'Written on the Rocks': The Mythopoetics of the Almo Massacre
In this essay, I examine the evolved narrative associated with the Almo Massacre, in which 295 overland emigrants, camped at the Silent City of Rocks along the California Trail, were said to have been massacred by a vast accumulation of united Indian nations. This examination includes a review of the historic context of the initial telling Americas overland migration and the ensuing interaction between both non-Indian emigrants and Indian inhabitants and also between Gentile and Mormon emigrants; the storys origins in the oral tradition and its evolution to written form; and the modern debate concerning the historic accuracy of the massacre account. In an example of narrative erosion, historians, archaeologists, and regional tribes argue that the massacre never happened. Members of the local Mormon community argue that it did.
In addition to the introductory examination of the storys erosion (from stable history to myth), I consider the poetics of the myththe symbolic (and consistently Manichean) representations of emigrant, Indian, Gentile, and Mormon accumulation and dissemination and the degree to which these symbolic representations map to landscape; the importance of silence and anonymity to the myths meaning; and the content of the myths narrative form. I conclude that the myth is not only a local mistake but also a significant and representative example of the national symbolic: that it tells a complex story of nation building and of the tensions and contradictions inherent to all imagined communities. America is an (im)migrant nation the one-as-many founded on the contradictory national rhetoric of the many-as-one. The Silent Citys landscape and the story that it stages convey this inherent tension.
Advisor:Eric Reimer; Nancy Cook; Katie Kane; Christine Whitacre
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:07/25/2007