Paiutes seek 174-acre transfer into federal trust; Springdale still not convinced

This dirt trail heads east and leads to the 174 acres of land donated to the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Springdale, Utah, July 22, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

SPRINGDALE — Around 60 people, comprised of Springdale business owners, county commissioners, park rangers, tribal leaders and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, convened Tuesday evening in the conference room of the Hampton Inn & Suites, located at 1127 Zion Park Boulevard, regarding the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah’s application to transfer 174 acres of fee land into federal trust.

If the application is approved, the PITU, which currently has 892 members, would have sovereignty over this land allowing them an opportunity, they maintain, to further develop self-sufficiency. The 174 acres encompasses a few minor sections of the Virgin River, but the main acreage is situated to the east of state Route 9 in Springdale accessible by way of the trail system that branches east from the George A. Barker Springdale River Park located on Zion Park Boulevard in Springdale.

Map of the 174 acres that the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is applying to transfer into trust | Photo courtesy of Paul Schlafly, St. George News

This request of land use transfer follows Springdale City’s denial of a proposed plan in 2013 when the PITU asked for a change in zoning from residential to commercial, said Pat Cluff, who was Springdale’s Mayor at the time.

Read more: Springdale denies Paiutes’ request to build Native American cultural center – June 2013

“They came to us and had hired some firm, like an advertising agency, with a very elaborate plan,” Cluff said, “one that would have increased the commercial density by 40 percent and went against every one of our ordinances.”

The City Council’s decision to deny the PITU’s proposal, Cluff said, was due to issues concerning: traffic, where there is currently only a two-lane road through Springdale; maintaining the village atmosphere and night sky; disrupting sensitive lands; and aesthetics that maintain Springdale’s character.

This is not about building a casino or a huge resort next door to Zion National Park, it’s about economic opportunities and securing a cultural presence for the Paiute people, Gaylord Robb said, economic development director for the PITU.

“This is a baby step program,” Robb said. “The Paiutes don’t have the funding for huge construction plans.”

The question of utilities arose quite frequently. Several people asked if this became a federally managed land then where would they get their water and power? Robb said they would have to purchase water from the Town of Springdale, which would give the town some leverage in proposed projects.

Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Economic Development Director Gaylord Robb explains the historical significance of the Paiutes in Zion National Park, Hampton Inn & Suites, 1127 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale, Utah, July 22, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News
Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Economic Development Director Gaylord Robb explains the historical significance of the Paiutes in Zion National Park, Hampton Inn & Suites, 1127 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale, Utah, July 22, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“If water is provided then the project can go through,” Robb said. “And if there is no water, then there will be no project.”

While there are no firm plans proposed for the building prospects, two of the main objectives for this land are to build a cultural center and museum to showcase the culture, art and history of the early Paiute people and provide an opportunity for economic development.

“We want to be able to share our beadwork and traditional crafts with the millions of tourists who visit Zion yearly,” said PITU Chairwoman Gari Lafferty.

Evidence of the thousands of years that the Paiutes inhabited Zion National Park is found in the ancient housing located about five miles down the canyon. As well as the discovery of an ancient Paiute cemetery that holds 200 gravesites, Robb said.

Springdale business owners and members of the community listen to the proposal at the scoping meeting held at the Hampton Inn & Suites, 1127 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale, Utah, July 22, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard
Springdale business owners and members of the community listen to the proposal at the scoping meeting held at the Hampton Inn & Suites, 1127 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale, Utah, July 22, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard

Lora Tom, who served as chairwoman for the PITU from 2000 to early 2009, and now currently serves as chairwoman for the Cedar Band of Paiutes, was involved with the initial discussion surrounding this piece of land that began at the turn of the 21st century. While Tom does not speak for the PITU, she said she speaks for the Paiute Band of Cedar. Acquiring this piece of land has always been backed with the intention of showcasing the historical Paiutes, she said, which is currently lacking throughout the area.

