A History of Utah’s American Indians, © 2000
“Conclusion: The Contemporary Status of Utah Indians,” pp. 315–40
Robert S. McPherson
The preceding tribal histories have brought the reader through the period of termination to more contemporary times. But what direction has Indian affairs taken over the past decade or so, and what does the future promise? Significant adjustments have been made in the past to accommodate the shifting economic, social, and political events and developments that have inundated the tribes following white contact. The direction and rate of change increased in tempo as fresh challenges confronted Native Americans. The only element that appears to have remained constant is that something new seemed to rear its head each year.
In the fast-paced world of contemporary Indian America, one looks for basic themes that have remained consistent through history and into the present. This concluding chapter points out that even though the type and nature of the problems from the past have been altered, they are still very visible in a modern form. The physical battles of the nineteenth century have been moved from the canyons, hills, and basins of Utah to the legal courts and government offices of the city. Still, many of the same issues are at stake. For Native Americans, the safeguarding of lands, the maintenance of an economy, and the preservation of tribal goals and individual ethnic identity are just as real now as they were fifty or 150 years ago. There remains just as much determination to hold on to these cultural ideals and autonomy as there was in the past. The difference lies in how it is done.
Traditional Native American ties to the land through religious beliefs and practices are well known. Every tribe has its sacred sites as defined in their teachings and history. Today, many of these places have felt the pressure of increased use by the dominant culture that does not know or care to recognize the spiritual importance attached to these sites.
One of the finest examples of this problem is the controversy surrounding Rainbow Bridge, a national monument created in 1910. To the Navajos, this 290-foot-tall and 275-foot-long sandstone bridge is spiritually powerful, associated with rain-producing ceremonies, supernatural protection, and curative powers.1 Until the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam and the creation of Lake Powell in the mid-1960s, access to this remote area was limited to intrepid river runners or saddle-sore tourists on horseback. The numbers were small, their impact minimal.
Today, however, the National Park Service estimates that 1,000 people a day arrive by boat at the area’s docking facilities for a leisurely stroll to the monument and the mandatory picture-taking ritual. Navajo medicine men believe these activities have greatly reduced the spiritual power that once resided at the site. That is why on 11 August 1995 a small group of Navajos called Protectors of the Rainbow closed the monument to any outside interference, then held a cleansing ceremony for four days. The National Park Service enforced the group’s wishes, re-routing scheduled boat tours and closing down any activities beyond the dock facility. It has also implemented policies to remove graffiti and to prevent climbing on the bridge.2
While this was a peaceful resolution of the problem, it was only temporary. Underlying the issue is the question of how much and what type of protection can be afforded such sacred sites. And it is not just Rainbow Bridge: rangers at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming have discouraged rock climbers from ascending its face; Chaco Canyon National Park in New Mexico closed its Great Kiva after Pueblo people and Navajos complained of the site being deified; and park rangers now prevent tourists from going to the Lion’s Shrine at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico for the same reason.3 Indian people do not want to see their sacred sites profaned.
Part of the problem is in trying to fit Native American practices into Anglo-American law. While the National Park Service is able to grant temporary closure of these sites, it cannot totally prevent general public use of them. One court ruling said, “We do not believe [the Navajos] have a constitutional right to have tourists visiting the Bridge in a respectful and appreciative manner.’ Were it otherwise, the monument would become a government-managed shrine,” an obvious infringement of First Amendment rights separating government from religion.4
Certainly some of these concerns to maintain the sacredness of a site from outside interference were part of the Northwestern Band of Shoshones’ decision to leave the Bear River Massacre site alone. Located two miles north of Preston, Idaho, this 120-acre area holds the bones of the 250–400 Shoshone killed in that tragic fight. The band’s vice-chairman, Tom Pacheco, said that the “Number one [priority] is to leave the site undisturbed,” since to do otherwise would bother the ancestors.5 Therefore, the National Historic Landmark remains undeveloped.
In 1997, Box Elder County, Utah, opened a landfill in the Little Mountain area, twenty miles west of Brigham City, in spite of Shoshone protests. The Indians’ claim that some of their people were buried there was not enough to prevent the building of the dump.6 At the same time, the Kanosh Band of Paiutes protested a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) chaining of “tens of thousands of acres of fire damaged federal land” in the Richfield area. Preservation of archaeological sites, pictographs, and human remains are the reason for these complaints. The court ordered a ten-day work stoppage, which, because of the limited seeding time, prevented the BLM from continuing with its chaining and planting project. At this time, the project has been abandoned, although reapplication to work on specific locations may be considered in the future.7
The issue of burial remains is not limited to those in the ground. In November 1990, President George Bush signed into law the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Its purpose was to protect burial sites, artifacts associated with those sites, and Indian remains now in the custody of museums and other repositories. A major part of this law directs that skeletal remains be returned to the appropriate tribe when origin can be determined.
