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Southern Paiute

A Portrait

Logan Hebner, Michael Plyler

Publication Year: 2010

Now little recognized by their neighbors, Southern Paiutes once had homelands that included much of the vast Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert. From the Four Corners’ San Juan River to California’s lower Colorado, from Death Valley to Canyonlands, from Capitol Reef to the Grand Canyon, Paiutes lived in many small, widespread communities. They still do, but the communities are fewer, smaller, and mostly deprived of the lands and resources that sustained traditional lives.

To portray a people and the individuals who comprise it, William Logan Hebner and Michael L. Plyler relay Paiute voices and reveal Paiute faces, creating a space for them to tell their stories and stake claim to who they once were and now are.


Published by: Utah State University Press


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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Foreword - Vivienne Caron-Jake

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pp. xi-xii

When the door opened for the telling of Southern Paiute history, it brought forth not only oral history, but the compelling truth of the tragic past, of what happened then and continues today....

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pp. 1-20

In 1989 the hazardous waste incinerator corporation Waste Tech courted tribes across America, hoping to dodge federal regulation behind the veil of tribal sovereignty. They entered negotiations with the Kaibab Paiute on the Arizona Strip, and stress from the impending tonnage of toxic waste and money turned the area into a hornet’s nest....

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San Juan Paiute

How the San Juan Paiute lost their enormous reservation called the Paiute Strip, about nine thousand square miles, is an interwoven story of bureaucratic corruption and ignorance, Paiute insularity, and Navajo opportunism and growth. In 1905 the federal government began exploring reservation possibilities for the Kaibab and San Juan people. In 1908, a stunning labyrinth of canyons south of the San Juan...

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Mary Ann Owl and Jack Owl

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pp. 23-29

After hours of red dirt roads, we’re not sure this is the right home. Three people, an older man and woman and a younger man, greet us with absolute silence, their eyes kind, wary, and curious. There’s no electricity, so there’s that desert silence too. They present a timeless scene, working their way through a harvest of fresh picked corn. She sits on the floor, legs splayed...

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Bessie Owl

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pp. 30-33

Bessie greets us in front of her hogan with an infectious grin that will persist through the whole afternoon, even while talking about painful events. Inside her hogan, the air is tart with willow and sumac soaking in water, making them pliable for basket making. Numerous baskets, in various states of completion, line the wall. Herbs and plants hang in bundles from sturdy cedar post walls...

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Margaret King

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pp. 34-37

Aged 106, Margaret King sits on her cot like a stained-glass sculpture. If you parted the Bluebird Flour sack curtains from the window and held all sixty pounds of her to the sunlight, purples, reds, blues, yellows and browns would stream through her parchment skin. Her ferocious, white, marble eyes have...

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Kaibab Paiute Tribe

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pp. 38-40

The Kaibab . . . formerly occupied the area between the southern tip of the High Plateaus of Utah and the Grand Canyon.”2 My entire involvement with the Southern Paiute boils down to accidentally encountering this brief quote from Isabel Kelly. These exact lands continue to hold me like a magnet. The Kaibab spent winters deep in the Grand Canyon and walked up to summers in the alpine cool of the upper...

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Gary Tom

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pp. 41-45

Gary’s father was Bill Tom, whose final wish encouraged the Kaibab Tribe to reject Waste Tech’s hazardous waste incinerator. Because he moves comfortably in both white and Indian worlds, Gary is often in the position of articulating the minority position to either group, which takes a lot of courage....

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Gevene Savala

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pp. 46-50

Gevene had to leave after just an hour of this interview, so she wrote a short biography for us, which accounts for the different meter of storytelling. She has a beautiful voice, and that night she was to record four more Circle Dance songs for the tribe. She was also painting a watercolor, with the evocative...

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Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah

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pp. 51-54

All of Utah’s Southern Paiute, which prior to contact may have numbered eighteen bands and thirty-five subgroups, were finally eliminated or consolidated down to the five bands of PITU: Kanosh, Koosharem, Indian Peaks, Cedar and Shivwits. Listing them as such from north to south reflects a cultural gradient as...

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Patrick Charles, Kanosh and Shivwits Bands

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pp. 55-59

Patrick immediately expresses something like sadness, resignation, and anxiety all rolled into an apology, as he and his sister Cyndi find themselves suddenly assuming the mantle as Kanosh Band elders. Their last elder, their mother Vera, beloved by the whole tribe, passed away in 2000. Patrick has...

