Cattle and Colonizers

In Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, Jeremy Rifkin writes, "From the very beginning of the modern colonial era, cattle played a prominent role in the confiscation of new lands and the subjugation of native people." This is certainly true of the area where I live.

In 1855, the Utah Territorial Legislature granted the Cache Valley to Brigham Young, president of the Mormon Church. That same year, Young's first action in colonizing of the area was to send 29 men and two women with a herd of 3000 "cattle" to establish the Elkhorn Ranch (antlers of killed elks hung over the entrance to the ranch, hence the name "Elkhorn"). That first year all but 420 of the 3000 "cattle" died as a result of the severe winter weather. In spite of this early failure, the Mormons were intent of colonizing the Valley.

Over the next few years, a number of fort-style settlements started to be built throughout the area. By 1859 six settlements — Wellsville, Providence, Mendon, Logan, Smithfield and Richmond — had been established. A March 9, 1860, New York Times article reported on the colonization:

Much of the population of the cities and old settlements is floating off to new fields for enterprise. Cache Valley, north [of Salt Lake Valley], is a favorite place. This fine Valley possesses any amount of wood, water, grass and fertile soil. ... Several new settlements were made there last Summer, and, from all appearances, there will be quite a stampede for the Valley the coming season. ... I think the faithful are now rejoicing at the success of [Young's] stratagem, whereby that large and fertile Valley was left open for civil settlement.

"Quite a stampede for the Valley" indeed; and in more ways than one. The effect of this "stampede" to colonize the Cache Valley was devastating for the indigenous people and nonhuman animals who were overrun by "cattle" and settlers. Like David Nibert wrote in Animal Rights/Human Rights:

In the colonized areas of the Americas, indigenous other animals were being displaced and killed as land speculators and human settlers wreaked havoc on their lives and homelands. Most colonizers viewed other animals much as they viewed indigenous humans — as troublesome pests and competitors, obstacles to maximum economic control of the area.

In her essay "Heteropatriarcy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy" from The Color of Violence (South End Press, 2005), Andrea Smith connects colonialism and genocide as one of the three pillars of White supremacy:

This logic holds that indigenous peoples must disappear. In fact, they must always be disappearing, in order to allow non-indigenous peoples rightful claim over this land. Through this logic of genocide, non-Natives peoples then become the rightful inheritors of all that was indigenous — land, resources, indigenous spirituality, or culture.

I'm a non-Native living in Cache Valley, and that makes me a colonizer. It is only through the logic of genocide that I can claim to be the rightful inheritor of this land and its resources. These are the privileges of Whiteness; I can choose to accept them, or I can refuse them. As Patricia Hill Collins writes in Fighting Words, "Those colonizers whose refusal is genuine represent more of a threat than is commonly imagined."

The picture above is between Utah State University's football and basketball stadiums in front of the shared parking lot. USU was founded as the Utah Agricultural College. Ag-science is a still a big part of the university. The bull is the USU mascot.