This law set in motion a flurry of events by various agencies. The Utah Museum of Natural History, for instance, has 1,500 pieces that fall under the jurisdiction of the repatriation law. In 1993 the Utah legislature appropriated $60,000 to pay for reburial costs of Northwestern Shoshone remains recovered from public lands throughout the state. The money purchased a burial vault, located in Pioneer State Park in Salt Lake City, that could hold up to 500 wooden caskets.8
An increased sensitivity towards the reburial of Indian skeletons has also captured the attention of much of the public. One Boy Scout for his Eagle project became interested in Black Hawk, Ute leader during the 1865–68 conflict with the Mormons. No one knew where the Native American leader’s remains were located after they had been removed from their original burial site at Spring Lake in Utah County. Eventually, because of the scout’s persistence, what is believed to have been Black Hawk’s skeleton was found in the LDS Historical Department’s holdings. The bones were transferred to the museum at Brigham Young University and have recently been reinterred near Payson under the direction of the U.S. Forest Service.9
The issues of repatriation are not always so nicely resolved. What seems to be a straightforward solution to problems created in the past has proven to be far more complex. To begin with, there are only two tribes–the Northern Utes and the Navajos–in Utah who have cultural preservation offices and museums to deal with returned artifacts and remains. Second, once one moves beyond clearly identified historic tribal remains, a gray area of ownership arises. Anasazi and Fremont skeletons and artifacts have been claimed by modern-day Hopis, Paiutes, Utes, and Navajos, who live in areas once used by these prehistoric groups. The acknowledged relationship to the earlier peoples now holds political and economic ties to land that extend beyond the moral and genealogical questions of ancestry.10 Native Americans have always recognized the pragmatic side of making a living from the land, a view entwined with religious, economic, and political values. Today, as in the past, tribal groups continue to depend on their land holdings for survival. And, as in the past, these rights are often challenged. One of the most interesting–and as yet still unresolved–examples of these issues is found on the Uintah and Ouray Ute Reservation. The complexity of the questions raised would give even King Solomon pause to consider.
Twenty-one years after President Abraham Lincoln established the initial reservation in 1861. The federal government added more land to the tribe’s control, boosting Ute holdings to more than 4 million acres. Around the turn of the century, substantial lands were lost through the effects of the Dawes Allotment Act and the creation of national forest lands. Added to this was the loss of territory on the western part of the reservation for the Strawberry Reservoir Project and acreage given to mixed-blood Utes as part of the termination settlement during the 1950s. It can thus be seen how the reservation by 1970 had shrunk to a quarter of its original size.11
Beginning in 1975, questions concerning jurisdiction, boundary rights, and land control led to ten years of litigation and a final court decision that pushed Ute tribal boundaries back to the 4 million acre mark. Rather than solving the issues of jurisdiction with white neighbors, however, new ones arose, adding to some of the old issues never resolved. All of these questions, however, spring from use rights of the land for those who live on it.
At present, the complexity of these issues can be categorized into three general related areas. The first one is jurisdiction. There are about 40,000 people who live in the Uinta Basin, and only about 3,200 (8 percent) of them are Utes. However, 90 percent of Duchesne County and 60 percent of Uintah County are within the reservation boundaries. The Anglos living on previously homesteaded lands that are now located within the reservation want to have a clear understanding of what their relationship is going to be with the Ute tribal government. According to one report, while “homesteaded lands fall under the laws of local and state government, former Indian lands–no matter who owns them today–are under tribal jurisdiction.”12
The question of taxation and control of non-Indians is still a thorny issue. The tribe has suggested that its members remain exempt from paying taxes throughout these counties and that it be responsible for handling all of its members who become involved in misdemeanor cases on homestead lands, which includes the city of Roosevelt. To the Anglos, this could be the first steps taken to return some of their lands to a reservation status–what they view as a form of creeping control.13
A second issue that the Utes face is that of water rights. The federal government and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District in 1965 agreed with the tribe to use some of its water in exchange for the building of a water-control project on the reservation. By 1992, the government admitted that it had not followed through on its word and wanted to make amends by building the water project and settling past wrongs. After thirty years of promises, however, the Utes are slow to enter a deal that could turn against them in the future. They fear that anything that will give the state more control over Ute resources will do nothing but harm their chances for future use of the resource. In 1994 they presented the Central Utah Water Conservancy District with a bill for $33 million for water lost in the past. As Ron Wopsock, member of the tribal council, pointed out, “History tells us we can’t trust white people. The trust just isn’t there, and probably never will be.”14
That is the third point of contention–beyond the land and water issues, beyond the question of jurisdiction–how much trust and good will can each contending side muster, given the friction and conflicts of the past. A recent newspaper article summarized underlying attitudes between the two groups in the Uinta Basin, maintaining that the real problems are between two conflicting sets of values–those of the Indian and those of the white man. Some Utes have suggested that there be separate Indian and non-Indian school districts, that voting should be done in “blocs” for those candidates who voice a pro-Ute campaign platform, and that at least one county commission seat be occupied either by an Indian or someone who will work for Indians. Where these issues will go from here may be a question as much of attitude as of the letter of the law. But as Roland McCook, vice chairman of the tribe, said, “The white settlers came here by choice. They live here today by choice. They should be the ones to get along with us.”15
The Goshutes in Skull Valley have their own problems in getting along, but this time it is with the state government. They have chosen to make 450 acres of their 18,000-acre reservation the home for 10,000 metric tons of nuclear waste. If the federal government builds a repository there, radioactive materials will come by road and rail from as far away as Minnesota. The Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) sites are expected to be in use for about fifty years until a more permanent facility can be built in Nevada. In the meantime, the approximately 130 members of the tribe would participate in the hiring for the 1,500 temporary and 500 permanent jobs derived from the construction and maintenance of the site.16
Many people outside of the tribe see the MRS as a threat to the environment that is far greater than the chemical and biological weapons being stored and now destroyed at nearby Dugway Proving Ground, also in Tooele County. The two commercial hazardous-waste incinerators, the hazardous waste dump, and the low-level radiation dump found near Tooele, as well as a private company that test-burns rocket motors on the reservation, do nothing to calm the fear of environmentalists and state officials. They envision the nuclear repository as an even greater threat to the quality of life than already exists in the area.17
But many Indians feel that they are forced by their poverty and neglect to take advantage of such economic opportunities. In the words of U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Cheyenne Indian from Colorado: “It’s like the old treaties. The government is playing the same game. If you’re hurting bad enough, you’ll sign anything.”18 On 7 February 1997 the Skull Valley Band signed an agreement with ten utility groups to build the repository. Governor Michael Leavitt has been quoted as saying, “Over my dead body,” and state agencies have claimed the right to close roads and the transportation system that would start bringing the radioactive materials to the reservation.19 The Goshutes have examined the idea of building their own roads. Beyond the most obvious part of the disagreement lies the important issue of sovereignty of the tribe as well as issues of state’s rights versus federal control. Thus, the roots of this conflict extend far back to the nineteenth century, but the branches from the main stem of Goshute history have a very contemporary posture.
