In Laman’s Terms: Looking at Lamanite Identity

h/t marabu

Synopsis: “What is a Lamanite?” Based on this single basic question, one Native American man seeks out answers to hard questions about Indian and Mormon identity. Angelo Baca, a Navajo and Hopi filmmaker, takes a personal journey exploring the influences of the Mormon culture upon his own and what the definition of a Lamanite really means for individuals within the church as well as outside of it. Traveling across the country from New York to Hawaii, issues such as colonization, assimilation, and proselytizing of indigenous populations are confronted and discussed. From an indigenous perspective, this provocative documentary explores the impacts the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Book of Mormon has on native peoples and communities challenging the traditional, some might even say racist, notions of the original term and its place in the church’s teachings. A documentary whose answers will surprise and enlighten you (embedded video will load below or click here to watch at culture unplugged).

In Laman’s Terms: Looking at Lamanite Identity
Directed by Angelo Baca
Runtime: 56:49

Chino Blanco

--- We are men of action, lies do not become us. ---

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9 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    Fascinating video — thanks for posting it!

  2. David Allred says:

    Great video. I can’t say I agree with your last statement. “We determine what a Lamanite is.” That would be like me saying I determine what a black man or an indian is. Lamanite is just a ficticious term that has been placed on your and my ancestors.
    It needs to be accepted as such by all people and the LDS church needs to accept responsibility for it and the damage it has caused to so many people and their culture and traditions. Thanks again for taking time to make this. It was very enjoyable.

  3. Alan says:

    David — Chino is not the documentarian.

    Chino — this video is amazing. Thanks for posting it.

    I really like Haunani-Kay Trask’s (featured in the last 10 minutes) no nonsense approach to colonialism.

    In his All Abraham Children, Armaud Mauss has a chapter titled “From Lamanite to Indian,” suggesting that the Church has stopped insisting that all Native Americans are “Lamanites.” I seem to remember him saying that as the Church expanded southerly into Central and South America, there were just too many — too many Lamanites that it was producing an idenitarian crisis… it no longer had the proselytizing power and control it did mid-century. Because today, what, half the Church would be “Lamanite?”

    The “Lamanite Generation” in the 1970s as discussed in the video by who I assume to be the documentarian’s mother consisted of natives in Utah, and she said it now consists of “Polynesians, Hispanics…all of a sudden everyone is a Lamanite!” It’s like Trask says: “A prostitution of culture, where native peoples become entertainers and native cultures become shadows of themselves,” all for the sake of what? The Gospel?

    Let’s see if I have this Gospel right: Moroni, a white-skinned native, visited Joseph Smith, a white man, after the death of hundreds of thousands of native people due to white colonization and disease, to give him a history of native peoples that they themselves had lost. That reads like a primer on “how to colonize.”

    So taking this video and moving forward, what I’d like to see is (1) a video of Mormonism in Central and South America, to get a sense of whether the Church is moving in an indigenous direction that is increasingly falling out the hands of Church leaders here in the States. Unfortunately, my sense is that because the Church is so new overseas (three generations at max?), you’re pretty much going to see what the woman at the printing press was saying: “Our old traditions are bad, the Gospel is good and will make you happy.” That wasn’t a good sign…

    (2) A video about white ideas about natives at the time of the writing of the Book of Mormon, which would have influenced Smith.

    There has to be a pincer movement. The DNA and lack of archeological evidence, I think, has pushed the Church to back away from all natives being Lamanite, but what it hasn’t done is push the Church from backing away from being colonialist. Though I guess if you think you have “the one and only full truth,” then you can’t help but be colonialist….

    Anyway, next time I have missionaries over, I’ll pull out this video.

  4. Chino Blanco says:

    No kidding – weren’t the last 10 minutes a hoot? I was kinda worried that folks would balk at taking in the full hour, but 1) I was just up on that campus this past summer, and it rocks, as does the rest of Seattle, so y’all can deal (how cool is it that this kid criss-crossed the country to complete his project?), and 2) I have a Georgia O’Keeffe/Susan Sontag fetish anyways, so I’m not apologizing for enjoying the final moments of Hawaiian Helen Whitney/Sarah Barringer Gordon-esque eye candy.

  5. Alan says:

    *this Seattleite smiles*

  6. Doug Forbes says:

    Of the 4 or 5 possible scenarios where the majority of American Indians could have Near Eastern paternal ancestors, my current favorite is this. Many Native Americans typed as Q1a3a are actually Q1a3b. The mutation that separates these two lineage groups is called M323. I have read a number of DNA studies focused on Americans of pre-Columbian origin and none of them have listed M323 as one of the mutations tested for.
    1. The Q1a3b Y-chromosome haplogroup includes 15% of Yemenite Jews. (Shen 2004)
    2. The Q1a3a Y-chromosome haplogroup includes 30% of American Indians and about 4% of Latinos in the US, (Hammer 2005)
    3. The Q1a3b haplogroup has never been found in a non-Jewish population which means that, at present, it is an Israelite marker.
    4. According to Yemenite Jewish folk history, a group of wealthy Israelites left Jerusalem for Yemen in 629 BC when they heard Jeremiah predict the destruction of the temple.
    5. The Q1a3a marker in American Indians is typically identified by testing positive for 2 mutations (M242 and M346) and negative for 1 mutation (M3). However, if you performed the same tests on a Yemenite Jew who belonged to the Q1a3b haplogroup you would get the same results; positive for M242 and M346 and negative for M3. You would test for the M323 mutation in order to find the difference.
    Until a reasonable search is made for the M323 mutation in populations of pre-Columbian American origin a direct link between the Middle East and pre-Columbian Americans via the Q1a3b haplogroup can not be dismissed.

  7. George Windes says:

    I fully enjoyed Mr. Baca’s film. As a PostMormon, who both served as a missionary to the Navajo and worked both ends of the Lamanite placement program, I identified much with his assessment of Latter-day Saint teachings toward indigenous people. Today I am the California reporter for my own tribe and celebrate its own culture and history. As stated in the film, being brown, the color of our earth is a special privilege. Mvto! for this work.

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