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“I’m Sorry, You Can’t Vote…”

This activity can follow the Campaign Posters activity, or it can be done in its own. It’s a voting simulation that teaches students how the Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887) effected the People’s Party vote.

It involves two political candidates (fictitious or not) running against each other for a local government position. One comes from the Mormon dominated People’s Party, and the other comes from the Liberal Party. After each side has made its political intentions known, the class votes. Now, at that time in territorial Utah, the People’s Party held a clear majority over the Liberal Party. However, with the the Edmunds-Tucker Act newly enforced, the voting rights for polygamists was revoked. This had a great effect in areas where the number of people in both political parties were close, such as Ogden and Salt Lake. With the decreased amount of votes from the People’s Party, the Liberal Party came out on top!

Hand out a “ballot” to each student, listing each candidate’s name preceded by a check-box. Each student will privately vote, and once it appears that all the votes have been cast, call everyone up to the ballot box. They need to form 2 lines at each side of the box, for People’s Party and Liberal Party accordingly. You stand in the middle with the box in front of you. Let the students drop their vote in the box once they get to the front of the line. But for every 3rd student in the People’s Party line, say, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re vote doesn’t count,” and toss it aside. This might get some students upset, but it’s expected. Now they’ll know what it was like for polygamists who couldn’t vote!

Count up the votes, and in the ideal situation, the Liberals should have the most votes. If you’re worried about not having enough People’s Party or Liberal Party votes, you can always assign a percentage of kids to a certain party. Give them a role to play: “You and your friends belong to the Liberal Party- you don’t think it’s fair to bring religion into politics and…etc.” Try this or your own version out, and let us know how it went!

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Campaign Posters

Have you ever seen Walt Disney’s, “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” (1968)? It’s about a musical family with strong Democrat ties who moves out west to the Dakota Territory, and finds themselves in conflict with the predominant Republican community. Seems like a tough life for minorities… Or would it have been tougher for the community to have these Democrats “threaten” their political system, speaking out against everything they stood for? Hmmm…

Believe it or not, a very similar thing happened in Utah Territory. Because of their common religion and way of life, Mormons didn’t really have a need for a political party because there was hardly anyone around who thought differently. And since the Mormons were the first white, permanent settlers in Utah, they became very accustomed to this way of life. That is, until non-Mormons, or “Gentiles” as the Mormons called them, started trickling in and making their political views known through their Liberal Party.

Like in the movie, the Mormons felt annoyed and almost threatened as the Liberal Party grew in numbers as more Gentiles moved to Utah. They felt they needed to join together in a political party to off-set these Liberals. Thus emerged the People’s Party. As the non-Mormon population grew, candidates from the People’s Party started loosing to those of the Liberal Party in local elections, such as in Salt Lake and Ogden. As these new political leaders took office, many Mormons feared what kind of changes that would bring to Utah, and if it would have an affect on the Mormon culture.

Pretend there was an election coming up between candidates between the People’s Party and Liberal Party. You can use two real or fictitious names, or perhaps two different students in your class. Who would your students vote for? What might have been some of the issues of debate between these parties? After discussing this, have your students design and create a campaign poster for the candidate of their choice. What kind of things would you put on your poster to convince people to vote for your party’s candidate?

For more information about this video click here.

For purchase information, click The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band

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Story Time: “Growing Up In Zion”

Growing Up in Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers Building the Kingdom by Susan Madsen is another great book chock-full of stories from children who grew up in early Utah. Check out what life was like back then!

Like I mentioned in Story Time: “I Walked/Sailed to Zion”, gather your students around your feet and maybe even pass out a treat as you read them stories!

Do you have a favorite story from this book? Let’s hear about it and your other story-telling experiences in the comments below!

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Statehood Mural

After waiting so long, longer than most territories’ wait for statehood, Utah finally was admitted to the Union on January 4, 1896. Utahns across the state started planning festivities. You can celebrate in your classroom too, by creating a mural on a long roll of craft paper. Every student will need to contribute to this mural in order for its success. On your mural, students need to illustrate different scenes from Utah history learned up to that point.

This activity is great because it shows the history of Utah through pictures. It shows how Utah has changed so much from the time of its early inhabitants. This activity can also be used as a kind of “brain spill” so students can “spill” whatever they know, or what stands out the most, from the many lessons of Utah history.

You don’t want to make mural too big, or else it might be hard to fill up the space. But you want it long enough for students to show Utah’s long and diverse history.

