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Playing Indian at the Wellsville Sham Battle

Robert Gehrke

For almost a century, the citizens of Wellsville, Utah, have held an annual spectacle called the “Sham Battle.” It’s an historical reënactment, with white people costumed as Native American Indians attacking Mormon settlers. But the 19th-century battle it purports to depict isn’t the full story, which, of course, is much more complicated. Monday, we’re talking about the Wellsville Sham Battle and the long history in this country of white people dressing up and acting like Indians.


  • Robert Gehrke is a columnist at the Salt Lake Tribune. Read his article about the Wellsville Sham Battle.
  • Philip Deloria is a professor of American culture and history at the University of Michigan. He's an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the author of several books on Native American history, including Playing Indian [Independent bookstores|Amazon].

Robert Gehrke took a video of the Sham Battle during the recent Wellsville Founders Day celebration.

Update from KUER's Julia Ritchey and the Salt Lake Tribune's Courtney Tanner: