IDAHO AND THE WEST: ENEMIES AND FRIENDS
From The NORTHWEST ETHNIC VOICE [May/June 2001]
POSTS ON NW ETHNIC VOICE, HATE GROUPS, OUR RATTLESNAKE FRIEND [MY AGAINST THE CURRENT ARTICLE], AND POLYGAMY ISSUES -- UPDATED DECEMBER 10 2005 WITH GOOD FOLKS AND LYING CRITICS [MORMONS, POLYGAMISTS, OLD-TIME WOBBLIES VS. ZANE GREY ET AL.]
NOTE BY HUNTER GRAY
This article of mine -- on Idaho as Place -- has just appeared in NORTHWEST
ETHNIC VOICE [May/June 2001] Northwest Ethnic Voice -- "a progressive
review of multi-ethnic music, food, and culture" -- "exists to give
expression to the self-managed cultural trends of immigrants and the
children of immigrants in our region. We believe that our cultural and
class experience, despite its self-contradictory nature, prefigures a better
world in which all are treated with dignity and respect and directly control
the most basic aspects of our lives.
The new issue features a lead piece on a popular Egyptian singer, a piece on
social change in Armenia, a debate about Greek political issues, a recipe
and pieces on home and its meaning from a Native American and an
Italian-American activist. We continue to be a force for rebuilding a left
within ethnic communities, liberation theology and exploring the interaction
between race, ethnicity and class. All writers are union members and
This excellent little journal is very
capably edited by union organizer Bob Rossi. Its address is Box 2766,
Salem, Oregon 97308. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Subs are $10.00 a year.
Make checks payable to Bob Rossi.
Almost four years have passed since that day in mid-May, 1997, when my
wife, Eldri, and I stood and looked at the massive floodwaters of the Red
River of the North. Those, born of a dozen blizzards, and after having
engulfed virtually all of Grand Forks, N.D. -- forcing the evacuation of
over 50,000 people -- had stopped only three hundred yards east of our
way-out-on-the-far-edge home. I had never trusted the Red River.
We decided then to move -- and back to the Mountain West. I had grown up
in the tough, racist, quasi-frontier Northern Arizona mountain town of
Flagstaff -- a half-breed Indian kid with a deep rebel streak that led me to
wander the West early on and become a life-long socialist in my late teens;
join what was left of the old-time I.W.W. in the mid-1950s; develop my
innate organizer's gift and a thousand related skills in a mounting number
of hard-fought social justice campaigns. I went to college at different
points, married Eldri with her Saami/Finnish background and values similar
to mine. We went off on our own River of No Return which shifted back and
forth between my full-time organizing/part-time teaching -- and full-time
teaching and full-time organizing. When we looked that day at those hungry
Red River floodwaters, I had recently retired from Indian Studies at the
University of North Dakota.
We picked Idaho - Southeastern Idaho -- Pocatello. I knew the town --
railroad center, phosphorous mining and refining -- from my early wanderings
and a few later ones. I certainly remembered hearing once -- from someone,
somewhere -- that Big Bill Haywood had taken his bride, Nevada Jane, to
Pocatello for their honeymoon. But it was the rough country around
Pocatello that pulled me especially -- hell, yanked with the greatest
poignancy. The major "culture hero" in my own family -- the great role
model -- had been and still is a St. Regis Mohawk [Iroquois] ancestor from
up-state New York, my great/great/great grandfather, John Gray [Ignace
Hatchiorauquasha] who, with his 16 year old Mohawk wife, Marienne Neketichon
[Mary Ann Charles] had come into the Columbia and Snake River country in the
early 19th century with the fur trade. It was he who organized the other
Iroquois fur hunters into what were essentially strike actions [ among the
first ever in the Far West] against the fur bosses -- Alexander Ross in
1824 and Peter Skene Ogden in 1825 -- and ended a viciously exploitative
pricing system and quasi-indentured servitude. John Gray was tough -- the
sharp and cutting toughness of Mohawk flint. He was also a hell of a
formidable knife fighter.
The Grays had maintained a key Southeastern Idaho camp in an upper valley
surrounded by high, rough ridges -- very good indeed for lookout
scouting -- not far to the west of the Portneuf River: and now,
generations later, just west of Pocatello. And it was there, in that
rugged and high up cedar-spotted valley that always faces the eastern sun,
that my great/great grandfather was born -- the oldest of the Gray sons.
The family records indicate his arrival in succinct but fascinating fashion:
"Peter Gray, born 1818, born in the Rocky Mountains." [My youngest son is
named for him.] In the mid-1830s, John Gray, with the other Iroquois, took
his family 'way east of the Rockies to French Settlement on the Missouri,
later to become Westport and finally Kansas City. There they faced floods
and many human enemies and, although John Gray got back briefly to the
Rockies in 1841, he was murdered at Westport two years later. And I always
felt that he and his family regretted at so many many points ever having
left the secure and rugged country west of the Portneuf.
