Savage Journey - Native American Movie Listing
Savage Journey details how Mormon church founders Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, in the early 1800s, were driven from town to town - and finally out to Utah.
Joseph was the visionary, while Brigham was the solid, sturdy peasant worker. They set up base in Missouri, where they were chased, harassed and finally decided to move to a swamp in Illinois where they would be left alone. They named this area Nauvoo. Peace was still elusive - in this new location they were written about and harassed as well. Joseph destroyed the printing press that was writing against them - and was brought to court. He was killed before the case went before a judge.
In 1846 Brigham brought all of the group out to Salt Lake in Utah, to live in peace there. They began planting - which of course drew in all the crickets in the area for easy food. The native Americans thought the easy abundance of crickets were a great free blessing of food. The Mormons laughed at this silly idea - while at the same time cursing this "plague". They merely tried to squash the bugs. Finally, as tends to happen in nature, birds saw this collection of bugs and gathered for the easy meal. The crops were saved (although the Mormons lost out on a good, nutritious bug stew surplus).
Once they settled in, Brigham pushed polygamy (for men only of course). In 1855 he was quoted as saying "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned." In the movie Brigham claims that this is a way for every woman to "have a man". However, how about the 500 young men Brigham sent off to the Army, mostly against their will? Apparently this freed up extra women for the Leaders to take on as "extras". It was very disturbing in the movie to see Brigham taking on young teen girls as wives 14 and 15. Also, in the movie it's promoted that Brigham's first "additional wife" was a poor widow with kids who needed the home and shelter. In reality, it's more disturbing to see that Joseph - the one who pushed polygamy initially - did it to get his hands on an innocent 17 yr old orphan in 1835. I'm sure the attractive 17 yr old orphan wouldn't have had trouble finding a "regular husband" of her own. Note that Joseph only told his wife Emma about his extra wives in 1843 - and she was furious. So much for the constant repetition in the movie of "the first wife always has say over any additional wives".
Note that a woman, in Mormon religion, can only be "saved" and go to Heaven if her husband is a Mormon. He needs to know her secret name to pull her into Heaven after him.
Ironically, while the movie shows the Mormons as slavery-hating African American friends, in reality they only finally allowed African American priests in 1978. That seems to be quite a different stance.
Now, on to the Native American issues. Salt Lake wasn't a wasteland when the Mormons arrived. Chief Wakara and the Utes lived there. Wakara welcomed the Mormons, figuring they could trade with each other. The Mormons began to take more and more land and trade agreements, and finally a Mormon killed a Ute. Wakara asked for justice; the Mormons refused. Wakara began attacks in retribution. The scene in the movie where Brigham "saves" Chief Wakara is a complete invention - in reality Wakara had tried repeatedly to find ways to form a peace and the Mormons had kept encroaching. Finally Wakara decided to just live with it.
The movie only shows two aspects of Native Americans. One is the wild "unprovoked" raiders that kill randomly - and the other is the cigar-smoking top hat wearing "chief" who depends on Brigham to save him and his people. Neither is very accurate at all. However, it's hard to say the movie was "down on Indians". The movie is poorly made in general. There are numerous anachronistic issues. The video quality is very poor and often extremely dark and hard to see. The audio quality is often muddled. There are numerous scene cutting problems where dialogue is clipped or people "jump".
None of the bad guys ever have "reasons" - it's always the insane, bigoted bad guys (or wild indians) against the quiet, perfectly good "good guys". It makes the entire story very unbelievable - you always wonder what the truth of the story is.
I was honestly interested in hearing about how the Mormon church began - but there is no way that I can believe this version. It is more like a high school (or middle school) film project of "My Way or the Highway" vs an accurate telling of the story. I highly recommend skipping this one and seeking out other versions of the story.
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