A photograph of Zion’s Commercial Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) in Salt Lake City, with Native Americans on horseback, 1869.
Concerned about commercial competition and eager to achieve Mormon economic self-sufficiency, Utah territorial governor Brigham Young founded ZCMI as one of the US’s earliest department stores. ZCMI’s first downtown location was a block of stores known as Eagle Emporium, here shown in 1869 with a group of Native American and other men posing in front. The sign on the building reads “Holiness to the Lord,” a phrase affixed to the exterior of Mormon temples and other buildings dedicated for religious purposes.
Mormons believed Native Americans were part of the lost tribes of Israel, and they felt a responsibility to convert, educate, and assimilate them. Several tribes lived in the Utah Valley at the time Mormons arrived there, including Utes and Shoshones. The rapid influx of Anglo-Europeans sparked conflict not unlike that in other areas of the West, as local Indian peoples resisted religious conversion and dispossession of their lands. Native American persistence within and around Mormon settlements can be seen in this photograph.