2009 Jared Farmer, On Zion's Mount (Harvard University Press)

Farmer’s book takes us to Utah’s Lake of the Timpanogos, a watery “haven in a hard, inconstant land,” and shows us what that place meant to its earliest recorded inhabitants, the native people who called themselves Fish-Eaters. He gives us a successive cultural and ecological history of the later peopling of the Fish-Eater’s land from the time of the first traders and then Mormon pioneers. Later, across two centuries of people changing the meaning they give to geography, the water lost its place as a sacred spot as industry desecrated it. Suburbanites, civic boosters, and wilderness enthusiasts turned their attention toward the nearby Mount Timpanogos which they variously honored, used for recreation, and commercialized. By the end of the twentieth century, the Fish-Eater’s place was renamed and reshaped and a bogus Indianized local history was invented. This stunningly original book proves that geography and our sense of place are mere creations of history, and with it Jared Farmer has proven himself a brilliant trailblazer of the past in the Wallace Stegner tradition.