Indian Placement Program
The Indian Placement Program, or Indian Student Placement Program was a program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1947 to 2000, in which LDS Native American students were placed in Latter-day Saint foster homes during the school year, where they would attend public schools and become assimilated into American culture. Cost of care was borne by the foster parent.
The program was initially developed to respond to the needs of Navajo teenagers and even younger children who were coming to parts of Utah to work. It was felt it would be better for them to get an education. Only church members could participate in the program, which meant that children had to be eight to be involved. The program initially operated under the Relief Society and eventually became part of Latter-day Saint Social Services (now LDS Family Services).
Beginning in the 1970s, however, the Indian Placement Program came under criticism. In 1977, the U.S. government commissioned a study to investigate accusations that the church was using its influence to push children into joining the program. The commission rejected these accusations, however, finding that the program was largely positive, and enjoyed emphatic support both from Native American parents and white foster parents. However, the criticism of the program continued. Supporters believed that exposure to white culture was beneficial to Native American children, and that it improved educational and economic opportunities, while critics believed the program undermined the children's Native American identity.
In 2000 the last student graduated from the program, though the program never was officially discontinued.
A century earlier, during the earliest days of the LDS Church in Utah, there was a Latter-day Saints practice of raising Native American children in Mormon homes. Brigham Young advocated buying children held by Native Americans as slaves (a legal practice in the Utah Territory prior to the American Civil War), and encouraged Latter-day Saints to educate and acculturate them as if they were their own children.
- James B. Allen, "The Rise and Decline of the LDS Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-1996," Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, ed. Davis Bitton (Provo: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998), 85-119.
- Matthew Garrett, "Mormons, Indians and Lamanites: The Indian Student Placement Program, 1947-2000." Ph.D. dissertation, Arizona State University, 2010.