Mormon ISPP

Sexual Abuse Was Not Part of the Program.  

If you were sexually abused while participating in the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program, speak to an Attorney at (505) 226-0165 or (888) 667-0683

Photo by Wayne Pullman/LDS Church History Collection

The Mormon Indian Placement Program, or Indian Student Placement Program (ISPP), also called the Lamanite Placement Program,[1] was operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in the United States, officially operating from 1954 and virtually closed by 1996. It had its peak during the 1960s and 1970s. Native American students who were baptized members of the LDS Church were placed in foster homes of LDS members during the school year. They attended majority-white public schools, rather than the Indian boarding schools or local schools on the reservations.The program was developed according to LDS theology, whereby conversion and assimilation to Mormonism could “lighten” Native Americans, who had been classified as Lamanites in terms of theology in the Book of Mormon. An estimated 50,000 Native American children went through the program.[2][3] The foster placement was intended to help develop leadership among Native Americans and assimilate them into majority-American culture. The cost of care was borne by the foster parents, and financially stable families were selected by the church. Most of these placements took place in the Navajo Nation, with a peak participation of 5,000 students in 1972. The program decreased in size after the 1970s, due to criticism, changing mores among Native Americans, and restriction of the program to high school students as schools improved on reservations. Many of the students and families praised the program; others criticized it and the LDS Church for weakening the Native Americans’ ties to their own cultures.

Unfortunately, the ISPP was a set-up for sexual abuse of the vulnerable Indian children who were without the protection of their parents.  In the spring of 2015, four plaintiffs (now referred to as the “Doe Defendants”) filed suit in the Window Rock District of the Navajo Nation Tribal Court, alleging they had been sexually abused for years while in the foster program, roughly from the years 1965 to 1983, and the Mormon Church did not adequately protect them.[4] The church filed suit in federal district court in Salt Lake City, alleging that the Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction and seeking an injunction “to stay the proceedings from moving forward under tribal jurisdiction.”[4] Federal district court judge Robert Shelby denied the church’s motion to dismiss and also ruled that it first had to “exhaust all remedies” in Tribal Court. This is considered a major victory for tribal jurisprudence.[4]

  1.  Ben Winslow, “LDS Church loses request for a restraining order in sex abuse lawsuits”, Fox13 News (Salt Lake City), 16 November 2016; accessed 5 December 2016
  2. Jump up^ Lilly Fowler, “Why Several Native Americans Are Suing the Mormon Church”The Atlantic, 23 October 2016; accessed 5 December 2016
  3. Jump up to:a b c d e Suzette Brewer, “‘I am X’: Mormon Church Faces Growing Sex Abuse Scandal, Pt. 1”Indian Country Today, 19 October 2016; accessed 5 December 2016
  4. Jump up to:a b c d e f Suzette Brewer, “Navajo Nation Has Jurisdiction in Mormon Sex Abuse Case, Judge Rules”Indian Country Today, 18 November 2016; accessed 5 December 2016

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