|June 19, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—MARTIN’S COVE LEGISLATION PASSES HOUSE BY VOICE VOTE|
| Congr essman Faleomavaega
announced that on June 17, 2002 the House passed legislation which would
allow the Secretary of the Interior to transfer certain lands known as
Martin’s Cove to the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of
“I am pleased that I am an original co-sponsor of this important legislation,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Martin’s Cove, in Natrona County, Wyoming, is a place that figures prominently and singularly in the faith of the LDS Church. The LDS Church expressed an interest to purchase Federal land known as Martin’s Cove because of a tragedy that took place there some 146 years ago.”
“It is my understanding that two handcart companies –the Willie and Martin companies – were composed of almost a thousand members of the LDS Church who immigrated from England and Holland. These people were not familiar with the harsh winters of the Midwest and were attempting to reach Salt Lake City, Utah by means of pulling specially-made handcarts across the plains. Most were poor and could not afford to purchase covered wagons and teams of oxen.”
“In October of 1856, these immigrants were caught in an early winter storm without sufficient food and clothing,” the Congressman said. “Despite heroic efforts by LDS Church members and leaders who sent teams from Salt Lake City to locate and assist the two companies, over 200 men, women and children died as a result of freezing temperatures and starvation. Many of those who perished near Martin’s Cove were wrapped in blankets, placed in piles, and covered in snow because the ground was so frozen graves could not be dug.”
“History now marks this event as one of the most tragic of 19th century westward expansion,” Faleomavaega said. “From the perspective of any thoughtful person, Martin’s Cove is sacred ground, or a burial place of historical and religious significance. Despite its recognized historical significance, the Federal government has done little to facilitate pubic access to the site. It is my understanding that no access, highway notification, or facilities were available to the public until the LDS Church, in cooperation with the Sun family, purchased fee simple lands adjoining Martin’s Cove in 1996.”
“Yet some in the media have purposely chosen to malign the LDS Church because of its efforts to acquire Martin’s Cove,” the Congressman said. “I take issue with those who have consistently questioned the intent of the LDS Church. The fact is Congress already has passed several pieces of legislation which transferred Federal lands to certain Native American Indian tribes because of the significant and religious significance of those lands to the tribes.”
“In 1985, Congress also authorized the sale of public land to the Wesleyan church. A similar sale of Federal land to the Catholic church was authorized in 1988. The LDS Church is asking for fair and equitable treatment,” Faleomavaega said.
“It is not unprecedented for the LDS Church to seek to honor and give special recognition to those of its membership who suffered and died at Martin’s Cove. Martin’s Cove holds special meaning to the LDS Church because of those who lost their lives as they sought to escape religious persecution, bigotry and intolerance. It is only appropriate that Congress support the sale of this land to the LDS Church and I am hopeful that my colleagues in the U.S. Senate will agree,” the Congressman concluded.
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