Paiutes celebrate restoration
CEDAR CITY - A steady drum beat, chanting and jangling bells of dancers rose from Cedar City on Saturday afternoon during the annual Restoration Gathering and Powwow put on by the Paiute Tribe of Utah.
The event is held Friday and Saturday during the second week of June to commemorate the restoration of the tribe's relationship with the federal government.
Tribal Chairwoman Lora Tom said the tribe is made up of five bands of Paiutes in southern Utah whose relationship with the federal government - along with other tribes in the country - was terminated in 1954.
Tom said the move was a failed attempt at forcing tribes to be more self-reliant, but without federal assistance, the Paiutes suffered under the policy economically and socially and saw 15,000 acres of reservation land sold off.
It was not until 1980 that ties with the government were restored and the Paiutes started holding the annual June powwow at the tribe's headquarters in Cedar City.
It was hard on us, said Tom of the tribal termination. To be restored took a lot of testimony before Congress and a lot of help from Sen. [Orrin] Hatch.
Some federal land has been restored to the tribe, Tom said, but in a checkerboard fashion that does not lend itself easily to economic development. She said some of the bands generate income by leasing land along Interstate 15 to billboard companies and there soon may be a tribe-owned convenience store off the freeway south of Cedar City.
On Saturday, the powwow began with a parade down Main Street with the main events held at an outdoor arena at tribal headquarters. Members of tribes from around the country came to Cedar City to help the Paiutes celebrate, including Lynn Burson, a Northern Ute from Fort Duchesne.
Dressed in regalia made of golden eagle feathers, Burson said he came to dance at the powwow to show his solidarity for the Paiutes.
The elderly people like to see the older, traditional dances, said Burson after the parade.
He also took part in ceremonies at the Paiute arena ground, where more than 50 dancers gathered in colorful traditional dress.
Gary Bear, a member of the Goshute Tribe in Skull Valley who helped coordinate the powwow, said the dancers re-enact stories and events in tribal traditions, from a hunter studying game tracks on the ground to approaching an enemy.
The women's dances reflect graceful, female qualities while dancing with a shawl, and represents a young woman's emergence from a cocoon as a butterfly.
They always keep in step with the drum beats, said Bear, who also coordinates the Powwow in the Park event held every July 24 in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park as part of the Days of '47 celebration.
In addition to dancing, there were games, a feast and booths selling American Indian artifacts and food at Saturday's powwow.
Everyone seems to be having a great time, Tom said. I see people of all colors here to celebrate with us, and they are all welcome.
The Paiute Tribe of Utah, with a total membership of 860, is made up of five bands:
* Cedar Band: Cedar City in Iron County.
* Koosharem Band: Richfield in Sevier County.
* Indian Peaks: Cedar City in Iron County.
* Shivwits: Reservation land in Washington County
* Kanosh: Kanosh in Millard County