I count on High Country News for compelling stories about my Western homeland but I don’t always get to the articles right away. I had this one marked to come back later but somehow it’s been over a year — Nick Bowlin, “How Mormon history helps explain today’s public-land fights” (Apr. 13, 2020).
It’s got Mormon history, which would usually put it at the top of my reading list, but it’s also got the Bundy’s, and that would put it near the bottom. There’s only so many times I can read about a bunch of wackos.
The article is an interview with Betsy Gaines Quammen, author of American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West (2020).
By way of background, Quammen explains, “But it starts with the fact that the early church history begins with Mormon settlement. There’s no acknowledgment of history beyond when the first Mormon settler arrived. Settlers drank out of a Paiute river; all of a sudden it became a Mormon river. Ownership was established when they settled there. And along with this came the fact that they were persecuted by the federal government, and they came West, and this was a place that had been overlooked by other white settlers. . . . Their acts of settlement and development were forms of sacralizing the landscape.”
Now I’m hooked. I’m ordering the book.