Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » You Have Been Listening to an M.I.A. Broadcast: “Indian Lore for the Vanguards,” 1933
 


You Have Been Listening to an M.I.A. Broadcast: “Indian Lore for the Vanguards,” 1933

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 18, 2011

(The Vanguards were 15- and 16-year-olds in the Church’s program for boys.)

Radio Services, Sunday, Jan. 29, 1933 Under
Auspices of the Mutual Improvement
Association Boards

Firm as the mountains around us,
Stalwart and brave we stand
On the rock our fathers planted.
the rock of honor and virtue,
Of faith in the living God.
They raised his banner triumphant
Over the desert sod.

And we hear the desert singing,
Carry on, carry on, carry on!
Hills and vales and mountains ringing,
Carry on, carry on, carry on!
Holding aloft our colors,
We march in the glorious dawn.
Oh, Youth of the noble birthright,
Carry on, carry on, carry on!

The challenges expressed in these stirring lines is a veritable rallying cry to the members of the Mutual Improvement association. The refrain “And we hear the desert singing, Carry on, Carry on, Carry on,” has been our theme song on the five radio programs presented by this organization.

On Christmas night we brought to you, friends of the M.I.A., our Yuletide greetings and endeavored to show that leisure time pursuits, to be worthwhile, must build for an abundant, spiritual life as portrayed by the Master. Our second program introduced the eight departments of the Mutual Improvement Association with brief sketches of their activities in physical education. Following were evenings featuring music and drama, two of our major activities.

Last Sunday, with Junior and Gleaner girls, we delved into an old treasure chest, searching for relics and stories of the past, and tonight, as our final presentation, we bring to you the Vanguards and Scouts in an Indian theme.

(Indian Music)

Who has stood before the mystic writings on our cliffs – within the sacred circle of a Kiva – or in the presence of a tall and stately Navajo Indian – without wondering about the all but hidden past of these two mighty continents of ours.

The Latter-day Saint from the pages of his treasured scripture, The Book of Mormon, called by Ezekiel the Stick of Ephraim, reads a history of at least three peoples who came here at widely separated intervals.

This remarkable history, given to the world in 1830, tells of great cities of men expert in architecture, skilled in working metals, mighty in war and great in government.

It speaks of the Jaredites, an ancient people; the Nephites, immigrants to this hemisphere in the year 600 B.C., and of the Mulekites who came about the same time.

The Nephites were of the house of Israel and were led by mighty prophets. Later, wealth brought dissensions, and finally in the year 400 A.D., destruction, or almost total destruction to the civilization that flourished here.

The remnants of the people who were left, though treasuring memories of their Golden Days of the great city Zarahemla, of the visitation of Christ the Savior, gradually as the history states it, “dwindled in unbelief.” They are the so-called Indians whom the Europeans found here. Nomadic, in the main, especially in North America, indolent and unambitious, many of them still cherished traditions of a once great people.

To the Latter-day Saint the Indian is not of India, is not really native to America. He is an immigrant from Palestine, and has had great blessings pronounced upon his head. He has always been much more than a savage. His traditions and legends have been more than myths – they have been echoes, or fragmentary memories, handed down by word of mouth through the ages.

Because of this attitude, as much as because of the color, romance and interest of Indian lore, the Vanguards of the Church have used to a considerable extent an Indian background for their program.

GREAT SPIRIT

Great spirit, listen to the red man’s wail!
Thou hast the power to help him in his woe,
Thy mighty arm was never known to fail;
Great Chieftain, save him from the pale-faced foe!

His broad, green hunting grounds, where buff’loes roam,
His bubbling streams where finny thousands play,
The waving prairies, once his happy home,
Are fast departing to the Christian’s sway.

And shall our nation, once so great, decay?
Our children perish, and our chieftains die,
Great Spirit, help! Thy glorious power display,
Subdue our foes! O, hear the Indians cry.

The red man ceased, and trembling with delight,
For brighter far than the meridian sun,
A dazzling vision burst upon his sight –
A glorious angel from the Holy One!

“Your prayers are heard,” he said, “and I am here
To tell you what will shortly come to pass;
A day of joy for all your tribes is near,
Your foes shall perish like the sun-scorched grass.

“The Holy Book your fathers hid is found,
Your ‘Mormon’ brothers will the truth reveal;
Though troubles press, and all seems black around,
Obey their words – your soul’s deep wounds will heal.

“Not many moons shall pass away before
The curse of darkness from your skins shall flee,
Your ancient beauty will the Lord restore,
And all your tribes shall dwell in unity.

