Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

David Holland

Second Committee Member

William Bauer

Third Committee Member

Diedre Clemente

Fourth Committee Member

P J. Hafen

Number of Pages



The Indigenes of North America's Great Basin developed a way of life based on the available resources the Basin provided. Their culture and customs provided a stable means of understanding and interacting with nature and men. Their myths elaborated on expectations, hopes, and fears, in real and metaphorical ways, as evidenced by stories of the trickster Coyote. As Great Basin bands contacted Europeans, they adjusted their resource gathering based on new technologies, such as horses and guns, as well as their myths to cope with change. This process entailed some adjustment in their perceptions of the world around them and in their own identities. Some Indigenes, such as the Utes and Comanches, raided other Native bands enslaving women and children who they traded to the Spanish in exchange for additional horses and guns. Native American children, acquired through this difficult and wrenching raid-and-trade process, experienced a major cultural shift that imposed upon them an external identity. They reacted to that shift in varied ways that expressed individual constructed identity. The Utes and others who sold, traded or gave them away, and the Mormons who purchased, accepted or received them in trade, struggled to define rules governing the practice and their obligations concerning the children caught up by that practice. Individual personality characteristics, preconceived notions about the opposing culture, and the external federal government actions, complicated rules definition and the subsequent behavior of those involved.

As the children married some faced prejudice and others found acceptance. Individual personalities, rather than cultural conventions alone often determined outcomes. Native Americans and Mormons experienced conflicts with each other, and with the U. S. Army and federal agents, and negotiated their place in new structures. Mormons and Native Americans experienced disillusionment as accepted concepts collided reality, resulting in a mixture of anger, accommodation, assimilation and acculturation. Native American children in Mormon homes negotiated their individual identities based on cultural cues from their combined cultures. Subsequent secondary literature written years after the fact tried to simplify this complex process as dictated by preconceived, often culturally skewed, notions.


American West; Group identity; Identity (Psychology); Indenture; Indentured servants; Indian children; Indians; Indians of North America; Mormons; Kidnapping; Slave trade; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Utah; West (U.S.)


Cultural History | History | Indigenous Studies | Social History | United States History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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