There is disagreement among Native Americans on environmental issues, just as there is in society as a whole. There are many Indian groups who oppose nuclear waste dumps and want reservations to remain nuclear waste free. The international Indigenous Environmental Network, as well as the national group Native Americans for a Clean Environment, the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans, and the Southwest Research and Information Center encourage resistance to what they consider environmental exploitation. All of these groups point to the history of abuse and mismanagement of federal, state, and corporate use of reservations as dumping grounds for problems in the society at large.
That is why, when the White Mesa Utes protested certain aspects of a federal clean-up of mill tailings from a site thirty miles north of the Indians’ land, the protest received widespread attention. The storage facility for this waste was already in place, at a closed uranium mill next to the Utes’ reservation. Still, the people of White Mesa feared that the estimated 110,000 dump truck round-trips over a three-year period would endanger tribal members traveling the road, contaminate underground water, place more radioactive materials in the air that would be carried downwind to their lands, and disturb ancestral burial sites. Whether or not these concerns were totally justified can be debated, but the 200 people who marched in protest drew many Native Americans and part of the white community together long enough for the Department of Energy to change its mind and bury the tailings near the original mill site.20 The people at White Mesa can now breathe easier, literally.
South of the Ute Reservation lie the oil-producing lands of the Navajo Strip in the Montezuma Creek–Aneth area. In December 1997 an explosion at a Mobil Oil pumping station raised once again the issue of the oil company’s relationship with the people who live nearby. Reminiscent of the 1978 “takeover” that closed 800 wells for two weeks and the 1993 blocking of a road used by another oil company to drill on a nearby mesa, the protesters set up a tepee in the parking lot of the Mobil Oil offices near Aneth. Their concerns, echoes from past demonstrations, centered on environmental degradation, health problems, employment opportunities, and renegotiating leases.
Mobil Oil officials reacted calmly. The company set about negotiating the reopening of sixty-three wells closed by request of the demonstrators. There were other people just as anxious to see the closure end. With 500 oil wells on the Utah strip annually producing around $16 million for the Utah Navajo Trust Fund and $1.5 million in San Juan County property taxes, many area residents–both Navajo and Anglo–wished to have the problems solved quickly.21 Albert Hale, president of the Navajo Nation, arrived in time to play an important part in the negotiations.
Seventy-two hours later the various factions had signed a thirty-two point agreement. In addition to paying partial salaries for two Navajo public liaison specialists, Mobil pledged to follow Navajo hiring practices and to settle further issues in the tribe’s “peacemaker” courts, which follow a community-level conflict resolution format. Hale promised to have more of the tribe’s royalties (approximately two-thirds of all of the money that comes to the Navajo Indians from the oil field) go to the Utah Navajos.22 With that, the Aneth oil field resumed normal operations.
In addition to contemporary issues surrounding usufruct rights, there are also issues concerning religion. One of the most interesting questions to be raised recently involves the status of Indians in prison. This has proven to be a national concern as well, there having been over fifty lawsuits in various states since 1970.23 Utah has had more than its share of the controversy. Starting in 1986, when the correctional facility in Draper denied nineteen Navajo inmates access to a sweat lodge, the prison system came under increasing fire. The protesters invoked their rights under the Native American Religious Freedom Act (1978), claiming that the government denied their entitlements and had not consulted with traditional practitioners as it should. These denied rights came in many forms–not providing space to hold ceremonies, an absence of sweat lodges, forbidding prisoners to grow their hair long, restricting paraphernalia necessary for ceremonies in the prison, and treating Indian religious leaders who performed the ceremonies suspiciously and differently than ministers from other faiths.24
Advocacy groups continued to form. Beyond a national network of protesters, there developed a number who became particularly representative of Indians in Utah, including the Native American Brotherhood Organization, the Aboriginal Uintah Nation of Utah, the Navajo Inmate Spiritual/Social Development Organization, and the Navajo Nation Corrections Project. In 1993 the United States Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which encouraged litigation on behalf of Native American inmates if their rights were not honored during incarceration. What this meant in layman’s terms is that: (1) prisoners have equal access to Native American religious ceremonies that are comparable to what is allowed for Judeo-Christian practitioners; (2) prisoners can wear their hair according to tribal customs; (3) there can be no discrimination against those who practice these beliefs; and (4) non-Indian workers within the penal system must receive training to increase their sensitivity to these rights and their obligations.25
In 1996 the Utah Legislature passed Senate Bill 128, “Indian Worship at Correctional Facilities,” which guaranteed the state’s commitment to equality. One section itemized some of the objects permitted for use in ceremonies: cedar, corn husks, corn pollen, corn meal, eagle and other feathers, sage, sweet grass, willows, drums, gourds, lava rock, medicine bundles, bags or pouches, staffs, pipes, and tobacco.26
This last object has raised the eyebrows of some prison officials. Tobacco, as contraband, cannot be used by inmates. The fear now is that it will become a black market item and that the allowing of it shows favoritism to a small sector (in 1996, 1.4 percent) of the state’s prison population.27 Native Americans counter that tobacco is an integral part of their traditional religious practices and is used in the rehabilitative process to combat substance abuse. Leonard Foster, Director of the Navajo Nation Corrections Project, argued, “Approximately 95 percent of those Native Americans incarcerated are serious substance abusers and under the influence of alcohol while committing a crime and this rate is 30–50 percent higher than that of other ethnic groups in the institutions:’ He indicated elsewhere that when Indians participate in indigenous religious rituals while in prison only 7 percent become repeat offenders, compared with the 30–40 percent who do not.28
Issues still arise involving the contents of medicine bundles, the type of tobacco to be used, and whether pipes or cigarettes are acceptable. Guards have interrupted the middle of some ceremonies to perform accountability or contraband checks, thus killing the spirit of the rite. Also, spiritual advisors often are not consulted when an interpretation of what is or is not acceptable is made by prison officials.29 While many things have improved for Native American inmates, there is room for greater progress.