“The arts of peace shall flourish ne’er to die;
The war whoop and the deadly strife shall cease;
Disease shall then depart, and every sigh,
and health and life shall flow in every breeze.

“Farewell! remember I was once on earth,
And served the Lord of hosts on this fair land,
Observed His sacred precepts from my birth,
And now I dwell in bliss at His right hand.”

The angel left and darkness came again,
But light and joy dwelt in the Indian’s soul,
Oh, may the day soon dawn for Ephraim’s reign,
When all the “glorious land” he shall control.

I shall tell you the story of Quetzalcoatl, “The Great White God With a Beard.” This is one of the favorite legends of the Indians of Mexico and Central America, and is adapted from an article by Donald C. Pierce.

Quetzalcoatl means “A Serpent Decked with feathers.” There are those who wonder if the name came from the Master’s words “Wise as serpents but blameless as doves.”

According to the legend which Indian grandmothers, the historians of the tribes, told their children as the little copper-colored boys and girls lay on furs from animals around the fire at night, Quetzalcoatl, the great High priest of Tollon, was a very handsome person. His skin was glowing white, he was tall and straight like a pine, and had a broad forehead and brilliant eyes. His teeth were like new pearls which his black whiskers could not hide. His hair was long and black.

This glorious man, this deity, came mysteriously out of the east, and though he was a god, he dwelt among the people. Being wise and good, he taught men virtue and penitence, self-sacrifice and fasting. He discouraged the barbarous practice of offering animal and human sacrifice.

This great being taught men how to work metals into all sorts of beautiful designs, how to polish ornaments, precious stones and jewels, and set them in gold and silver. The people with whom he visited became great artists. Their rings and bracelets, their diadems and their vessels were like heavenly jewelry fashioned by the gods.

He went also to the farmer and taught him how to plant his seeds, and how to make them grow. According to these legends, maize attained such enormous size that a single ear of corn was all a man could carry. Gourds and melons measured not less than four feet in length. It was no longer necessary laboriously to make dyes, for cotton grew in all needed colors – red, sky blue, forest green and sunset gold. In those days corn, cotton, fruits and flowers, singing birds and birds of brilliant plumage — everything grew in rich abundance. All men were rich. There were no poor; no sick, no lame; for he had taught them unselfishness, and had healed them.

When Quetzalcoatl wished to proclaim a law, he called a hero whose voice could be heard a hundred leagues away. This man was sent to proclaim the edict from the summit of a famous peak, called by the Indians the mountain of clamor.

In a word, to all tribes the time of Quetzalcoatl was the golden age of the Americas.

But, while the country was at the height of its prosperity. Quetzalcoatl told his people that higher gods had called him to visit another land. Charging his followers to tell the people that he would return some day, with white men bearded like himself, and lead them in wisdom forever, he disappeared by way of the ocean.

Through the ages the people waited patiently while their priests prophesied of his second coming. Then came the Europeans – white men with beards – Columbus to San Salvador, Cortez to Mexico, Captain Cook to Hawaii, De Soto to the Mississippi, Pizarro to Peru, and everywhere they were hailed as gods. But what disappointments awaited an eager people! Persecution, robbery, enslavement and death followed the banners of the whites.

Yet in the hearts of Indians, throughout many parts of America tonight, Quetzalcoatl still lives and they know he will come again bye and bye, and restore the golden age. He is their great giver of gifts.

Now who was Quetzalcoatl? Was he a myth? Was he merely a legendary figure like Paul Bunyan or King Arthur? We Mormons say we don’t think so. We wonder if you can not find out who he is by reading in the Book of Mormon, third Nephi, beginning with chapter eleven. At any rate the legend, allowing for the additions of story tellers through the ages, matches that historical account in Third Nephi remarkably well.

(Flute solo, “Indian Lament,” by Horace A. Beesley.)

All right. Now I’ll tell you a story of Canadian Indians. This story came from President Edward J. Wood, of Cardston, Alberta, Canada, through C. Frank Steele, editor of the Lethbridge Herald, Alberta, Canada.

Some years ago a Cree chief by the name of Yellow Face and about twenty families of Indians came to Cardston and asked where they might camp and trap. President Wood treated them with characteristic kindness and allowed them to camp on Church lands near Mountain View. The Indians, an intelligent group, mingled with the members of the Mountain View Latter-day Saint ward. Often they attended church on Sunday, and on one occasion a ward reunion where they were seated.

At the close of the trapping season the Indians returned to their homes. The following year they came back to Mountain View and again the third year. This time they became more friendly and invited one of the bishops to attend a council of chiefs at the head of which was Yellow Face. The bishop was asked to speak and complied, telling the Indians of the first principles of the Gospel in which they manifested but little interest.