“This has been a long process. It didn’t just fall into our laps,” Tom said. “Opportunities do not come easily. This project gives us the potential to help one another. Native Americans don’t like to disturb land. We would be the first to recognize disturbance.”

After the termination of the five bands of Paiutes by the federal government in the 1950s, 25,000 acres of land was lost. Once reinstated in 1980, the federal government promised 15,000 acres to the Paiutes that they would be able to choose – though this never happened, Robb said. They only ended up with around 4,800 acres.

“If there was ever an endangered species, it was the Paiute people during the time of their termination,” Robb said.

“You don’t need to worry that we are going to rush in here and set up our homestead,” PITU Chairwoman Lafferty said. “We are really respectful of the land, appreciate the landscape and respect our neighbors.”

“The town is being asked to play ‘trust me poker,’ one that says don’t worry, we’re good,” Bill Bassett said, owner of W J Bassett Zion Canyon Auto, located at 32 Steamboat Lane in Springdale. “We might have listened a little more if it had been more than ‘trust me.’ I think we respect the Indians and the fact they have been here longer than the white man but who’s to say that the tribe isn’t going to build 4-story buildings?”

Statue of mother earth at the George Barker River Park located on Zion Park Boulevard just west of the 174 acre fee land in Springdale, Utah, July 22, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

Looking into the eyes of a Native American and saying ‘trust me poker’ is a gross irony, said Logan Hebner, who founded the Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon in 1981, located at 1212 Zion Park Boulevard, and authored “Southern Paiute: A Portrait,” in which Hebner relates interviews with 30 Southern Paiute elders.

“To worry of commercialization when it’s already happened is another irony. Look at where this meeting is being held,” Hebner said. “Springdale has been carpet-bombed with hotels, restaurants, bars. The Paiutes could bring a new dimension to Springdale.”

“If the Paiute tribe of Utah would have come and said we want to set up residential and craft shops I think we would have worked with them,” Louise Pittit said, who was on the City Council at the time of denial. “I am still worried that they have a big resort development in the back of their minds.”

Someone in the meeting asked why the Paiutes don’t come back to the town with a more distinct plan because the town would be willing to listen, but they said no. When it all boils down to it, they don’t want to have to pay taxes, Cluff said.

“Native Americans were never supposed to pay for property taxes,” Robb said. “And the $10,000 it would cost a year would be a burden on the Paiute tribe. That land was given to the tribe free and clear.”

“The Paiutes have endured so much with termination and countless court battles over land. They’ve had a lot of hardships,” Tom said. “It’s time we look to the future and teach our young people that there is something to look forward to. We, like anyone else desire to leave a legacy.”

“This could be mutually beneficial for the Town of Springdale and the Paiute tribe,” Hebner said. “But both parties need to learn to trust each other.”

This ‘scoping meeting’ represents the initial step in the National Environmental Policy Act process intending to inform and gather public comments pertaining to this acquisition project. The Zion Development Corporation donated this land to the PITU and the deed was signed Feb. 25, 2014, according to the Washington County Recorder’s Office.

The NEPA process includes an environmental assessment to evaluate the condition of the land and whether it meets the federal standards to be placed into federal trust.

The land is located near Zion National Park in Springdale in Township 42 South, Range 10 West, Section 31 in Washington County.

Resources – Comment period open

If you were not able to attend the meeting but would like to submit a comment, send them by Aug. 14 to:

BIA Southern Paiute Agency Office
180 North 200 East, Suite 111
PO Box 720
St. George, UT 84770

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Twitter: @STGnews

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  • ladybugavenger July 26, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Immigration started in 1492. White people came and stole the native Americans land and here we are 422 years later and they still, all over the country, are fighting for their land. Its a shame!!!

    • crushladybugs July 27, 2014 at 8:57 am

      I take it you will be the first to give your house to the Indians then! Get up and start the process big talker, so tired of the mouth they don’t back up what they spout about!