And so we came to Pocatello in the summer of '97: myself and Eldri; our
youngest daughter, Josie; and my oldest daughter, Maria, and her two
children -- Thomas and Samantha. Rescued by me just before the Red River
flood struck, Maria and her little group had lost everything. Our families
now joined, we brought our cats, our rabbits, and a turtle on the long
westward trek out of the Western plains and into the Montana mountains and
down into Southeastern Idaho. And I bought a home 'way far up on the western
frontier of Pocatello -- right on the very edge -- and less than an hour's
up-hill hike to the special valley and protective ridges of my ancestors.
And that is exactly how and why we came here.
But, no sooner did we arrive, than it became clear that my reputation as a
"known agitator" had preceded me. Police began almost immediate
surveillance. We began having weird phone problems -- sometimes with a
crudeness reminiscent of our civil rights years in the Deep South. Heavy
mail delays -- including innumerable stalled and sometimes opened Priority
packages -- became commonplace. [Three detailed complaints on my part to
regional postal inspectors at Seattle have gone unanswered, unacknowledged.]
Our garbage has been surreptitiously searched. Idaho State University --
here at Pocatello -- has fled whenever I've sounded it out about part-time
teaching. All of these -- and much much more -- including harassing phone
calls -- are continuing.
But with only an exception or two, our immediate neighbors -- people who've
gotten to know us on a personal basis -- are friendly and fine.
And the sky is a very deep blue. When I look out my front picture window,
almost all of Pocatello is well below me, and I see far above it -- over to
the many mountains. And I can go out our back door and be in cedar country
in a couple of minutes -- and on my way up, ever up, to the high ridges that
surround our special valley.
And all of us here -- myself, Eldri, children, grandchildren -- have made
other friends: a special rattlesnake buddy [about whom -- and about our
human enemies -- I wrote an essay which Against The Current published in its
January/February 2001 issue], mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions whose
tracks we always see, special coyotes.
And, always, there is the very special valley and the protective ridges.
I was still a kid when I learned the enduring importance of the old Wobbly
motto: "Better to be called Red than be called Yellow." Some years ago, I
recovered, via FOIA/PA, around 3,000 pages of my FBI file [1950s to
1979] -- not counting several hundred pages they still won't give me. I've
survived FBI witch-hunting, and many social justice arrests, bad beatings,
an effort in Mississippi to kill me which left me seriously injured. And
So we stay here and we keep fighting -- just like we always have: Native
rights, worker rights, civil rights, civil liberties.
And always, too, there are the spirits of my ancestors -- always with us,
always around. They walk with us -- very glad indeed that we have
finally come back. And that we'll stay for a good while.
Idaho Hate Groups -- And Other Racist And Related Stuff
For a number of years, there has been very justifiable media and other
public focus on the pervasively violent Nazi-type hate groups [Aryan
Nations, Identity "church" ] clustered in their camps and compounds in
North Idaho -- Hayden Lake setting, etc. These outfits have been losing
ground significantly in the past few years -- aging leaders, factionalism,
public exposure, legal attacks, very much the mobilization of decent people
in the region, etc. -- but still, of course, continue to pose a definite
threat. However, other hate enterprises are moving into Idaho at this point
[ National Alliance etc] to set up their covens, distribute and broadcast
racist and anti-Semitic and homophobic material -- and this will invariably
lead to more anti-people actions and outright violence. These
developments are causal -- moving to "light new fires" -- but they are also
symptomatic, i.e., finding lots of old but fertile soil: the
much-publicized hate stuff in North Idaho has always taken the focus away
from the far, far more entrenched prejudice/discrimination situation that
pervades much of Idaho [not all of its people and institutions, certainly,
but many indeed.] This more "traditional" and "old timey" and relatively
pervasive grassroots dimension can certainly involve some local and
state police operations which are inherently and historically very
anti-civil libertarian -- and which, despite sometime pious disclaimer,
certainly have racist and related attitudes and practices. Unemployment and
sub-employment, especially among teenagers and young adults, is an obvious
socio-economic ill for everyone -- but when this involves Anglos, in a
racist etc. setting, it spells serious trouble -- as it has in other
comparable situations such as that involving thousands of farmers and
ranchers losing their land in the Northern Plains. Good people in Idaho --
and they are not scarce -- have their work cut out for them. Avowed
socialists and other healthy-minded left radicals and genuine civil rights
and civil liberties activists generally -- and we are still rather scarce
at this point -- have much basic trail-blazing to do! Hunter Gray
In response to the question [on a discussion list, 3/25/01] : As I
indicated, the National Alliance is one of several hate groups that is "moving into
Idaho at this point" -- a shift that is occurring concurrently with the much reported
decline [unfortunately, not the demise] of the Aryan Nations situation in North Idaho:
e.g., Hayden Lake, Sandpoint. As far as is known, the National Alliance
"headquarters" is still being maintained in West Virginia. The National
Alliance, as virulently poisonous a weed as one could encounter, does appear to be making
Idaho a project focus: with its considerable hate leafleting suddenly developing in
several areas -- and, in all probability, providing the motivation -- in one of those
areas -- behind the very recent [two days ago] midnight fire-bombing of a Black woman's
home here at Pocatello.
