The Koosharem Band of Paiutes Reconnect Ancestral Ties to Capitol Reef National Park

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Date: August 22, 2011
Contact: Dava Mcgahee

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“It might be our first visit, but it won’t be our last,” proclaimed Elliott Yazzie (standing far right), Chairman of the Koosharem Band of Paiutes.

On August 6th and 7th, in an inaugural weekend field trip, members of the Koosharem Band of Paiutes, headquartered in Richfield, Utah visited Capitol Reef National Park. For some, it was their first visit to this land for which they have strong ancestral ties. The visit was one of the products of a Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit project designed to allow the Band to better understand its own cultural ties to this landscape. In turn park staff can better understand the significance of the resources that are important to the Band. According to the Paiute guests, this visit was not the project finale, but just the beginning. At the weekend farewell, Paiute Band members suggested "this field trip should be an annual event!" The experiences and communication shared over the weekend fueled the hope that this project might kindle an open, on-going dialogue between the Paiute Tribe of Utah and park staff.

As a pair of golden eagles soared overhead, Band members participated in a variety of cultural life-way activities at the Capitol Reef Field Station. NPS staff invited the Paiute guests to review and comment on American Indian interpretive demonstrations and exhibits that park staff present to the general public. Given the goal of better tribal understanding of its ties to this landscape and the desire of park staff to better understand Band interests in resources found in the park, these activities helped foster a better understanding of Paiute perspectives and the wisdom they hold. This project is providing for the collection of traditional ecological and cultural knowledge by interviewing Band elders, reviewing the most relevant academic literature and by creating maps of traditional Paiute natural and cultural resources in the Capitol Reef National Park area.

The Paiutes of Capitol Reef project was undertaken in partnership with the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Capitol Reef National Park, Round River Conservation Studies, and Utah State University. Funding was provided by the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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