      • ladybugavenger July 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm

        I’m actually white and married to a native american. I’ve learned more than they’ll ever teach you at school. Actually fighting for land in Oklahoma that the government “lost the records for” and stopped the payments to his tribes people. The lawsuit cobell vs.salazar. in the process of getting the title to this generation of his family. And no I don’t have a house. We rent an apartment. I’m tired of people like you!!!

    • Lance July 27, 2014 at 9:50 am

      How many centuries will this grievance culture go on? And this is nothing more than positioning so a few – barely Indian – people can get their own casino. With 892 members the blood percentage of true Indian must be minor in most of them. In a generation or 2 how many will qualify for tribal membership unless the pure ones become stud services. The reservation system should be dismantled, it only breeds alcoholism and welfare for the majority. And the so called natives are themselves invaders that came from Asia and killed off the previous inhabitants so again I ask, which century do you want your grievance culture reset to?

      • ladybugavenger July 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm

        I’m tired of people like you too. Native Americans are not asian

        • Missy July 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

          Ummm. He said, they killed off the Asians.

      • ladybugavenger July 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm

        Centuries of haters! How long are you gonna hate the native Americans? How long are you going to oppress them? Of course, many turn to alcohol, but not all stay there. The abuse, the hate, the genocide. What else do they have to turn too in a world full of haters. Youre a genocider just like the ” founding fathers”. How long do they have to suffer at the hands of people like you?

        • Lance July 27, 2014 at 7:49 pm

          With free food and housing why should natives work? They can drink and party all day. The fact Asian people can come to the USA and thrive is proof that it is not racism keeping other peoples down here. Your self loathing is amusing, the founding fathers are genociders now? Can you tell me how you define genocide? Since it is not racism, can you explain some other factor?

      • Chris July 27, 2014 at 12:35 pm

        “the so called natives are themselves invaders that came from Asia and killed off the previous inhabitants”?? There is absolutely no evidence that “previous inhabitants” existed in the western hemisphere prior to the arrival of Asian peoples approximately 30,000 years ago. Where are you getting your archaeological information? The book of Mormon?

        • Lance July 27, 2014 at 7:44 pm

          Earlier inhabitants were killed off in wars from tribes in later migrations, today’s Indians are descendants of genociders. Again, what century do you want your grievances reset to? Free the Clovis? Face it, today’s Indians are meagerly “native”, and “First Nations” is a misnomer, they are at best “Second Nations” themselves. It is time for them to assimilate and move on, the BIA and the reservation system should be dismantled. No go off and whine about the Mormons some more if you cannot handle the topic.

        • Koolaid December 21, 2014 at 9:09 am

          I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard mormons claim their BOM is the most precise historical account of the American Indians. Why is it nobody else supports their historical claims?

  • Not Convinced... July 27, 2014 at 6:54 am

    There are so many mass expanses of undeveloped land on the east side of Zion, toward Carmel Junction, which do not have an established village. If the Natives want to live without constant conflict then it seems like going that route, or one of many others which are obviously available (along I-15) makes so much more sense. There are established power and water systems on every side of Zion…why do they need that one canyon?

    I can’t help but think that the drive to get a foothold in Springdale includes a plan to capitalize on established tourism. Does anyone truly believe that this is solely about reconnecting with history and heritage? If that were true then working against public opinion would drive them elsewhere. Think about it.

    Springdale is a destination for world travelers because of the ‘vibe’ in the town. It’s an eclectic blend of coffee houses and family owned gift shops. There is only a passing nod to conformity and political correctness. Long before the foreign tourists packed it, Springdale was a hidden oasis for the gay community, non-conformists and artists of every gilt. It will not be the same if that delicate balance is crushed under the weight of congestion and ‘improvements’ which would be necessary to accommodate the volume of tribes people. It’s not the right place….what a shame that no one is rushing to preserve it. Maybe they need to find an endangered lizard or something.