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Madelan Redfoot, Kanosh Band

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pp. 60-63

I was supposed to have died when I was twelve. I had whooping cough really bad; the doctor said he could do nothing and sent me home. That night my mom’s uncle, Kanosh John, came to her in a dream and told her how to bless me, before sunrise. He had passed away, blessed me from the spirit world. I got healed. He made me live. Mother said I...

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Mckay Pikyavit, Kanosh Band

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pp. 64-68

Called “The Last Paiute Chief” by the Salt Lake Tribune, McKay has a direct stare and manner and gets things done. When others talk about him, they point to the houses he got built during termination, when everything else was going badly, or his role in reinstating the tribe. He gave a great piece of advice:...

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Clifford Jake, Indian Peaks Band

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pp. 69-74

Clifford was a mythic force in southwestern Utah, both within the Paiute tribe and to whites. Was he what many hoped and feared, a peyote roadman with power? If half the stories about Clifford are true, perhaps he was. For the most part, his peers indulged him affectionately, saying Clifford’s mystique came, as Evelyn Samalar asserted, from simply “telling it like it is.” Regardless, he...

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Lora E. and Eleanor Tom, Cedar Band

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pp. 75-81

It’s appropriate that this interview takes place in a conference room dominated by a painted portrait of Isaac Haight, one of the prime perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. As chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Lora became deeply involved with resolving the massacre’s ongoing...

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Barbara Pete Chavez, Cedar Band

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pp. 82-86

Barbara is always traveling to powwows, mostly to visit and play cards, but she’s recently started dancing. When most people tell stories, there are clear delineations between what’s funny, sad, and tragic. But with Barbara, these moments somehow compress and resonate together throughout the telling. The...

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Arthur Richards, Cedar Band

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pp. 87-92

Arthur is sleek and powerful for a man turned seventy-five. Years of fighting almost every day as a kid, with either local whites or Ute kids up north, led him to prize fighting and gave him a direct, unflinching nature. He speaks bluntly, without apology, about both European American and Paiute history....

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Will Rogers, Shivwits Band

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pp. 93-96

Will surfaces through sheer grit and concentration to tell his stories. Glenn (standing in photo), his son and the Shivwits tribal chairman, hollers each question into his ear. Usually Will chases that detail down, that name, that song. Other times he’ll say: “Can’t get to it in my mind. Goes brrzzzt.” He tells...

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Eldene Snow Cervantes, Shivwits Band

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pp. 97-100

Eldene’s father, Stewart Snow, was a preeminent Salt Song singer who later gave the songs to Willis Mayo. It’s said that he received the songs from an unknown man who brought them from the south. Eldene’s first husband, Harmon Domingo, was the son of Johnny Domingo, an important singer for the...

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Alvin Marble, Shivwits Band

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pp. 101-106

Alvin’s narrative begins with something he said about Grand Canyon that I arranged in verse form. Alvin has this way about him, whether telling stories or singing Bird Songs. As a singer, listening has always been a key virtue, especially now that he’s blind. He talks a lot about listening, how he should...

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Eunice Tillahash Surveyor, Shivwits Band

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pp. 107-112

This one time Dad went to church there up to the reservation. They had those Holy Rollers. “Ma, I’m gonna go and holy roll.” “Okay,” Mother said, “you go down and see what them Holy Rollers are like.” He come back and Mother asked; “what did you learn holy rolling?”...

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Caliente Paiute

After witnessing the Mountain Meadows Massacre and observing Mormons there dressed as Indians, the Shivwits Indian Chipate (anglicized to “Charlie Pete”) immediately understood it was a setup to blame his people. After the Civil War, pressure built to punish someone for the horror he had witnessed, so Chipate...

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Willie Pete, Moapa Band and Caliente

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pp. 114-118

Willie Pete holds court at the Branding Iron Café in Caliente. All the waitresses check in as they walk by, making sure he has enough coffee, in turn admonishing me for waiting so long to finally interview him. Everyone talks about the record breaking floods that just ripped through the area....

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Darlene Pete Harrington, Cedar Band and Caliente

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pp. 119-123

Caliente’s classic, western strip façade of bars, feed stores, and cafés runs parallel to the river and railroad tracks. Just behind the strip, on a gravel road, is Darlene’s home, almost wallpapered with family photos and heated by an old wood stove from a steam engine caboose. The photos tell the entire story...

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Moapa Band of Paiute Indians

The Moapa people comprise perhaps eight different bands who originally lived along the Muddy and Virgin Rivers in the lower Colorado River drainage, and in the Great Basin to the north. The current reservation lies in the Mojave Desert, but some Moapa people, including the Pahranagat, lived in the Great Basin and...

