Courtesy Colleen Lloyd
Petroglyphs (click to enlarge) watching over Southern Utah’s Anasazi Valley. An ancient site worth the fight.

Natives Must Prove Sacred Site in Utah Is Worth Saving

Colleen Lloyd
5/6/14

Undisturbed for thousands of years, the serene, picturesque Anasazi Valley is sheltered by stunning lava cliffs broken into giant cubed stones silently splattered with petroglyphs dating back to 3000 B.C., precariously perched as if tumbling from some mythical Thunderbird’s nest. This secluded enclave neighboring Southern Utah’s breathtaking natural wonders Snow Canyon and Zion National Park was home to ancient Puebloans, and since 450 A.D., Southern Paiute Indians. They consider it part of their sacred ancestral land. Elders still have memories of their grandfathers telling stories of coming here for traditional ceremonies, blessings, and gatherings.

The background story begins in 1985, when Sheila Dean Wilson purchased the 80.1 acre parcel with 25.23 feet of water rights; she soon discovered remains of pit houses, pottery shards, and human burials. In order to keep the site sacred, Wilson founded the non-profit organization Sunhawk Productions, Inc. for the purpose of preserving the spiritual and cultural heritage and creating a Native American Learning Center.

School group touring the Valley learning about indigenous dwellings and culture. Courtesy Colleen Lloyd.

Since then, it has been a favorite local attraction and hosted events like Walk of the Ancient Ones, Easter Sunrise Services, traditional weddings, and Sings for deceased tribal Elders. There is a popular Indian Village featuring an authentic Paiute wikiup, Plains tipis, Iroquois Longhouse, Navajo Hogan, and ceremonial sweat lodge, with future plans to recreate authentic Anasazi-era adobe dwellings based on extensively detailed maps, to fulfill Dean’s vision. It’s all free to the public to visit while enjoying the cool air from the Santa Clara River, encircled by red sandstone landscaping completed as an Eagle Scout project. Before settlers monopolized water resources, Paiutes built well-developed agricultural irrigational systems. Now, they are returning to and honoring their strong, self-sufficient roots as bountiful harvests of the all-volunteer community garden is shared with diverse throngs welcomed at weekly potluck feasts highlighted by drum circles, flute playing, and storytelling -- passing on the ways to the next generation.

Tika Johnson dancing to traditional drums in spite of the thunderous clanging of dump trucks interrupting the beat. Courtesy Colleen Lloyd.

Indian Branch sponsored People’s Garden of Promise yields an abundance of vegetables to share. Courtesy Colleen Lloyd.

Schoolchildren gaining an understanding of the wood flute’s beauty and importance to Native tribes, being taught by Kathy Pace. Courtesy Colleen Lloyd.

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
SARCASM ON: What YOU PEOPLE don't realize is that this land can be made to turn a profit. People don't need clean water, fresh vegetables a place where they can teach their young the old ways, sacred burial sites, irreplaceable archeological artifacts, ancient cultures, clear skies or to be connected to the place their ancestors inhabited! They want high-rise condos at an affordable price, they want golf courses where they can play with their business partners, they want elegant banquet halls staffed by polite brown people, they want safe parking for their luxury cars, they want big fences around their neighborhood, they want tax breaks and they want a White man back in the WHITE House, the way it's supposed to be! SARCASM OFF
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