    • bw July 27, 2014 at 11:53 am

      So what everyone else and their dogs are capitalizing in Springdale why not the American Indians it was their land before it was ours

  • Libitarian July 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

    There is a small group of people out there that are always beating up on American the greatest country ever. People risk there lives to lives here. And they want to give it back to the Indians, who lived in tents and faught against each other. Which tribe do we give it too? Stupid avengerbug lady

    • ladybugavenger July 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      You native american hater! You sound like george hate a whole race. You hate blacks too?

    • ladybugavenger July 27, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      You are living proof racism is alive and well in this country!!! Libertarian- your name should read racist!

    • Chris July 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      Your command of the English language is particularly poor. Are you sure you are an American?

  • Wa-unts July 27, 2014 at 9:50 am

    That’s what the white Euro-Americans said, “Trust us” and look what has happened. We are only doing what we have learned from the American government and it’s people. As for the land, it has always belonged to The Paiute People, before it was stolen….

  • Speedoggy July 27, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Seriously sad folks. Let’s talk heritage and American Nationalism Egocentrism!!!!! The founders of this nation obliterated the original inhabitants here to start this “Great Nation”. The land we founded this country on is stained with blood and tears of the native americans ancestors. Can we at least realize that???? WAKE UP!!!!

    • bw July 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

      it’s alright for everyone else to build like crazy monstrous motels in the last few years and has just ruined the atmosphere of Springdale but the Paiutes want to build on land that was stole from them and they get told no it’s just not right you can bet it won’t be long before someone builds another motel or something that ruins the town of Springdale worse than it already is

    • GMC December 21, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Lol you’re joking right? It was the Spanish that tried to convert natives to their religion and tried to enslave the indians, not ‘white’ settlers. If it wasn’t for the … indians MASSACRING the settlers during the first ‘peaceful’ trade and interaction between the two people, then there wouldn’t have been any hostile tensions between settlers and indians. Even still, the settlers were building little settlements around the nation and the indians were the ones who were going around torturing, killing, raping, pillaging and doing many horrific acts on those settlements. So guess who is at fault here hmm? Try reading a … book before trying to sound like you know what you’re talking about!
      Ed. ellipses.

  • Dana July 27, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    It would be a different story if they were White and Delightsome. They could sell a line of cult related [email protected]….every first Saturday give a discount on magic underwear. Or maybe a BOGO if you show proof of a paid admission to Zion.

  • Colleen Lloyd July 27, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Lance and Libitarian, you are just sad examples of the failure of the educational system and colonialist invader culture that caused this scenario to begin with. You’re just full of mistalen ideas you got out of a John Wayne movie and the Book of Mormon that have nothing to do with reality. They fought each other and lived in tents? LMNAO news flash: Paiutes didn’t live in tents and the Anasazi lived in ingenius pithouses, kind of like the “latest” “brilliant” “environmentally-conscious” white people just figured out work way better than those over-sized massive monstrosities of conspicuous consumption marring the skyline of the hills in St George, or being washed down the Santa Clara River every time it floods. We natives have always known better how to survive and live in harmony, and sorry, but your delusional “Lamanite” battles never happened. Small skirmishes are natural in any animal species and we are no different. GENOCIDE on a MASSIVE scale for the purposes of exterminating an entire race so that the resources of the land we have inhabited generally in peace and harmony for thousands of years can be exploited for the selfish greed of commercial interests so settlers illegally invading can live in comfort upon the backs of others they steal from and enslave and murder is a EUROPEAN import like you we are better off without! I love the irony of how the city of Springdale who has commercialized the land and monopolized water resources, same thing the Mormon pioneers did, is all worried they can’t “trust” the Paiute people who have struggled to recover from the damage wreaked upon them for centuries, when the Paiutes had well-developed agriculture and canal systems and were more self-sufficient than you will ever be, before the white settlers came and conspired at every turn to screw them over and blame them for their own crimes and wrongs! That’s historical reality, deal with it! The wrong part is that the Paiutes even have to ask at all what they can do on their own land, to a bunch of illegal aliens. Your racist BS is so out of the 50s, get over it. it’s called honoring treaties, but then your culture never learned how to do anything but lie and steal, so you have a hard time with that and have to use denial and racist attacks when your government is expected to simply honor an agreement. This is nothing new. This is the ignorant selfish attitudes we have dealt with for 500 years, and I am glad the Paiutes are remaining strong and claiming their rights. We are not your possessions or your wards; we are sovereign nations with treaty rights that you find inconvenient to acknowledge because it makes you feel some twisted sense of entitlement to deny the reality and humanity of who native people are. I’m sick of this crap. The Paiutes have worked hard to develop their community in spite of being hindered at every attempt by the selfishness of settlers who can’t stand the thought that natives should have anything they might miss out on possessing. It’s a mental, spiritual sickness, this racist Manifest Destiny dogma that continues, when these are people with legitimate rights and contracts that, had they been honored, would have made sure they were never in this position of having to ask to begin with.