From AGAINST THE CURRENT January/February 2001
Copyright © 2001 by
Unfriendly Forces, Mountain Lions and Our Rattlesnake Friend
Reflections on Idaho
WE MOVED TO Pocatello, Idaho three years ago. And there are certainly some mighty friendly people hereabouts. But from the very moment we first arrived, we've been subjected to bizarre harassmentcoming obviously from Federal, state, local "lawmen" and vigilante types, and just as obviously stemming from my traditionally Left Native rights/civil rights/labor affiliations and beliefs and history and contemporary activities.
Surveillance, blatant interference with our mail, very weird telephone experiencesincluding hate calls, people taking photos of our house, intricate garbage searches, mounting indications of sub-rosa vilificationand much, much more have been a consistent part of our scenery.
We are, of course, fighting back and will keep right on keeping on doing so. To quote the old Mississippi saying: "Our enemies can go straight down to Hell and wait there for us to change our minds."
My boyhood Western catechism from old and very old-time members of the Industrial Workers of the World and, later, many rich and positive experiences from in and around the old Mine, Mill and Smelter Workersand a myriad of other activist organizing feathers of mine as I've grown through the decades: All of this adds up, among other things, to "It's better to be called Red than be called Yellow," and all of this flies high and boldly in my full consciousness.
But this is a social commentary that is really, in many ways, about a rattlesnakea rattlesnake friend.
I grew up in the wild and rugged mountains and canyons around the then quasi-frontier Northern Arizona town of Flagstaff. Early on, I was an avid hunterhad my first rifle at age sevenand soon enough distinguished myself as a trapper.
Most of Arizona is rattlesnake country. I killed my share of them before I hit my mid-teens. Somehow, more or less consciously, I believed it was my duty to do so. Most peoplebut not I any longerstill feel that way.
My very first invasion of the news media involved a rattlesnake situation. This, from the Arizona Daily Sun [Flagstaff/Coconino County], late June, 1948:
SONGWRITER'S SON IS VERY LUCKY
"John Wood, 13 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Wood, residing south of Flagstaff, got introduced to an Arizona rattlesnake Wednesday of this week while exploring Grass Canyon, near Schnebley Hill, but suffered no ill effects because of the quick thinking of John Salter, Jr., his companion, age 14.
"The snake was coiled within striking distance when the Salter boy killed it with an accurately aimed .22 rifle bullet. Wood must have felt he was carrying with him one of the four leaf clovers his famous song-writing father composed, "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover'..."
In that situation, I had to do what I didand I have no apologies.
I didn't kill every rattlesnake I encountered. When our wide-ranging high school hiking club plunged into the Grand Canyon (half a day down to the bottom) and trudged up (two days), we'd frequently pass rattlesnakes camped by the trail in the shade of a rock or a bush. We were far too preoccupied and trail-focused to take them on.
Then came a very abrupt shift in my generally violent anti-rattlesnake attitude. I was 18, my 45/70 Winchester in handtaking an obscure game trail down into the vast Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area, southwest of Flagstaff. Suddenly I saw a tiny rattlervery tiny, only a few inches in length, a minute rattle at his tail tipcoiled by a rock, right in the middle of the trail. It was so absolutely small that, if it rattled, I couldn't even hear it.
The still-coiled, near-baby snake looked feistily upright at me. His message was, however telepathically conveyed, sharp and crystal clear.
And I began to laugh. With my big-bore 45/70 I could have, in a split instant, eliminated every physical vestige of my bravehell, admirablelittle adversary. But how could I have ever done that?
For a long moment more, we looked at each other. And then the tiny entityhis point made very welluncoiled in leisurely fashion and moved slowly away. For my part, in a gesture of respect and deference I, too, stepped away.
And from that point on, I never killed another rattler. When I encountered one, I simply gave him his space. But I never felt the warmth of friendly empathy with oneuntil very recently indeed.
We live on the far far up western "frontier" of Pocatelloright on the very edge, only a few other houses around us, and with almost all of the town well below. From our door we can walk a few feet and be in open country: high steep hills shooting up almost out of our back yard. We often walk up into the rugged hills and ridgesway up and far into the back country. Wild "critters" of all kinds abound and we frequently see mountain lion (cougar) tracks in certain special settings that we've located.
Even many of our very nice neighbors are worried about the lions. We are not worried. Northern Arizona is certainly lion country and they've never bothered any humans of whom I've heard. Lions are curious, and skittery humans often mistake that quality for predatory, stalking hostility.
