Monday, August 17, 2009

NPS and the Historic Mormon Trail

On a recent trip through Nebraska, my family and I stopped at the Great Platte River Road Archway. It had, as tourist traps go, a surprising amount of historical interest. While there we picked up materials on the various NPS (National Park Service) maintained historic trails that converged on that spot in Nebraska.

There are four of them; The Oregon Trail, The California Trail, The Mormon Trail, and the Pony Express. While reading the material I noticed the symbols the NPS used. The Pony Express used a rider on a horse (no surprise there), the Oregon Trail used a covered wagon (OK, that works for me), the California Trail used a ox yoke (I guess that works), and the Mormon Trail used a bison skull (really?).

Now I get the whole leave-a-message-on-the-skull thing. But is that the best they could come up with to represent the Mormon Trail? Real quick I thought what could work better...

Perhaps an image of Brigham Young, with his hand out saying this is the place. Or even a beehive or a seagull. But these are probably more symbolic of settling Utah than the trip to get there.

A Book of Mormon, Golden Plates. or the Angel Moroni are probably too religious for a government organization. Still they would be more symbolic for why they were going.

A handcart may be too specific. Only a fraction of the pioneers came by handcart. Perhaps an Ensign? It would only be remotely religious, but perhaps as obscure as the note on bison skulls. And a Roadometer is perhaps even more obscure.

So what do you think would be a better symbol of the Mormon Trail?


Ardis Parshall said...

I'm just glad they let the name "Mormon Trail" stand and didn't try to change it to "Utah Trail" or something like that.

I actually kind of like the buffalo skull. The Sons of Utah Pioneers has used that as their symbol, and we've used it on our Duty to God awards and other places. It may not be specifically Mormon (except in that it serves as a Mormon trademark as long as the same representation is always used -- as long as nobody gets clever and poses the skull in another position, I mean), but it works. Something a little more overtly Mormon might not be easily comprehensible to others, or might provide an easier target to complain about as representing religiosity.

The wagon and ox bow would work as well if they weren't already taken, and are no more specific to those trails than the skull is to ours ...

Tah said...

The leaving a message for those that fallow is unique, Those on the CA or OR trails where on their own. The Mormons prepared the trail for those who came latter.

BruceCrow said...

I didn't know about the SUP and other uses of the bison skull. It makes more sense now.

Those on other trails did leave messages for those who came later, but it was generally foolish to trust the messages left by ohers. The Donner party took the unreliable advice of someone they didn't know.

Rob Lo 27 said...

I read that the Donner party, got into trouble when they would not take the advice given to them?
And perhaps a Human Skull would serve a "Mormon Trailmarker" better.
As in the Mountain Meadows incident, where MOST of the 100 victims had bullet holes from close range into the front of the forehead.
I think ALL the Mormon history needs told, not only the innocent cheerful and suspiciously one sided views, being re-told again and again.

BruceCrow said...

You are sadly misinformed about the Donner party. They were misled by their advice into crossing the desert where they did.
As for Mormon History, it has been told from more than one side for many years. What is needed is a less biased version of Mormon History. I think the recent (Walker, Turley, & Leonard) book on Mountain Meadows is a good start.