Another option, is assigning each student, or a small group, to illustrate a particular scene in Utah’s history, instead of it being a free-for-all. You may even want to throw a class party to get the kids into the spirit of things!

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Political Cartoons

Your students have probably seen political cartoons before, but have perhaps never analyzed them. The political cartoon at the bottom of this post appeared in “The Wasp”, a magazine from San Francisco, on February 8th, 1879. You can project it onto a screen, zoom in on the cartoon, and discuss it with your class. Ask the following questions (some of which are taken from the textbook, “Utah: A Journey of Discovery”, pg 179):

What do you think the cartoonist thought of Mormonism?

What does this cartoon tell you about what the country thought about Mormons?

Since Uncle Sam was able to symbolically “kick-out” the Chinese and Mormons, what does the cartoonist think should happen to the others still in the bed?

Political Cartoon: “Uncle Sam’s Troublesome Bedfellows”

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This can be a sensitive issue to some students, but to others it’s simply a fact that polygamy was once practiced by Mormons. It, of course, stopped with LDS President Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto (a.k.a. Official Declaration 1) in 1890. It’s important to remind students that even though there were some polygamists, and many people that came from polygamous families, the majority Mormon pioneers were monogamous (married to only one person at a time).

In the Utah History textbook we currently use, “Utah: A Journey of Discovery”, there is an excerpt from a book called, “The Bishop’s Horse Race”, by Blaine and Brenton Yorgason. This excerpt tells of a polygamist who quickly hides himself in a ditch from a nearby “co-hab hunter”. Teachers may want to share this excerpt when explaining the relation of polygamists and non-Mormons in Utah’s history, and how many went into hiding during this critical time.

If you do not currently use this particular textbook, and would like to share the excerpt for your students, let me know and I will include it in this post.

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Johnston’s Army is Coming!

After the Mormon Pioneers settled down in Utah, the U.S. government didn’t like the idea of this rumored religious group governing themselves. So President Buchanan decided to send General Johnston and his army into Utah territory to see that things were done right. This activity is a role-play that involves every student, and lets them learn about the struggle for statehood by acting it out!

I’m not going to put an actual script for the play here, because every teacher is different and would probably have his/her own way of writing it. But here is an outline you can use to create the play:

Scene One: Salt Lake City- Mormon pioneers talking working together (perhaps working on the Salt Lake Temple) and talking amongst themselves about being persecuted and coming out West. They also talk about Governor Brigham Young and things he is trying to implement in the territory, including things that have worked, and things that haven’t.

Scene Two: Washington D.C.- President Buchanan talking to General Johnston on the rumored “Mormon rebellion”, and their unfair treatment of non-Mormons. He orders him to take command of an army waiting for him in Kansas, and lead them to Utah territory to create order. He also appoints Mr. Alfred Cummings as the new governor of Utah territory and tells him he has quite the task ahead of him of gaining favor with the Mormons.

Scene Three: Salt Lake City- Governor Brigham Young receives word about Johnston’s Army heading towards Utah. He fears they have come to persecute and destroy the Mormons as in times past. He addresses locals and tells them what needs to be done before the army arrives: form an army (5,000 men), burn Fort Bridger and Fort Supply, drive off their animals and destroy their animals’ food. Captain Lot Smith is appointed and leads his men out to do this.

Scene Four: After waiting for warmer weather, Johnston’s Army arrives and is shocked to find everything deserted. Once they find the residents of Salt Lake, Johnston introduces the Mormons to their new governor, Governor Cummings, and says he and his army will be stationed at Camp Floyd. He also tells people to expect some additional changes, such as constructing new buildings to meet the army’s needs. He also tells them to “cheer up” because the arrival of his army means a boost to Utah’s economy (“You just got 3,500 new customers to buy your things, and we have plenty of things you can buy from us for cheap!”). Governor Cummings expresses his wishes and desire for peace and prosperity while he is in office.

Scene Five: Settlers talking amongst themselves. Some agreeing that this change might not be so bad after all, and some still hate the army’s arrival. Others expressing complications that might arise by having the army stationed so close, and by having a governor who is not of their religion. Some might point out that this change might be a step in the right direction for Utah to become a state.

One option teachers have with this play, is choosing to write a script themselves, or allow the students to write it once you give them this outline. Either way, it’s sure to be a fun activity in which no one is left out.

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