The same can also be said for the treatment of members of the Native American Church (NAG). This organization’s history, even after it was officially formed and recognized in 1918, has seen it be the object of attacks and litigation. Central to the conflict is peyote, a hallucinogenic drug whose use is viewed by participants as a sacrament. Estimates of membership in this loosely organized church vary within each reservation, ranging from 90 percent of Southern Utes, to 50 percent of Goshutes, to 2 percent of Western Shoshone in 1972. Even with the passage of the U.S. Drug Abuse Act (1972), which exempted peyote from prosecution when used by members of the NAG, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978), harassment and persecution of NAG members have continued.30
For instance, Indians serving in the military during the 1970s and 1980s were not allowed to practice NAG ceremonies. As late as 1996 the Marines rejected for reenlistment a Navajo member of the church when they learned that he had participated in a ceremony. It was not until April 1997 that the barrier was dropped and the stigma removed for practitioners.31 From a Utah standpoint, this and the acceptance of other aspects of Indian religion have come in support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), championed by both the Mormon church and U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).32
To some people in the Native American community, the involvement of the LDS church as an advocate on behalf of Indian religious practices is somewhat strange. The long history of Mormon and Indian relations in Utah has been discussed in previous chapters and has not often been a very positive one. However, one program that has only been lightly touched upon is that of the LDS Indian Placement Program, officially inaugurated in 1954 after some tentative first steps.
In order to qualify for the program, a child that was to be placed in an Anglo home in a white community needed to be a member of the LDS church, accepted for placement, have a physical examination, obtain written consent from his or her biological parents, and show a basic understanding of English. It was a strictly voluntary program. Once a person was accepted, he or she would arrive at their new home, where they would stay for nine months of the year to attend school. The adopting family would cover the costs of food, clothing, and other expenses, without reimbursement. The child might return to the same family for a number of years until either the educational process was completed or a necessary change was made.
During the first year of the program in 1954, 253 children entered foster homes; fifteen years later, an estimated 4,500 students from thirty-two tribes were placed with Mormon families in thirty states and two provinces in Canada.33 By 1978 there were 2,000 Navajos from New Mexico and Arizona alone being placed in LDS homes, with another 500–700 from the Utah portion of the reservation.34 This growing number of students coincided with the cultural activism of the 1960s and 1970s and turned what started as a benevolent educational endeavor into a hot-bed of contention. Spokespeople from various tribes began accusing the program of cultural genocide, as a prisoner exchange for free labor, and as a violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978). Those in favor of the program pointed out its voluntary nature, the academic progress of those who participated as contrasted with those who did not, and the success of graduates who returned to the reservation to help their people. Both groups freely admitted that there were problems.
The LDS church’s position on the issue changed with the times. The previous age of eligibility of eight years old was raised to students entering the ninth grade, some fourteen or fifteen years old. Beginning in 1990 the program took on such a selective spin that it was reduced to 450 participants; by 1996 it had dwindled to fifty. Enrollment is now described as only a “handful” who are completing their course of study.35 No new students have been enlisted recently; thus, for all intents and purposes, the program has ended.
Unfortunately, some of the animosity towards the Mormons has not. This became particularly apparent as the state celebrated its centennial anniversary of statehood in 1996 and then, the following year, its pioneer sesquicentennial festivities, marking 150 years since the Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah. Larry Cesspooch, public relations director for the Ute Tribe, described the latter as not being a celebration for Utes. “It’s a celebration for [non-Indians] taking over our culture and land.”36 Even though the LDS church and state agencies encouraged Indian participation in the events, little was clone to effect it, nor was there much participation from Indians.
While the Mormons, because of their conspicuous presence in Utah, may take the blame for some of the wrongs committed in the past against Native Americans, their chastisement is mild compared to what the state and federal government have received. The number and complexity of issues of each tribe as it interacts with state and federal agencies is bewildering and worthy of an entire volume to sort them out. What can be said, however, is that these dealings are best characterized as a “love-hate” relationship that has existed from the beginning. Tribal groups are dependent upon the trust relationship established by the federal government, from which comes economic aid and a special “domestic, dependent” status that allows a certain autonomy. At the same time, the tribes want to enjoy a freedom that at times conflicts with what state and federal agencies would like to see accomplished. Money and power reside at the root of the turmoil.
