In 2014, the cattle rancher Cliven Bundy entered the national spotlight after a showdown against federal officials over grazing rights on public lands. Two years later, his sons seized the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and occupied it for forty days with militia and sovereign citizen groups. As journalists rushed to the scene, trying to make sense of the motivations behind their anti-government politics, Betsy Gaines Quammen
, a historian working on her history Ph.D., knew something was amiss. She had spent hours at the Bundy home, interviewing them for her dissertation on Mormon settlement in the West. She knew the Bundy’s rooted their politics in their Mormon faith, but their religious attitudes made few popular headlines. In her new book, American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West
(Torrey House Press, 2020), Quammen situates the Bundy standoff within the long and convoluted history of Mormon migration into the American West—and provides an exciting new take on religion in modern American politics.
Ryan Driskell Tate is a Ph.D. candidate in United States history at Rutgers University. He is completing a book on fossil-fuels and energy development in the American West. Twitter: @rydriskelltate