    • Libitarian July 29, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Sounds great. Let’s put a casino there. Your a sudointelectual

    • GMC December 21, 2014 at 8:21 am

      LOL we natives always learned to live in harmony. RIGHT. Although there WERE tribes that were relatively peaceful, the MAJORITY of the tribes in the Americas were NOT. You want to call going to other tribes’ land and raping, torturing, slaughtering, taking infants and dragging them behind horses, dismembering elderly, kids, women and men, peaceful? No. I sure … wouldn’t. Indians back then were BRUTAL and uncaring of other tribes. I understand that’s how it was back then but I laugh out loud when I hear people say, oh Indians were so peaceful and in touch with nature! Yea, bull spat! When Indians found out how useful horses can be, they collected them by the THOUSANDS and gave them to their chief. Guess what happened to the horses when the chief died? THEY’D KILL THE HORSES. ALL OF THEM.

      And because the Indians never OWNED land, they only lived and thrived on it, if a tribe or a group of people were strong enough to force them out or kill them, they would rightfully be able to have that land. So because settlers were smart enough and had better weaponry they were able to FIGHT BACK when the Indians started attacking and they WON. I see no problem with that as that’s how the natives functioned. Even though the gov’t gave them a … load of land in reconciliation for ‘feeling bad’ about doing so, it’s still not enough. … we could do what the natives did to each other and force that tribe to move and say … with them, but the gov’t didn’t.

      Those treaties were going to fail from the start once the natives attacked the settlers during the first peaceful trade. That’s what gave people a sour taste in their mouth. I’m not only talking about Paiute’s, I’m talking about the natives in general.

      In the end, tribes killed off other tribes ALL THE TIME and in some cases, literally exterminated a couple tribes from existence and no one bats an eye. But once settlers came and their hand was forced to fight the natives, all … breaks loose. Cry me a … river because no one gives … about your twisted views.
      Ed. ellipses.

  • James July 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    The Paiutes are part of the history of Zion and they should be allowed to have a presence and share in the prosperity that Springdale has to offer. It is ridiculous to deny them the same freedoms that the rest of us doing business in Springdale enjoy.

  • Redrock lover July 27, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    My concerns have nothing to do with the group that wants to develop it- but rather the change in zoning from residential to commercial. Springdale is a gem of a place. It could lose some of it’s charm if any particular group/person/etc could build and develop whatever they want without restrictions. Any drastic zoning changes should be examined very carefully. Some of us wish we could live there – but can’t and visit often. Zion is already too busy many weekends to enjoy!