While each tribe has its own history of relationships with various government entities, one example may illustrate the complexity of what they face. The Utes on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation have 490 oil wells that have produced almost a steady 1,250 barrels per day over the last ten years.37 They, along with the Navajos and White Mesa Utes, are among the Utah tribes that have filed a suit against the government for money that has been misplaced, mismanaged, or lost through the federal trust-fund system. The Utah tribes joined national Indian leaders in applying for some $450 million that has been controlled by the government for over one hundred years.
There are two types of accounts in question–the tribal trust funds that come mostly from lawsuits and the tribal and individual accounts that come from royalties on natural resources, land leases, and investments. The exact amount of money that the government held for various tribes is unknown. As one reporter explained, “The amount of money tied up in all the various trust funds is mind boggling…. The Office of Trust Funds Management in Albuquerque said in 1995 that it handled $2.6 billion in American Indian trust funds, about $2.1 billion for 1,500 tribal accounts and $453 million for nearly 390,000 individual American Indian accounts.”38 The latter is what is in question.
The Government Accounting Office is struggling to solve the question of who gets what. Bad accounting practices and the sheer volume of transactions have led to a confusing mess that will only be settled through litigation. How much money the Utah tribes may receive at the conclusion is unknown, but the whole controversy breeds mistrust. Robert Allan, an attorney for the Navajo Nation, summarized the hope of all the Native Americans when he said, “We might stand to get money rightfully ours, but wrongfully taken.”39
Another example of how mistrust colors Anglo and Indian relationships is found in the talk of splitting San Juan County into two entities. The division, if accepted, would create an Indian (primarily Navajo) and a non-Indian county. The friction that has existed on both sides for many years came to a head through deliberations on whether or not this split was feasible. The contention focused on a myriad of issues but can be summarized as two different social, economic, and political philosophies at odds with each other.
The roots of the conflict reside in questions of Navajo tribal sovereignty, which creates problems that the county cannot solve by itself. Who is supposed to pay for services on the reservation, support the schools, define school district policy, maintain the roads, determine the jurisdiction of tribal courts and law enforcement, and so on? Some of these questions have been satisfactorily answered, but others have not. In 1996 Navajo Nation President Albert Hale signed a memorandum of understanding to work with Utah’s newly established Native American Legislative Liaison Committee to try to find solutions. Founded in 1995, this organization’s purpose is to work with reservations throughout the state to formulate answers to problems and then propose appropriate bills to Utah’s legislature.40 While the splitting of a county was a huge issue, similar problems of sovereignty existed with most Utah tribes.
Fundamental to this type of political issue is an economic issue. In San Juan County, property owners felt they had paid, and would continue to have to pay, taxes to solve reservation problems. Since Navajos living on the reservation do not pay county property taxes, it did not seem fair that the white minority (though only by a small percentage fewer than the Indians) should have to support the growing Navajo population.41 Some people expressed the feeling that everyone should be treated equally and that the special status of the reservation should be done away with entirely.
This was the environment that the Center for Public Policy and Administration, an independent arbitrator from the University of Utah, stepped into. Its task was to form a blue-ribbon committee to study the issue and then present its findings. That was in 1995. By 1997 the final report was available to county residents; but it held nothing very surprising. It stated that if the split were carried out the southern county (Indian) would have a difficult time meeting its financial obligations, since most of the businesses are in the north. The report did not recommend any particular course of action, but, in order for the split to be accomplished, it would require 25 percent of the voters in San Juan County to sign a petition to get the process underway.42 At this point, the issue appears dead. ?What is important, however, are the feelings engendered by the trust relationship and special status of reservations. Similar questions and feelings have existed since the beginning of the federal government’s program of establishing enclaves for Indian people.
The special status afforded Native Americans has led to other questions on a state, local, and tribal level. For instance, a Navajo man, Loren Crank, recently filed a lawsuit against the Seventh District Court, claiming that the number of Indians represented on juries was far below what it should be. The court claimed that because of a reservation Indian’s special status, such Native Americans could not be required to serve on a jury the same way that other people could. The court’s findings indicated that jury lists should be expanded to include those living on the reservation, and the tribe agreed to help enforce the ruling that these people fulfill their obligation as jurors.43
Litigation also led to a court order requiring the San Juan School District to build a small high school (at an estimated cost of $4.1 million) for students living in the Navajo Mountain area. Although there were only thirty-five student enrollees as of October 1997, the county and the state have committed to this outreach project to eliminate bussing and boarding students.44
The Uintah Utes were not as fortunate in having a recent school problem solved: the placement of a Ute on the Uintah School Board. Although there was an opportunity to have a Native American serve in a vacated position, none of the three Indian candidates was selected, sending signals to the tribe of mistrust and prejudice. Talk of boycotting three Uintah County schools that have a significant number of Indian children did not bring results. At the time of this writing, there is no Native American on the school board.45
Even the most basic issue–who is an Indian–has become a question. To be eligible for BIA services, a person must be a member of a federally recognized tribe and have one-fourth or more Indian ancestry. On the other hand, the tribes define their own membership requirements. In Utah, this means that the Utes insist on one having one-half Indian blood; the Goshute, Navajo, and Paiute require one-quarter Indian blood; and the Shoshone one-eighth.