I remember, always with real pleasure, a very large lion (by its size, obviously male), that followed my father and myself for a long time in the rough Rim country, south of Flagstaff. We were hunting but it never crossed our Native minds to kill such a magnificent manifestation of the Creator's Wilderness.
The lion stayed about twenty-five yards behind us and, when we stopped and looked back at him, he too stopped. Then we all continued until, finally, my father and I dropped below a ridge. For the longest time, the lion, profiled on the very top, gazed down at us until we faded into the pines and scrub oak.
Now, when we see the large, rounded paw prints in the high-up hills west of our far-up housealways hoping to see a lion in the fleshwe feel kinship. For we, too, are having our problems with some of the humans hereabouts.
But a rattlesnake?
Not very long ago at all, my oldest daughter, Maria, and Iaccompanied by our Sheltie, Hunteronce again wended our way up into the ever higher brush-covered hills, following a bare trace of a trail. I went first and Maria was some distance behind. Suddenly, she yelled, "A snake!"
I turned and walked a few feet down toward her. She pointed to a bush slightly below me and to my left.
"It's in there." She then explained quickly that, when I walked up past the bush, no snake was visible; but, just before she got to it, a snake started to emerge, then withdrew. I went cautiously to the bush.
And it was indeed a snakeand a rattler at that! A young desert-type, light gray with interesting designs and about three rattles, was moving slowly back, edging away from us, deeper under the bush and into tall grass. We stared at him and his graceful movement, fascinated.
Hunter arrived and, from deep in the bush and grass, came a perfunctory rattle.
We moved on, then, further up and awaychecking our special places, studying the new lion tracks. But the rattlesnake was much on my mind. I realized that, unlike every prior rattlesnake sighting of mine, I had felt not an iota of aversion or revulsion.
For Mariaever the faithful friend of all creaturesthis was not unusual. But for me this was, frankly, extraordinary. And then, away up on a super high ridge, looking down and to far off Pocatello, I suddenly realized that, in some completely inexplicable fashion, the snake and I had bonded.
"Let's go back the same way," I told Maria. "Maybe we'll see him again."
Now, going down slowly, I in the lead, we came to the Land of the Snake: high brush, the trail now extremely faint and narrowand then the Bush!
The rattler was not visible therein. I felt a sharp cut of genuine disappointment. "Not here," I said to Mariaand we moved slowly on down.
And then! Then suddenlythere he was in all his splendor, lying literally in the trail immediately ahead of me: dusty gray, designed, graceful. And even as I stopped, abruptly, with a warning note to Maria, he coiled in a split instant and faced me, head held high.
He didn't rattle because he didn't have to: Our eyes were locked together! "Take it easy, amigo," I thought to him. "We're buddies."
In a twinkling, he uncoiled and moved away into the brush and grassin the same leisurely fashion as my long-ago feisty baby-snake at Sycamore. We watched him for a moment; then, in deference again, we moved to the other side of the trail and continued onward.
As we tell no one beyond the family and a couple of close friends the whereabouts of the lion tracks, Maria and I pledged never to reveal the rattler and his home area.
But residing in the full consciousness of my mind the rest of that day and into the late evening, was the question: "Why in hell have I bonded with a snakeand a rattler at that?" I went to bed.
And, as it always does, my mind worked things through as I slept. Arising at 4:30 a.m. and sipping my first cup of strong black coffee, I had my answer:
"Call me Ishmael," Melville wrote, a long time ago. And while we have many friends in this Pocatello and general Idaho settingand certainly many indeed across the country and into Canada and Mexicoit has been a tough experience for us these past several years in this southeastern Idaho town.
But, of course, I've followed the trail of the radical organizer ever since I was a teenlistening to the drum of History, and with others helping make a littleand it's always been this way. Hard not to see ourselves as Ishmaelites of some sort, perceived by all kinds of so-called "lawmen" and many "respectables" as outcasts on the edges.
But there are many of us, many indeedand there will be many many more.
It takes an Ishmaelite to recognize an Ishmaeliteeven one to whom the Creator gave another shape: my good friend, my doughty buddy under the bush against whom virtually every human hand would hurl rocks and bullets, even though all he wishes is to be left in peace to pursue his Vision to the Sun.
That's what I realized at 4:30 that morning and I know it now and forever: He was ready to fight. We fight on.
HUNTER GRAY [John R. Salter, Jr.], "Hunterbear," a half-blood Micmac/St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk, grew up at Flagstaff, Arizona. Since the mid-1950s, he has been deeply and consistently involved in grassroots organizing: Native rights, radical labor, civil rights, anti-poverty , urban multi-issue.
His trail has extended from the Southwest to the Deep South, Pacific North-west, Chicago, up-state New York, Navajo Nation, Northern Plains, and Rocky Mountains. Trained as a sociologist, he has occasionally taughtwhile organizing stillat such places as Tougaloo College, Goddard College, University of Iowa, Navajo Community College [now Dine' College] and University of North Dakota.