    • Dana July 28, 2014 at 5:37 am

      And were you voicing the same concerns each time a WHITE person opened a business? Did Springdale lose it’s charm whenever a WHITE person opened a business?
      From the article “While there are no firm plans proposed for the building prospects, two of the main objectives for this land are to build a cultural center and museum to showcase the culture, art and history of the early Paiute people and provide an opportunity for economic development.”
      This is an opportunity for the Paiute to become self sufficient. It’s an opportunity for everyone to learn…which apparently is needed by those of you who try to hide your racism behind “zoning concerns.”

      • Lance July 28, 2014 at 10:24 am

        Why so racist and bigoted Dana? As I pointed out Asian people have come to N America and thrived, proof that racism is not the cause of economic failure by other races. Truth is that the most racist cultures in the USA are the minorities that cannot compete on an equal basis and so they seek favoritism via the laws, blaming it on 200 year old issues. In fact another truth is that the white people you hate so much eliminated slavery on this continent and several others. If you need to fight bigotry, locate a mirror to see the face of it. Then come back to give me another anti-Mormon comment and display your hate for all to see once more.

  • Redrock lover July 28, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Actually Dana- yes!!! I’ve had those same concerns and have voiced them via attending zoning and planning meetings! Stop playing the racism card. It’s unnecessary and you are fighting ugly. You know NOTHING about me-so stop trying to bully from behind your computer. Ridiculous. You lose credibility when you spew ugly irrational comments.

    • Dana July 28, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      @ Redrock Lover …Race card?..did it hit too close to home? What’s wrong with the Paiutes opening a cultural center? You don’t have to support it. You don’t have to go and learn from it. But many of us do want to see minorities and indigenous groups become self sufficient. And many of us do want to learn from those groups…not the sanitized version of history that was taught in schools. And speaking of losing credibility..bully..really? Please. That’s the most overused word of the year. Be original.

  • Panda July 28, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Let see – it sounds to me like the current business owners are afraid of a little competition. The double standard they are totting. The majority of employees working in Springdale for the current business owners are illegal. No papers whatsoever that allow them to work and live in the US. Most of the political leaders that turned down the Native American Indians request are probably affiliated with the existing Springdale business, and are responsible for hiring the illegals working there. How does that compute – giving jobs to illegals, but not allowing Native Americans to create their own jobs. It’s cheaper to hire illegals so they aren’t giving the Native Americans the jobs. That is just wrong on so many levels.

  • Lance July 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Ooops, my mistake, that is Colleen & Chris exhibitng their religious hatred and bigotry, not Dana.

  • Redrock lover July 29, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Dana- I hope you are a more pleasant person in real life than you seem to be hiding behind your computer. What a hateful person you are. If you are one of the tribe- you don’t give a positive example of how great some members are. And YOU seem to be a hateful person…find more positive ways to express yourself and maybe life will be better to you.

  • Redrock lover July 29, 2014 at 12:17 am

    And Dana- self-sufficient ? Get jobs, work, get all the college funding available to minorities and natives…

    • Dana July 29, 2014 at 5:28 am

      I’m in support of a group of people who want to share their culture and you call me hateful? The irony.You sound like a member of the party of No.
      You still don’t give a reason why a cultural center should not be built. You don’t provide any reasoning as to why a museum is a bad idea. And not that it matters, but I don’t belong to any tribe. However, I don’t agree with the double standard. The Paiutes want to CREATE jobs, not simply work for someone else. They want to empower themselves and yes, be self sufficient. This is something everyone should support, instead of only patronizing the junk shops and tourist traps.
      Tell me, how does this sound hateful? You whine too much. Go home to your mama so she can wipe your nose.

  • Lance July 29, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I believe that it is your racist anti-white comments that make you sound like a hateful racist Dana. It’s called the Duck test. And yes the tribe is asking for a double standard, they want to build wherever they wish and to pay no taxes, so they can have an economic advantage over the other businesses. If it was merely about a museum they could purchase a parcel where it would be allowed and operate it as freely as any other business. These mixed race partial Indian people wish to exploit Federal EEO rules, probably so they can build their Zion NP casino down the road.

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