Subsequently, however, the same bishop was asked to speak to the Indians again. this time, as he entered the council lodge, he decided to tell them the story of the Book of Mormon. As soon as he mentioned a book which he said contained the history of their forefathers, the chiefs became instantly alert. As his story progresses they became so stirred that he had difficulty going on.

When the bishop concluded, Chief Yellow Face rose and this is the story he told:

A few years before our people came here first I was taken very sick, but was told in a dream or a vision, by a member of my tribe who had been dead for years that I would recover. He said, however, that I would get sick again – would die, but that my family was not to bury my body until it was cold all over. When I woke I told my family of my dream. They laughed at me, not believing, but I was afraid.

Some time later I took sick again and grew rapidly worse. I reminded my family that I wasn’t to be buried until I was cold all over – from head to feet.

I got weaker and finally I left my body and went among a lot of Indians. I knew they were dead, for some of them were my friends – more of them I did not know. But though I knew their bodies had been buried, these Indians were really not dead at all. I could not understand it, but they told me that to die was only to leave the body for our folks to take care of, but they told me I was not to die – yet – that I had to go back and use my body again for several years. They said I was to go among the white people until I found a book that told the story of these dead Indians who really were not dead at all. I asked them how I would know these people, who had the book that would tell my live Indian friends all about who they are and about their dead fathers.

They gave me the keys.

First, they said, they will let you camp on their own land and trap and hunt; second, they will treat you as an equal – like one of themselves when you do any sort of business with them; third, they will invite you to their meetings and ask you to speak; fourth, they will ask you to sit with them at their tables to eat; fifth, they will visit you at your camp; their men will not molest your women or any of you. Then these Indians who were dead and yet who were still alive said, When you find these people have them meet in your council and tell you what they believe, and they will tell you about the book.

I then woke up and found my wife and my friends had about decided to bury me as I had seemed dead for some time and was cold all over except a small place over my heart.

But when I came back and told them where I had been and that our Indian relatives were not dead at all, they wondered at me. Then when I told them I would pick about twenty families and lead them until we found the book, again they wondered, but since they believed in the Great Spirit, they followed me.

So, in due time I made up my company and we began traveling. We traveled many seasons, but we found it hard to find a people that answered to the five keys which I had been given. We found few who were true friends of the Indian.

But now we have found the people and we have also found the book.

A Book of Mormon was given to the chief. He took it and carefully wrapped it and placed it in the buckskin bag which contained the tribal valuables – the medicine bag. This was hung on a tripod before the lodge of the head chief.

After receiving the Book of Mormon the Crees soon left to return to their own reservation, as happy, seemingly as was Hercules when he secured the Golden Apples from the Garden of the Hesperides.



4 Comments »

  1. I always enjoy reading these transcripts of the old church radio programs. I recently read Jared Farmer’s On Zion’s Mount about the history of the relations between Mormon settlers and the Utes who lived in Utah Valley. It speaks at length about our fascination with Indian lore, and the image of the Noble Savage. It also talks about how the whole idea of feeding the Indians instead of fighting them came about after we discovered fighting them wasn’t really all that helpful.

    For all that Farmer’s book might be a bubble-burster, it does give us a better perspective on the actual contributions of the Native American people who actually lived in Utah when the Mormons first arrived. And it really helps put in perspective how the entire nation had a fascination during the earlier parts of the 20th century with Native American legends and lore. This program is a real representation of the culture of the times.

    Comment by kevinf — March 18, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  2. Thanks for that, kevinf. Reading this today sounds so alien to everything I know or think I know intellectually, yet at the same time it feels so familiar on some other level. This takes me right back to my childhood and dressing up as an Indian for Halloween, or making “feather” headdresses out of construction paper in first grade.

    This radio program is a real time machine, capturing as it does the real words and attitudes of an earlier generation.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 18, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  3. I’d be curious to find out if the Horace Beesley that played the flute solo on this program was the same Horace Beesley that presided over my father’s mission to Central Germany in the late 1960s.

    Comment by Clark — March 19, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

  4. You just never can guess what connections are going to be made here! This obituary for Horace Pratt Beesley, the mission president, says he was an accomplished musician — particularly in flute and piccolo! — and puts him in Salt Lake at the right time to have participated in this broadcast. He would have been 10 or 15 years too old to have been a Vanguard, but nothing in the program suggests that all the performers were in fact Vanguards.

    I think we have a winner.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 19, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI