Indigenous Wisdom: Southern Paiute
Updated: May 11
I traveled this month to the historic lands and waters of the Southern Paiute in Utah visiting Mukuntuweap National Monument, or what is now known as Zion National Park. Zion NP is overrun with 5 million tourists every year, making it the third most visited national park behind Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon. We hiked up 1500 feet to Scout's View and through the Narrows in the Virgin River, which carved these steep walls of red sandstone over the eons. The magic and spirits of this canyon were always evident, and left me with curiosity to learn more about the history of this place, and its relationship to native Americans.
I learned that the Southern Paiute Indians called this place Mukuntuweap or “straight canyon”. “Paa” ute means water ute, a reference to their preference for living near water sources, “practicing floodplain gardening, creating reservoirs and irrigation ditches to water corn, squash, melons, gourds, sunflowers, beans and wheat.” Sadly typical was this people’s subjugation by withholding natural resources. “Water was the crucial element to traditional Paiute life-ways and subsistence strategies. In the 1850s, when Mormon settlement of southern Utah began, it was through water-access-denial that the Southern Paiutes began being marginalized.”
The Southern Paiute stand strong today and are part of the federally recognized Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (PITU). Here’s a map of the traditional lands and bands of the Southern Paiute. As we travel, I encourage us to know whose ancestral lands we are visiting, which is easy to do by visiting this website Native Land and view its beautiful maps. Here’s the US map of tribal lands. Can you find your neighborhood’s first nation?
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