Glen Canyon Dammed: Inventing Lake Powell and the Canyon Country) provides a cultural-geographic study of Utah Lake and Mount Timpanogos in central Utah during the mid-1800s. The Ute Indians depended upon the vast fishery resources of the former, a sweet-water oasis in the Great Basin, before they were forcibly displaced from there by early Mormon settlers. Their displacement to Mt. Timpanogos resulted in a historic reinterpretation of the Utes as mountain Indians and the mythologizing of the Mormon pioneers themselves as responsible for the "blooming of the desert" in this naturally fertile lake region. A central theme of the book is the conceptual development of the mountain as a local landmark at the expense of the lake. Farmer's work neatly complements W. Paul Reeve's Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes, a study of power, space, and place among competing 19th-century communities in southwestern Utah. Research libraries with interests in Great Basin, Utah, Native American, and Western water studies should take note, as should those libraries collecting for American cultural geography.
—Nathan E. Bender

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674047433
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/10/2010
  • Pages: 472
  • Sales rank: 424,964
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jared Farmer is Assistant Professor of History at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, and author of Glen Canyon Dammed: Inventing Lake Powell and the Canyon Country.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

The Great Basin

The eastern Great Basin in the 1850s

The southern Wasatch Front in the twentieth century

Introduction

Part I. Liquid Antecedents

1. Ute Genesis, Mormon Exodus

2. Brigham Young and the Famine of the Fish-Eaters

3. The Desertification of Zion

Part II. Making a Mountain: Alpine Play

4. Rocky Mountain Saints

5. Hiking into Modern Times

6. Sundance and Suburbia

Part III. Marking a Mountain: Indian Play

7. Renaming the Land

8. The Rise and Fall of a Lover's Leap

9. Performing a Remembered Past

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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