Racism for Native Americans in Utah

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A group of Ute women construct a tepee from buffalo, while to the West, Goshutes collect plants and bugs for food. Farther South, Paiutes build wickiups for shelter, and Navajos harvest crops. This was the way of the Native Americans of Utah. Their day to day life of survival - hunting, growing, and gathering food, building shelter, and the occasional battle with another band over territory. But one invasion would push them over the edge. One invasion would challenge the ancient traditions the Native Americans lived by. Just one invasion, would change their lives and their history forever. The invasion of people who called the natives “savages”, who took away rights, land and freedom in their quest for power. The invasion of people who would start a many year battle, with racism at the heart of it - The Europeans.



The original conflict began in the 1500’s. Explorers from Spain moved North to investigate present day Arizona and New Mexico. Although they were just a few days travel from the border the Spaniards turned back. It would be many more years before Europeans entered the present day territory. On September 11, 1776 that changed. The Dominguez - Escalante expedition entered Utah - the whites had invaded. Soon after crossing the border, the expedition met two Ute indians, who agreed to serve as guides. This was the first known contact between natives and whites in Utah - but it certainly wasn’t the last. In 1847 the Mormons traveled into Utah, and never left. But they had not found a deserted land. They, like the Spaniards before them, had invaded a land of Indians. In the years ahead they would try to coincide, but with little success. The Utes, Piutes, Goshutes, Shoshone, and Navajo were not happy about the Europeans, and they intended to do something about it.



Each of the tribes in Utah, suffered from discrimination and imperialism. Some whites thought they were superior to the natives. This was the beginning of wars and reservations. At first, the Goshute tribe tried to adjust. They failed, however. They incorporated farming, and other white life - styles into their workload. Still, the government tried to push them out of their land, but the Goshutes resisted. The Navajos as well suffered from the effects of racism. By the 1860’s Navajos were being brought “under control” by the government. They were forced to walk 300 miles away from their home land. The Shoshone and Ute tribes had a hard time too. Some might say the whites were provoked, others not; whatever the reason, what happened next was a brutal chapter in Native American history. January, 1863 - a group of soldiers attack a peaceful Shoshone tribe. The massacre killed 250 Shoshone men, women, and children. The Utes on the other hand, lost their faith in the whites a different way. They made treaties with the government, and the government broke them. The tribe was forced to move onto a reservation. It would be many years later, until the fighting died down, and the outlook changed.



It’s hard to say exactly when racism died down. Nevertheless, at some point it did, and that was another turning point in Native American history. They were indignant about how they had been treated; but some of that would change. The Navajos and the Goshutes first felt the change. Navajos were allowed to come off their reservation, and were given land by the government, to do what they wanted with. The Goshute band as well was given two reservations, though this time they were allowed to come and go as they pleased. The Shoshone were given land as well, in Idaho, however the Mormon church sold it to a farmer, and the Shoshone were left without a reservation. Finally, the Utes couldn’t seem to adjust, and so never fully recovered from the whites. Consequently, there are only about 3,000 Utes left today. Their income is from oil and gas development on their land. After hundreds of years - racism was coming to an end.



Throughout the years, Native Americans have had a rough history. Much of their life-style and traditions vanished when the Europeans came. Their history, which once might have held nothing more than battles with each other, now contains many bloody tales of conflict. The whites and the natives fought over territory rights, and racism. Racism, which started the whole conflict, killed hundreds, and forever injured the ancient traditions of the natives. And though most tribes now have their own land, and the wars have stopped, nothing can heal the wounds the white inflicted. The scars will remain forever as a tribute to that chapter in history where so many died, in a war of racism.





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