His written work has appeared over the decades in numerous journals and books. He is the author of Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism [Krieger, 1987.] He presently lives at Pocatello, Idaho, with coyotes, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes among his friendly neighbors and is, as always, a committed organizer and socialist.
MEMORIES AND CURRENT ISSUES [POSTED 11/30/01] UPDATED WITH
GOOD FOLKS AND LYING CRITICS, 12/10/05
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: December 9 2005
It's very cold in Eastern Idaho -- and the past several days have been even
much, much colder. Worse than it's been at Duluth, MN -- to which
grandson/son Thomas, and his good spouse Mimie [Yirengah] from Zambia, have
recently moved. Worse at this point, even than North Dakota. Water pipes
have been bursting around our entire region. Our home is extremely solid
and well built and warm -- out of the direct impact of strong super-freezing
winds -- and heated, too, by the frequently exploding passions therein.
But a major pipe has broken on City turf 'way up here [we are up on the
edge] and the front part of our home yard [and that of many other good
neighbors] looks like a full dress multi-company motor pool in a Combat
Engineers' battalion. Our water was turned off a few hours ago and now it's
dark, "they" are still noisily sinking their version of discovery shafts in
an effort to find the break or breaks, and the Water Honchos have assured us
that crews will work all night to ensure that all of us up here recover our
flow. If worst comes to worst, we may melt snow and I might even try my
hand at "water witching" -- a willow-branch practice in which I genuinely
believe but I'm not certain our Russian Olive grove would capably provide.
[We do have several maple, pine and plum trees.] But the problems will be
fixed, sooner or later, and -- since we order Teton water in quantities of
25 or 30 gallons at a time and presently still have much on hand -- we can
keep drinking. [And we are prepared to share with neighbors.] Drawing on
our experiences in the massive Grand Forks Flood of '97, we can, if
necessary, work out other living arrangement details for the duration.
But this post really isn't about All That. It's about polygamy [polygyny]
and attached is a post I did on that interesting topic quite awhile back.
What brings this to mind once again is not only the pretty obvious existence
of the practice here and there in our general Eastern Idaho region -- NOT by
the official, mainline LDS [Mormon] church which has explicitly and firmly
NOT sanctioned polygamy for over a century -- but by small direct and
indirect spinoff groups. Idaho has some of these, Utah and Northern Arizona
have even more of them, and with much of this general Intermountain Region
being LDS in religious persuasion [this part of Idaho is 70% Mormon] and
thus almost always with many polygamous folks in the family trees -- well,
polygamy controversies are good reading for many in our Idaho State Journal.
And lately, there has been lots to read. Although Idaho remains
pragmatically silent on the Controversy, there is plenty of political
oratory down in Utah and Northern Arizona. Some urge arresting and rounding
up the "Cohabs" -- to which the polygamists are sometimes crudely referred
by singularly unattractive fundamentalist bigots -- and, to be sure, now and
then there is an isolated individual arrest when something seems to have
gotten 'way out of hand. Even then, convictions are scarce. But mostly,
although investigations a'plenty are promised, there is no action from the
Authorities. [Native American polygamy, of which there is traditionally some
culturally-speaking, is protected as culture and religious freedom by
Federal administrative rulings and Federal statutes and, of course, by the
A commendable sense of old-time Western mountain libertarianism, plus the
fact that many genealogies are extremely interesting in their many branches
and leaves, and an awareness of what happened down in extreme Northern
Arizona more than a half century ago during the politically disastrous State
raid on the Short Creek community [now called Colorado City], gives any
canny politician much pause. Most, even today, would at least quietly agree
with Arizona's Old Governor, George W.P. Hunt, essentially a socialist who,
quoted by me in my attached post, reflected tolerance and understanding when
he saw first hand the controversial folk and their geographical setting.
One of the most venomous Western writers was Zane Grey ["no relation" as a
prominent Mississippi journalist named Salter always indicates when
discussing me]. Grey was born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1872 and, in due
course, settled in North Central Arizona, under the Tonto Rim. He lived in
that general region for a very long time [before returning to the East and
dying there in 1939] and wrote a myriad of Western novels -- some dimensions
of which reflect capable observation of the cattle culture and the rough
But, a puritan in the most narrow and rigid sense, he was venomously
anti-Mormon and anti-Industrial Workers of the World -- all of these fine
folks frequently found in the region where he pitched his tents. [It's also
much around the area where I grew up.] In RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE,
written many years after the LDS church had formally abandoned polygamy, and
first published in 1912, Grey provides the full package of anti-Mormon
bigotry undergirded and pervaded by massive and sensational falsehoods:
e.g., "closed towns," "captive women," Mormon "enforcers." If this was
puzzling to the local "Gentiles" [non-Mormons] who failed completely to
recognize their pleasant and hospitable Mormon neighbors in these lurid
accounts, it played well -- as the poison still sometimes does -- in the
East and West coast bastions of Liberal America.
