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NPR on LDS and Indians

NPR's All Things Considered recently aired a segment on the LDS Indian Student Placement Program.

Show blurb: Between 1954 and 1996, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsored a program for American Indian children. The Indian Student Placement Program had two aims: to provide Native children with an education and to help the Church fulfill one of its central prophecies.

According to Mormon teachings, American Indians are descendants of the ancient House of Israel and church members have a responsibility to help bring them back to the Kingdom of God.

Since the Church's founding, Mormon missionaries have sought to spread their religion to Native people -- the Placement Program was part of this effort. More than 20,000 children – mostly Navajo -- were enrolled and baptized in the program over the course of 40 years.

Producer Kate Davidson spent a year talking with people involved in Placement. The story that emerged is a complicated one -- about culture and families and what can happen when people live closely but in different worlds. Our report, "Saints and Indians," is part of the series Worlds of Difference.

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Anonymous said ... (January 29, 2005 12:37 AM) 

My wife’s family hosted two Navaho girls while she grew up. I admit to not having had the time to listen to the NPR piece, but the blurb makes it sound like it was a conversion tool and that they took children away so they could be baptized. My wife’s recollection is that it was closer to the PEF or study abroad. Active Navaho youth had the opportunity to go stay with a typically well-to-do LDS family and attend school for a couple of years. 

Posted by J. Stapley


Anonymous said ... (January 31, 2005 12:17 PM) 

But many of them DID get baptised. Is it any wonder the public thought it was a conversion tool?

From the parents' POV, their child is taken away to live with a rich, white family and comes back a few years later with a new religion, abandoning the centuries-old religion of his/her ancestors.

From that POV, it does seem like a conversion tool.

As one with Cree ancestry, I personally find the programme somewhat offencive, reeking a lot of imperialism. I am glad the programme is defunct. 

Posted by Kim Siever


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