This appears to be straightforward. However, if what is happening in the rest of the nation is any indication of what the future holds for Utah’s Native Americans, there will be a gradual shift in acceptance. Some tribes in the East have dropped the bloodline issue (for example, for the Pequot in Connecticut it is one-sixteenth) and have moved to insisting that applicants for tribal status prove their relationship to a member on the census rolls of 1900 or 1910.46 The Southern Utes in Colorado and the Shoshone Indians in Wyoming report an ever-increasing number of people trying to have their names placed on the tribal roles, even though some of these people do not know where the tribes are located or the names of their grandparents.47
Why is there suddenly a high interest in Indian ancestry? Part of it can be explained through the increasingly positive image of Native Americans in film and literature. It is generally considered an honor to be a member of a tribe. Just ask Karl Malone, star player for the Utah Jazz basketball team, who emotionally accepted the name of “The Bear Who Leads with Dignity” given him by the White Mesa Utes.48 Another reason is that more people are claiming Indian ancestry on census data; the figure of 800,000 Indians found on the 1970 census record jumped to some 1.9 million twenty years later?an increase of 140 percent.49 And finally, there are economic advantages that can come from money specially earmarked for Native American education or disbursement from royalties or tribal earnings. This is particularly true with eastern groups, where the profits from tribally owned casinos have proven to be substantial.
Tied directly to the issue of tribal status is that of marriage. Until 1997, Native Americans had to be married by a duly recognized authority figure of the dominant society. This person could be a justice of the peace, a Mormon bishop, a minister or priest from another Christian denomination, or a Jewish rabbi. Many Indians were offended by the fact that spiritual leaders from their own tribe were not given the same status and that often a traditional wedding needed to be followed by a ceremony with one of the other “recognized” authorities.
Utah House Bill 186 changed all of that in 1997. Now, an Indian religious leader–defined as one who “leads, instructs or facilitates a Native American religious ceremony or service and is recognized as a spiritual advisor by a federally recognized Native American tribe”–can perform the service.50 The certificate provided at the end of the ceremony is just as binding in a court of law as any other provided by an already accepted source.
One of the most vocal advocates of Native American rights and a player in the midst of most issues is the Utah Division of Indian Affairs (UDIA). Established in 1953, it serves as the official organization in voicing concerns of the tribes. It has four legislatively created committees that represent and unify efforts on behalf of Utah’s approximately 25,000 Indian people.51 These committees are: (1) the Utah Indian Cooperative Indian Council, (2) the Outreach Subcommittee, (3) the Native American Remains Review Committee, and (4) the state Native American Coordinating Board.
The activities of this organization are so far ranging that just to name the eighty different projects listed in its annual report for 1996 is beyond the scope of this chapter. Suffice it to say, it has assisted tribes with everything from grant writing to collecting oral histories, from assessing health care to supervising construction of the Indian Burial Repository, and from training Job Service staff in hiring Indian employees to assisting the BLM in producing an educational video.52 The UDIA’s work is felt throughout the state.
As people think of Utah’s diverse Native American population, they often envision life on a reservation. The scene is almost stereotypical, with elders huddled around a wood-burning stove, youngsters herding livestock on horseback, and the ubiquitous pickup truck hauling wood, water, or the family to town. While these are all very real images, they ignore a growing sector of Utah’s Indian community. According to the 1990 U.S. Census, the second largest group of Native Americans in the state–6, 111–live in Salt Lake County, the largest group being in San Juan County (6,859), with the third largest in Uintah County (2,335).53
What this means is that the urban Indian population, at 25 percent of the state’s total Indian population, is growing and will play an important part, now and in the future, in determining the direction of Utah’s Native American cultural heritage. While individuals may get lost in the sea of other cultures found in the city, their presence becomes particularly noticeable when they come together.
There are some two-dozen organizations along the Wasatch Front that are designed to do just that–bring Native Americans together. They include Native American Community Services (LDS Social Services), Indian Christian Center (non-denominational), Utah Inter-tribal Veterans Association, American Indian Resource Center, Intertribal Students Association (University of Utah), and Native American Educational Outreach (Brigham Young University). All of these organizations help bring together Native Americans to either receive specific services or to celebrate their unique heritage.
A look at two organizations helps one appreciate the importance of this type of institution in fostering a pan-Indian environment in an urban setting. One is the Indian Walk-In Center. Having now been established for twenty-three years, this non-profit organization supported by the United Way Agency has a mission to materially assist, promote cultural values and heritage, and strengthen the families and communities of Native Americans.
The volume and scope of the Center’s accomplishments are impressive. In 1996 more than 18,000 people, half of whom were under the age of eighteen, received help with emergency food. While this service is available to all low-income families, members from all of Utah’s tribes as well as forty-three other tribes who had members living along the Wasatch Front were among the recipients of this aid. The Center also provides counseling services, cultural enrichment programs for Indian youths, an elders program, and a rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse. Each month there is a powwow that draws an average of 400–500 participants, while at Christmas time an average of 600 needy people receive a Christmas dinner and toys for the children.54
To support many of these activities, the Center sponsors a variety of fund-raising activities. For instance, it rents parking space for Salt Lake Buzz baseball games, the fees from which go to its programs. Indian arts and crafts shows raise money while giving talented Native American artists an opportunity to gain public exposure. Local businesses and individuals are canvassed for support of special programs such as the Christmas dinner. Auctions bring in yet another group of contributors.55 One reason that the Center has remained viable for so long, when many similar programs blossom and die within a short period of time, is its flexibility to reach many different parts of both the Indian and non-Indian community of Salt Lake City.