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Irene Benn

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pp. 126-131

Irene’s great-grandkids, tumbling around her home, gave her no end of joy during this interview. She was very judicious with her stories, and chose not to discuss a number of topics. When I read her this narrative for her approval, at the Hiland Manor Nursing Home in Mesquite, she said it was just “okay.”...

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Evelyn Samalar

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pp. 132-137

Evelyn was in her nightgown, her long white hair loose, and she had decided she didn’t want any part of this interview. While we were backing out of her trailer, I showed her an article from The Masterkey journal about the death, possibly murder, and funeral of a local “witchdoctor,” 1 Charlie Chemehuevi,...

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Lalovi Miller

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pp. 138-142

Lalovi has been called “the youngest elder” and often represents the Moapa Band in the ongoing stream of governmental and environmental consultations. She has become a savvy cultural gatekeeper for what needs advocating and what needs to remain private. She still listens attentively to elders like Clara...

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Roger Benn

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pp. 143-147

Fortunately, Roger was home, as I had driven through the Mojave Desert, which shimmered with mid-July heat, hoping to find him somewhere on the Mojave Indian Reservation. He had been a blur for the last few years, always moving. His bride, a Mojave woman named Bernie, returned home mid-interview from an all-night Mojave funeral ceremony....

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Las Vegas Paiute Tribe

The Las Vegas Paiute, who called themselves Tudinu, or “Desert People,” share early contact and Mormon settlement patterns with the Utah Paiute. Friendly and respectful initial contact with Father Garcés in 1776 was followed by fifty years of isolation. Encounters with traders and trappers like James Ohio Pattie and...

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Lila Carter

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pp. 150-154

With her natural grace and elegance and fluid storytelling, Lila transforms Las Vegas back into landscape, a reminder of how recently this city materialized out of the desert. She recalls flowing springs with huge cottonwoods over there, a dairy farm over here. Like Clara Belle Jim, she refers to mythic places...

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Chemehuevi Indian Tribe

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pp. 155-157

Chemehuevi appears to be a Mojave term which has been translated as differently as “mixed with all,”2 or “plays with fishes.”3 Other Southern Paiute call them Tantawats, or “Southerners.” The Chemehuevi call themselves Tuumontcokowi, which probably means “Black Beards,” or Nuwu, the Southern Paiute name...

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Gertrude Hanks Leivas with Daughters

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pp. 158-165

Gertrude is having a bad day. Her ears buzz and she’s distracted. When finally allowed her rationed cigarette, her relief is profound. But because she’s having a hard time, her daughters—Hope, Juliana, and Mary—end up sitting with us, and the interview evolves into a family review of their key stories,...

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Mathew Leivas

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pp. 166-171

Mathew, an all-star middle linebacker at Riverside Indian School, perfectly fits Carobeth Laird’s description: “Chemehuevi men are almost invariably built like the buffalo, with enormous, broad, and heavy shoulders tapering down to slender waist and thighs.” 1 Mathew’s harmonica, electric guitar, amp, ceremownial gourd, and chainsaw all stand ready in his living room....

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Pahrump Band of Paiutes

It’s appropriate that this book ends with the Pahrump Band as they managed to slip through the twentieth century virtually unnoticed, tucked into unwanted nooks on their ancestral Great Basin desert, at the northwest boundary of the Southern Paiute confederation. Today they remain unrecognized by the federal government. There’s...

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Richard Arnold

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pp. 174-179

I stalked Richard. On the one hand, there is virtually nothing written about the Pahrump. On the other, you have Richard, who lives large and is famous for his big white cowboy hat, red convertible, and hard work, both as director of the Las Vegas Indian Center and as chairman of the Pahrump Band. I caught him at the Indian Center just after an eye operation for Graves disease....

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Clara Belle Jim

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pp. 180-184

Clara Belle arrives in her white ’97 Ford pickup with a camper shell, a classic wool blanket bedroll ready in the back. She sizes me up as if I was a horse at auction, and gets right to the business of how money will work for this book. Later, her relative Chris Wilson arrives, and says everyone in Pahrump...

Poem Vivienne Caron-Jake

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p. 185-185

Appendix: Southern Paiute Populations & Maps

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pp. 186-192


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pp. 193-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780874217551
E-ISBN-10: 0874217555
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874217544
Print-ISBN-10: 0874217547

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2010