Beneath the red cliffs of Southern Utah, along the streams of the Virgin River once lived a humble people who were here long before the arrival of wagon trains. A thriving horticultural society, the southern Paiute Indians were a peaceful foraging people whose social ties created a network that spread throughout the Western Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin. But as different groups and cultures vied for control of the West, the once independent Paiute people were forced to face challenges that resulted in unfulfilled promises, poverty, dependence and profound loss. Horse enabled Ute Indians and Spanish trading parties to capture and sell Paiute slaves. Mormon settlers claimed the Paiutes’ favored lands, and epidemics of disease killed more than 90% of some Paiute groups. Conflict continued when local Mormon leaders accused the Paiutes of the 1857 attack and slaughter of the Fancher-Baker emigrant train in a clearing known as Mountain Meadows. In 1957, a century later, Congress would terminate federally recognized status for the Paiute people. The results of termination had devastating social and economic consequences. In 1980, a federal trust relationship was restored to the Paiutes, a contract that would return hope and dignity to a proud tribe.
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