Five blocks south of the Walk-In Center is another organization, the Indian Training Education Center (ITEC), which has enjoyed similar success. This Utah-based, private non-profit corporation, funded in part by a federal grant, was established in 1988 to provide short-term (usually three to nine months) job training and education for Native Americans. An applicant must be over the age of fourteen, economically disadvantaged, and living off reservation in Utah. Programs available include adult basic education, GED preparation, high school completion, occupational skills training, and assisting in the acquiring of short-term college certificates or degrees.
ITEC conducted a study of its first five years (1989–1994) of operation to determine who was using its services and what kind of barriers and successes they had encountered. An interesting profile emerged, based upon the 1,044 individuals served by that time. The “typical” person who walked through the door was a Navajo (71 percent) male who was twenty-seven years old, supported a family of two, earned less than $8,000 per year, held a high school diploma but was unemployed, and who, at the end of the program, entered unsubsidized employment that provided a wage per hour increase.56 Subsequent data essentially confirms this profile.
Upon entering the program, the new enrollee encounters personalized counseling and placement services. Monitoring of progress in the form of class attendance and satisfactory grades is tied to a monthly stipend for living expenses. At the end of the training, the participant is assisted in job search and placement. During the past eight years, ITEC has achieved an 80 percent success rate, meaning that its graduates have either “finished their programs successfully and/or entered into the job market better prepared than when they started.”57 All through this experience, cultural sensitivity ensures an open dialogue between students and counselors.
Thus, the present situation in Utah for the urban as well as the reservation Indian is one of change. As Native Americans enter the twenty-first century, they can look back with pride at the obstacles they have overcome and the progress that has been made. Their values and heritage at times may have been at odds with those of the dominant culture, but they nevertheless provided a firm support when grasped. Native peoples today still retain those values. Although there may be changes on the surface, there still remains the bedrock foundation that ties people to the land, to their families, and together as a community.
It is upon this bedrock that the future reposes. The challenges and changes ahead most likely will be just as disquieting and rapid as those in the past. They will take new forms and create obstacles never before imagined. Most of them probably will not be life-threatening but will tend to remove future generations from those principles that have been such a strong support in the past. The “new and improved” world of modern America will entice the youth as never before to stray from the traditional past.
But it will be their choice. Just as their elders made their choices as young people in the past, so will today’s youth. The hope is that they will make these decisions based upon the wisdom of the past seasoned with a view to future generations. As they do so, the momentum will move them through the present and into the future, providing for the next generation a solid foundation of example upon which to live and build.
1 See Karl W. Luckert, Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge Religion (Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona, 1977).
2″Navajos Blockade Bridge During Tribal Ceremonies,” Deseret News, August 12, 1995, B-1; “Rainbow Bridge Closed for ?Cleansing Ceremony,”‘ San Juan Record, August 16, 1995, 1; “Rainbow Bridge Open After Four-day Closure,” Navajo Times, August 17, 199S, A-5.
3 Chris Smith and Elizabeth Manning, “The Sacred and Profane Collide in the West,” High Country News, May 26, 1997, 1–4.
4 Ibid., 4.
5″Reverent Thoughts Bring Tears on Visit to Massacre Site,” Deseret News, September 26, 1995, A-13.
6″Box Elder Opens Landfill Despite Protests,” Deseret News, August
10, 1997, B-6.
7 Karl Cates, “Wilds Advocates Join Paiutes Against Chaining,” Deseret News (Web edition), March 23, 1997, 1–2; Jerry Goodman, BLM District Manager, telephone conversation with author, November 6, 1997.
8 U of U. Catalogs Artifacts In Case Tribes Want Them,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 16, 1995, A- 18; “Appropriation for Indian Burial Repository,” Utah Legislative Report 1993, H.B. No. 368, March 19, 1993, 645. See also the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (25 U.S.C. 3001), Public Law 101-601, November 16, 1990.
9″Boy Scout Tracks Down the Bones of Black Hawk in LDS Basement,” Indian Trader (October 1995): 7; Joel Janetskl, Director of the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, Brigham Young University, telephone conversation with author, December 19, 1997.
10 Joe Bauman, “Native Artifacts are Still Buried in Controversy,” Deseret News (Web edition), December 8, 1996, 1–3.
11 Daniel McCool, “Utah and the Ute Tribe Are at War,” High Country News, June 27, 1994, 1–3; Shiela R. McCann, “Uniting the Basin: Utes and Their Neighbors Are Cooperating,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 25, 1997, A-1, A- 13.
12 McCann, “Uniting the Basin,” A-13. See also Lucinda Dillon and Bob Bernick, “Clash of 2 Cultures Divides Uintah Basin,” Deseret News, September 20, 1997, A-1,A-9; Brett DelPorto, “Ruling Giving Utes Control of Land Troubles Residents,” Deseret News, December 3, 1986, B-1.
13 Lezlee Whiting, “Top Court Ruling Sought in Ute Land Dispute,” Deseret News, September 2, 1997, E-2.
14 McCool, “Utah and the Ute Tribe,” 3.
15 Dillon and Bernick, “Clash of 2 Cultures,” A-1, A-9.
16″Apaches and Goshutes Looking at Nuclear Waste Storage,” Navajo Times, September 2, 1993, 9.
17 Cherie Parker, “NSP’s Skull Valley Duggery,” Twin Cities Reader, January 1997, 1–2.
18 “Apaches and Goshutes,” 9.