Zane Grey's viciously [and I don't use the word lightly], best known
anti-IWW novel, THE DESERT OF WHEAT, written and published  during the
worst of the Red Scare, depicts the Wobblies as torch-carrying,
field-burning saboteurs. Since some members of my mother's family were
involved in large wheat acreages and flour mills in Kansas and Oklahoma, I
was interested [but not surprised] in their comments after I read this tract
when a very young man. None of my kin on that side of the family had the
slightest awareness of IWW "sabotage" -- and some of the old-timers, indeed,
had been Populists and Debs Socialists, while a well known close cousin of
Mother's, Chris Hoffman, who was known as the "millionaire Socialist of
Kansas," had dropped dead of a heart attack while addressing an IWW rally in
Kansas City. Even the old Republican relatives in Kansas remembered the
Wobbly harvest hands as good, dependable workers -- a sentiment shared by
other kin in North Dakota. In his classic and highly detailed A HISTORY OF
CRIMINAL SYNDICALISM LEGISLATION IN THE UNITED STATES [Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins Press, 1939] -- a good copy of which I have right here -- Professor
Eldridge Foster Dowell can find nothing in IWW practice involving
destructive sabotage and he states categorically on pages 34-35 that "The
three great Federal trials of the I.W.W. and the state criminal syndicalism
trials yield, in the writer's opinion, no reliable evidence of the
commission of sabotage by the I.W.W. . . ."
So much for Zane Grey's perfidy on the Mormons and the Wobblies.
Hereabouts, at almost 7 pm MST, the water is still not running.
And the polygamists aren't running from anyone and never will. Here they
Note by Hunter Bear to RedBadBear:
This is very much a free-wheeling list. I'd like to say a little about
polygamy. [Not, of course, from super-direct first-hand experience.]
This recent post from Deseret News -- a well-known daily in the
Intermountain West, owned by the LDS church -- has been sent to me by a
friend in the region. It deals with one of Utah's problems.
First, though, a couple of definitions. Polygamy refers simply to plural
marriage. Polygyny involves multiple wives [common in various parts of the
world]; and polyandry, much less common, refers to multiple husbands. I'll
generally use polygamy here in the context of two or more wives.
Personally, I'm pretty libertarian on these things -- as long as people
aren't being coerced and held against their will and children are treated
Utah is having its polygamy problems once again. Idaho, which could if it
wanted to make issues, isn't saying a word. Arizona went through very
heavy crises on this thing -- and wouldn't touch it again under any
Polygyny is common in some Native American tribes. It's still widely
practiced among the Navajo -- of which an example would be a very active
older man that we knew in the Tsaile area of the vast reservation. Mr
Litzen had four wives and many, many descendants, some of whom my wife,
Eldri, taught at Tsaile Elementary. [Easy may remember the family.] In any
case, like most Navajo families, theirs was strong, cohesive, vital, and
Indian people are no longer bothered on this issue by any Federal
bureaucrats -- or by most Christian missionaries.
The polygamy issues in the West stem from the legacy of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints [Mormons] and non-Mormon bigotry. I grew up
with many Mormons, have some as neighbors right here, and we get along well.
From its inception in the 1830s until
1890, the LDS Church practiced --
indeed -- vigorously encouraged polygamy. There was a faith to build and
spread, and big country to settle.
The Mormons were hit by vicious persecution from the moment Joseph Smith
[as per his vision in 1827] began to propound the New Faith -- doing so in
the context of American utopian tradition and vision. Attacked by mobs, in
Missouri and Illinois, the Church continued to grow. Then Joseph Smith and
his brother were lynched. Under the leadership of Brigham Young, the Saints
made their way to the region of the Great Salt Lake, established their
communalistic Zion in the Land of Deseret, and hoped for peace.
They didn't get it.
Capitalists -- especially those involved in copper, gold, and silver
mining -- pushed into Mormon country. The Mormons resisted. The U.S.
government, always hostile and -- increasingly using the polygamy issue --
moved troops through the Colorado mountains toward the LDS world. The Saints then organized the famous, heavily armed Mormon Battalion to do battle with the United States. Essentially, the Federals blinked. In those days, Porter Rockwell, the famous Mormon gunman, served as Brigham Young's bodyguard -- but Prophet Young was himself heavily armed. They were able to
successfully protect their world for a long time.
[I always like to point out that the famous Western outlaw, Butch Cassidy,
and most of his Wild Bunch, were Mormon boys.]
