A group of American Indian leaders from several tribes plan to gather at the site of an 1857 massacre in hopes of healing the lingering wounds over the killings.
Paiute Indians were once blamed for the slaughter of 120 men, women and children from Arkansas heading West, near what is now the southern Utah town of Enterprise.
But now it is believed that Mormon pioneers settling southern Utah were responsible for the killings. John D. Lee, an adopted son of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young, was the only man tried, convicted and executed in the killings.
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“It’s like a big open wound, and it will be closed,” said Larry Williams, a Cherokee spiritual leader who will take part in the five-day healing ceremony for the Mountain Meadows Massacre starting Sept. 7.
Organizers say they will also invite leaders of the Mormon church to take part in the ceremonies.
Though many reputable historians believe Mormons committed the killings, some also believe Paiutes took part in the massacre on Sept. 11, 1857.
Forensic analysis of remains accidentally unearthed at the massacre site in 1999 revealed that some of the slaughtered emigrants had distinct Indian characteristics, attributed to the Cherokees.
“We’re looking to bring a blessing for the dead and to settle their energies,” said Raine Bowen, who is a Cherokee and one of the event’s organizers.
Some spiritual leaders will hold all-night ceremonies, while others will open the day with prayers, Bowen said. No cameras or recording devices will be admitted since the ceremonies are sacred, she said.
“It’s no political statement, and we request that people come down with a good heart to bring about the healing,” Bowen said.
The public is welcome to attend.
In 1999, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in activities during a monument dedication that honored the victims and sponsored a graveside dedication.
But Bowen said it’s important that Indians orchestrate their own ceremonies on the site to bring peace to their ancestors’ spirits.