The Forgotten Founders

 

by Stewart L. Udall (Island Press)

 

(This column first appeared in the April 8, 2004 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)

 

Stewart Udall, an excellent Secretary of the Interior during Kennedy's presidency, writes here about, as his subtitle indicates, "Rethinking the History of the Old West." He argues forcefully and, I believe, convincingly that the west was not populated by "Manifest Destiny", that it was not a wild place beset with gunmen and range wars, and that the pioneers were rarely attacked by hostile Indians. Rather, he urges, the western movement was mostly driven by religion, the gunmen and range wars were few and far between and more an outcome of pulp fiction and the movies, and the American Indians were often more civilized than their new neighbors. Udall is a Mormon and I give him high marks for his treatment of the infamous Mountain Meadows massacre, which he agrees was not as the Mormons long claimed an Indian massacre; rather, he tells us it was Mormons, including some of his own relatives who committed the terrible deeds there. As Interior Secretary he had a monument placed at the site and he tells the story almost completely here. I do not buy his belief that Brigham Young was not involved, but to Udall's credit, this places more blame on his own relative, Major John D. Lee, whom others have exonerated as taking the fall for Young. Udall's heroes are the dirt farmers who took on the often unyielding land and made us a country. I agree that we should honor them.-- Gerry Rising