In time, with Utah filling more and more with "Gentiles" [as non-Mormons are
called], and with US government pressure becoming ever more hostile, and
the "polygamy issue" more and more of a "Red Scare" type tactic, the LDS
Church formally abandoned polygamy in 1890 -- indicating the change had
come via revelation. Most Mormons accepted this. The many polygamous
families continued as always -- but no new marriages of this sort ever
That is, they never occurred in the official church. A sizeable number of
Mormons refused to accept this, taking the 1890 change as heretical and
antithetical vis-a-vis the teachings of Joseph Smith. These were formally
excommunicated from the official church -- although some polygamy continued
quietly within the official church and probably still does.
The cast-out Ishmaelites promptly made their way into remote areas [Arizona,
Utah, Idaho] and set up their own very traditional, communalistic
communities -- with polygamy very much a major dimension.
Thirteen of these were in extreme Northern Arizona, right under Utah, in
what's called The Strip: between the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the
Utah border. The most famous of the towns is Short Creek [now called
Colorado City, after the Colorado River.] In the early 1920s, the "Old
Governor" of Arizona, who had been territorial governor, George W. P.
Hunt -- essentially a socialist and very pro-labor -- bowed briefly to the
critical pressure of some Protestant activists in the Phoenix setting and
paid a visit to the polygamy country. Accompanied by newspeople and
Protestants, the governor's caravan took three days on torturous roads to
make the trip. When they got to the Short Creek setting, all stopped. The
Gov got out. The news folk and the Protestant observers gathered around
him. George Hunt was a direct-speaking man. He looked for a long time at
the generally rough and barren, empty country -- in which Short Creek and
the other communities are tiny green spots. Then he spoke, "Hell," he said,
"If I lived here, I'd need more than one wife myself." They turned around
and returned to Phoenix.
When I was a kid growing up in Flagstaff [many Mormons and many Catholics], polygamy talk was not uncommon. In high school, we met them face-to-face. The polygamy towns in The Strip had a state elementary school or two -- but no real high school. Those kids were sent down to Flagstaff and some other towns where, in the homes of sympathetic official Mormons, they were quietly boarded while they went to high school. Flagstaff school officials asked no questions and I very much doubt any others did either.
The polygamy kids were very quiet kids. Incredibly shy. The guys were
dressed like us guys [us being everyone else, regardless of race and
culture, including my official Mormon buddies] -- Levis, western shirts,
engineer's boots. But, unlike us, they never got into trouble. We did, were constantly winding up in unpleasant sessions with the principal et al. -- but not they. They were really super quiet. The girls were dressed a little differently than ours. Their dresses were less colorful and somewhat longer. Almost all of the polygamy kids came to our school dances -- but mostly hung out on the edges.
Once, at Camp Townsend, an early day type trailer park and grocery store not
far out of Flagstaff on northbound Highway 89 [to Utah], I was visiting with
an old family friend, venerable Andrew Jackson Townsend, the proprietor, in
his adjoining gun shop. [An old cowboy, he had learned to drink literally
boiling coffee during brief round-up breaks and, in his very advanced years,
still did.] Suddenly, a caravan of vehicles -- many of them old-time
vehicles -- appeared from the north and swung into the Camp. Jack stepped
out and walked over. I followed. The leaders, dressed in old dark suits
rather than Levis, and wearing Stetsons, walked to us. We all -- including me -- shook hands formally. Jack Townsend asked no questions, simply explained
the organization of his Camp, welcomed them. But, by now, he and I both
noted a revealing dimension. In the people of the caravan, men and women
and kids, now out and walking about, there were many more women than men.
Jack and I returned to his gun shop but, later when I left, I saw a Caravan
kid my age, and walked over and visited with him. He was quiet, shy. But,
saying nothing about polygamy, he volunteered that they were going to
Mexico, "to set up and live down there for good." His face glowed as he
said this. I wished him well -- and I still do.
I was still in the Army in the early 1950s, when Howard Pyle, governor of
Arizona and a Baptist -- a Republican who was a far cry from the "Old
Governor" of legend -- in a move seeking to recoup his falling political
fortunes, sent a huge army of state police and related forces up to Short
Creek. Once there, his witch-hunting legion arrested parents and seized
children by the many dozens -- and carried them all off to far away places
of incarceration and foster parent-hood.
It may have been the 1950s -- but the outcry went around the world. Within
Arizona and without, Pyle was condemned and denounced by everything and
everybody from Left labor leaders to many Republicans. In between were most Democrats, spokespeople from all of the mainline religious denominations [including many from the official Mormon Church] -- and a wide array of Native American religious leaders.
Singed and then burning, Pyle fled from the issue. For him, it was pure
disaster. The children were quickly reunited with their parents who were
released from the various jails -- and they all went back to Short Creek
[now, as I say, known as Colorado City.] And, although there was an
occasional flareup or two over the issue for awhile, they've all been living
there and in the other towns.
Happily ever after.
As I say, Arizona won't touch the issue again -- ever. Idaho [and I know
there are polygamists very close to us] utters not a word on any of it.
