Pay attention to pre-Pioneer Utah

Illustration by Nick Moore

You didn’t know we’re in the middle of American Indian Heritage Month, did you?

We live in Utah, but most of what we know about our state’s history takes place after 1847. The stories of people who lived here before Mormon settlers arrived have seldom been given attention in Utah classrooms.

This history, both here and around the country, is tinted with blood and harsh feelings, yet these relationships shaped American identity, language and awesome holidays. American Indian Heritage Month is the time for Utah’s students to learn about and experience the peoples and cultures that were in this area before we Easterners moved here.

“We want folks to acknowledge the original inhabitants of Utah and their contributions,” said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

Goshute, Paiute, Shoshone, Navajo and Ute nations were contributing to this Western environment centuries before covered wagons and brick houses were littering the landscape of the Wasatch region. American Indian Heritage Month aims to remind different generations of Utahans about the history of this state’s indigenous people.

“We’re finding that people know very little,” Cuch said. “They don’t know the lifestyle, the contributions. Some don’t even know that Utah is named after one of the first inhabitants.”

Different aspects of American Indian history and culture will be on display and discussed throughout November. This is a time to bring to life the histories of Utah’s five tribes.

From code talkers to the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, American Indians have helped shape the cultures within Utah and the United States as a whole. For example, American Indians have been serving this country’s militarily since the American Revolution, and if the movie Windtalkers is any indication, they’ve made a big contribution.

Following the theme “A Time of Health and Vitality,” the Utah Division of Indian Affairs and other American Indian organizations are hosting events to honor the community throughout the month. This includes Indigenous Day and an awards dinner for outstanding people in the American Indian community on Nov. 22.

Cultural events from earlier this month included guest speakers and activities at the Indian Walk-In Center, like an Adopt-A-Native Elder rug show. The month will end with the two-day Ute Tribe Annual Thanksgiving Powwow at Fort Duchesne Nov. 25 through Nov. 27.