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Monday, July 18, 2022

July 18, 2022: UtahStudying: Indigenous Utah

[On July 24, 1847, a weary group of about 150 migrants founded Salt Lake City. So for the city’s 175th birthday, this week I’ll AmericanStudy Utah histories, leading up to a special weekend post on that founding community!]

On just a few of the many communities and stories of indigenous Utah.

1)      The Paiute: That particular hyperlinked Paiute history comes from the branch of the tribe located in modern-day Oregon—but it features one of my all-time favorite Americans, Sarah Winnemucca, who was the daughter and granddaughter of chiefs and who became not just a vital spokesperson and activist for the tribe, but one of the most inspiring 19th century Americans from any community. And while the tribe, like most in the US, did spread out across a region that encompasses multiple states, it was indeed particularly part of modern-day Utah, including fraught and violent encounters with Mormon migrants in the mid-19th century that have to be front and center in any story of the state’s history. 

2)      The Goshute: It was the Goshute who had the most consistent such encounters with Mormons and other white settlers to Utah, however, as a significant portion of the tribe were native to the desert region right around Great Salt Lake. As a result of that proximity the federal government began attempts to remove the Goshutes to a reservation as early as the late 1850s, but the tribe successfully resisted those attempts for more than half a century; when they finally gave in to removal in 1912, it was to the Skull Valley Reservation, only about 50 miles from their ancestral homelands. Every tribe’s experience of histories of removal and the reservation system is distinct and worth full collective memory, but the Goshute in particular offer a crucial reminder of that system’s frustratingly arbitrary nature.

3)      The Ute: The Ute reservation, located about 150 miles east of Salt Lake City, is the nation’s second-largest and a complex and multi-layered setting in its own right. But of course indigenous communities are in no way defined by the histories and aftermaths of their relationships with white communities, and despite this series’ overall subject I don’t want to focus only on those dynamics in this post either. Instead, I’ll note here the Ute’s close association with two elements of Utah’s stunning landscapes (on which more in tomorrow’s post): their longstanding connection to the buttes which in 2016 became the basis of the Bears Ears National Monument, a site managed by members of the tribe among other indigenous communities; and the centuries-old Ute petroglyphs near Arches National Park (on which more tomorrow as well). Indigenous Utah long predates white settlement, and remains as present on the landscape as its communities are in the state in 2022.

Next Utah history tomorrow,


PS. What do you think? Other Utah histories or stories you’d highlight?

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