Utah's got problems.
For my part, live and let live. It's a Big Creation and it's got all sorts
of wondrous things in it. I'm like Andrew Jackson Townsend -- and the old
Indians. I don't ask questions. As long as the arrangements follow the
basic organization and teachings of the old utopian Mormons, I'm on their
side. As I told the kid my age at Camp Townsend so long ago -- he who was
off and far beyond to Mexico and who had a vision in his eyes -- "I wish you
And now, a bit on the mess that Utah has made for itself:
Source: The Deseret News [Utah and environs] Recent
Linda Kunz Green faced a bitter chill as she arrived Wednesday at the Utah
Linda Kunz Green leaves the prison after visit with husband Tom Green.
Stuart W. Johnson, Deseret News
But the "head wife" of Tom
Green, Utah's most famous modern-day polygamist, bore a warm message of support - from
herself and four other women considered to be his "spiritual wives."
Clad in a modest blue dress and white lace shirt, Kunz Green, who is 8
months pregnant, said she was nervous, yet excited, to visit Green in prison
for the first time since he was incarcerated three months ago.
Her husband gained international notoriety this summer when he was sentenced to five years in prison for his conviction by a 4th District Court jury of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport.
"I feel emotional. I've never been to a prison before," she said. "I don't
know, I have a hard time believing they can put a man here, just for being a
father and a husband."
Among the five women with whom Green was convicted of cohabitating, Kunz
Green is the wife recognized by the state government as his legal spouse,
making her the only one approved to visit Green.
According rules at Utah's correctional facilities, the only woman who may
visit a married male inmate is his legal wife.
"He cannot be visited by a single woman," said Utah Department of
Corrections spokesman Jack Ford. "She is allowed to visit because she is a
legal wife . . . a second wife is not a legitimate wife through the eyes of
the state of Utah."
Kunz Green said Green is appealing to the Utah Department of Corrections to
allow visits from his other "wives" - Shirley Beagley, LeeAnn Beagley,
Carrie Bjorkman and Hannah Bjorkman - if accompanied by Kunz Green.
"Hopefully, the others could just rotate, taking turns coming and we can
visit together. So, it's under consideration right now," Kunz Green said
outside the prison gates.
Ford said Green's request to see the four other women was denied by the
prison warden in late October. Green is now taking his appeal to the
director of Institutional Operations.
Kunz Green said the family is also counting on Green being able to see his
children, two of whom were born after he was jailed.
In late September, Carrie Bjorkman gave birth to Theodore Roosevelt Green,
and in October, her sister, Hannah Bjorkman, gave birth to Mary-Jane Green.
"He hasn't seen them yet," Kunz Green said.
The new births bring the count of Tom Green's children to 32.
Ford said Green would be allowed to visit the children he has fathered with
Kunz Green. The prison is still considering what to do with Tom Green's
other children from the other women.
"Right now the prison is just having a hard time deciding how to deal with
all of this because I don't think they've ever had a situation like this
before," Kunz Green said, laughing.
After spending time talking to her husband through a glass partition, Kunz
Green said Green is trying to keep his spirits high.
"He's lost about 20 pounds. His beard is long and he needs a haircut," she
said, adding that the first thing both did was shed a few tears, looking at
each other through the glass window.
"Head wife" Linda Kunz Green said all of Tom Green's wives wait for him to
Green, she said, remains hopeful about his appeal to the Utah Court of
Appeals and is even attending church services in the prison. He attends the
services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a signed letter released by the prison, Green states that he won't give
interviews with news reporters at this time.
"I know that he's received over 50 requests for an interview," Kunz Green
said. Green has said he believes it is time to start spreading his message
again about polygamy - that is, if the prison will allow it.
"Visiting is a privilege, not a right," Ford said. Prison officials can cut
off all visitation for an inmate at any time, he said.
"I'm sure that the prison would not like him to talk to the media, that's
just my gut feeling," Kunz Green said.
As for the wives living deep in the west desert of Juab County, Kunz Green
said they are "making ends meet."
The family continues to run a magazine telemarketing business, as well as
working other jobs. Shirley Beagley is working at the local school as a
teacher's aide, and Carrie Bjorkman has applied to be the school cook.
"There's just a loneliness and an emptiness there," she said.
"Traditionally, father takes the children up the canyon and we go get a
Christmas tree. Father makes pancakes on Christmas morning," she said. "I
guess we'll do all those traditions we did together when he was here, but I
guess the older boys would have to fill in for their father's place for
Kunz Green said all Green's wives wait for him to return.
Kunz Green said her husband has a knack for boosting the family's spirits -
even from behind prison bars.
Green is allowed three prison visits a month. Kunz Green was told by prison
officials that she would be able to come and visit her husband again
"We're doing OK. We're surviving, and we'll be here when he comes back," she
said. "I think that's probably about the only thing you can say."
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