19 Parker, “NSP’s Skull Valley Duggery,” 1; “Taking a Road to Untold Hazards,” Deseret News, December 9, 1997, B-1.
20″White Mesa Utes Beat Back Superfund Tailings,” High Country News, January 23, 1995,5; Neil Joslin, “White Mesa Community Marches to Protest Mill Tailings Truck Haul–Washington Judge Hears Case,” Blue Mountain Panorama, September 28, 1994, 1, 13.
21″Stakes Are High for Mobil Oil, Navajo Nation, and San Juan County,” San Juan Record, January 15, 1997, 1; “Navajos Prevail as Mobil Closes Wells,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 10, 1997, A- 1.
22 “Oil’s Well that Ends Well as Tepee Talks Pay Off,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 1997,A-1.
23 Chris LaMarr, “Free Exercise of Religion by Native American Prisoners: A Plan of Action,” NARF Legal Review 1 (1996): 10–15.
24 “Indians Fight for Religious Freedom,” Navajo Times, April 7, 1986, 1–2; “Utah Wardens Nix Use of Sweatbaths,” Navajo Times, May 22, 1986, 1.
25 Attorney General Directive, “Providing for the Free Exercise of Religion by Native American Prisoners,” 1995, in handout received from Leonard Foster, Director of Navajo Nation’s Correctional Project, Navajo Studies Conference, Albuquerque, April 1996.
26″Indian Worship at Correctional Facilities,” Utah Legislative Report 1996, S.B. No. 128, February 27, 1996, 1025?26.
27″Does Prison Stifle Indian Worship?” Salt Lake Tribune, November 12, 1996, B-1, B-4.
28 Leonard Foster, “Written Testimony of Len Foster, Director/Spiritual Advisor Navajo Nation Corrections Project, Window Rock, Arizona,” given at the Missouri State Capitol in support of House Bill 325, March 4, 1997, 2, in possession of author; “Bill Would Protect Inmate Rites,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 1996, B-1.
29″Does Prison Stifle Indian Worship?”, B-4.
30 Omer C. Stewart, “The Peyote Religion,” Handbook of North American Indians, volume 11, Great Basin (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1986), 673, 677–81.
31″NAC vs Marines,” Navajo Times, July 28, 1986, 5; “Navajo Rejected From Marines,” Navajo Times, October 17, 1996, 7; “Military to Allow Peyote Use by Indian Soldiers,” Deseret News, April 16, 1997, B-4.
32 “Justices Deal Blow to Religious Freedom,” Deseret News, June 25, 1997, B-1.
33 Leonard J. Arrington, “The Mormons and the Indians: A Review and Evaluation,” paper delivered to the Friends of the Library, Washington State University, October 2, 1969, manuscript in possession of author, 28.
34 Beth Wood, “The Mormon Southwest: LDS Indian Placement Program,” Akwesasne Notes 10 (Winter 1978): 16.
35 Tona J. Hangen, “A Place to Call Home: Studying the Indian Placement Program,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 30 (1997): 57.
36 “Utah Tribes Reluctant to Join in Mormon Pioneer Celebration,” Indian Trader (January 1997): 16.
37″Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation,” web site information, 29 August 1997, 1-2.
38 “No Telling How Much U.S. Owes Utah Tribes,” Deseret News, July 23, 1996, A-1.
40 “Hale Working on Utah Agreement,” Navajo Times, March 21, 1996,
1; “Native American Legislative Liaison Committee,” Utah Legislative Report 1995, H.B. 316, March 1, 1995, 458–59.
41 “Blue Ribbon Committee Meets to Study Creation of New County,” San Juan Record, November 8, 1995, 1.
42″New Study Investigates the Issues Involved in Splitting San Juan County,” San Juan Record, July 9, 1997, 1.
43 “Settlement Reached in Jury Selection Bias Case,” San Juan Record, June 19, 1996, 1.
44 “Another School Year Begins This Week,” San Juan Record, August 20, 1997, 1; enrollment figure from secretary, San Juan School District, telephone conversation with author, December 30, 1997.
45 “School Board Selection Angers Utes in Uintah,” Deseret News, March 26, 1997, B-2.
46 “Tribes’ Quandary: Who’s a Real Indian,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 27, 1997,1.
47 “Utes Are Getting a Lot More Calls from Prospective Members, Indian Trader, March 1997, 21; “Controversy Continues Over Those Claiming to Have Shoshone Blood,” Indian Trader, October 1995, 30.
48 “Mailman Gets Yet Another Name: ?Bear Who Leads With Dignity,”‘ Deseret News, July 26, 1997, B-10.
49 “More People Are Saying They Are Indian,” Indian Trader, May 1995, 22.
50″Native American Performance of Marriages,” Utah Legislative Report 1997, H.B. No. 186, February 11, 1997, 295–96.
51″1990 County Population by Race,” U.S. Bureau of the Census, handout provided by the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.
52″Utah Division of Indian Affairs Report to the Appropriations Subcommittee,” February 1997, Utah Division of Indian Affairs Office.
53 “1990 County Population by Race.”
54 Community Connections,” Indian Walk-In Center quarterly newsletter, Spring 1996, 1; Gail Russell, Executive Director of the Indian Walk-In Center, conversation with author, November 13, 1997.
55″Native American Connections,” Indian Walk-In Center quarterly newsletters, Spring 1996 and Spring 1997.
56 Burton S. White and Robert D. Peterson, “Indian Training and Education Center Statistical Study 1989–1994,” on file in the Indian Training and Education Center, Salt Lake City, Utah.
57 Robert D. Peterson to Robert S. McPherson, September 10, 1997, letter in possession of author.