Charles R. Savage
BAPTISM OF 250 INDIANS OF THE SHEBIT NATION BY THE MORMONS AT ST. GEORGE, UTAH
From the earliest days of European contact with the native peoples of the Americas, missionaries from virtually every type of Christian church have worked to convert the Native Americans. In the Southwest it was primarily the Catholic Franciscans and Jesuits who built missions and worked with the Native Americans; likewise in the Northeast, in earlier times, Catholic missionaries were very active, with the Jesuits in the forefront.
Later on, other Christian groups instituted mission activity among the Native Americans, especially in the area from the Great Plains to the Great Basin. In the Great Basin area the Mormons—whose stronghold was at Salt Lake City, Utah—worked among groups such as the Paiute to obtain converts to their way of life and religion. This photograph indicates that there was at least some degree of success, as a large group of Native Americans identified as “Shebit” await baptism. Although the new religion apparently had some impact, it is questionable as to how effective many missionaries were. Sometimes it seems the Native Americans found it easier to go along with the intruders than to openly resist.
The name, “Shebit,” is difficult to identify since it is not found in general accounts of the Great Basin area. It probably comes from a Southern Paiute group, the “Shivwits,” who today have a reservation in the southwestern part of Utah.