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Southern Paiute Traditional Lands

The traditional lands of the Southern Paiute people are bounded by more than 600 miles of the Colorado River from the Kaiparowits Plateau in the north to Blythe, California in the south. Southern Paiute people were given a special responsibility to protect and manage this land and water and all that is upon and within it. The challenge for the SPC is to translate this general yet unique responsibility into specific ways of engaging with the scientists, land managers, and others responsible for the operations of Glen Canyon Dam [website page 3] and the Adaptive Management Program [website page 5].

The Glen Canyon Dam was built within Southern Paiute traditional lands. The formal removal of Southern Paiutes from their lands began in 1865 when federal Indian agents first attempted to move the Paiutes onto reservations. Southern Paiute use of their traditional lands was also restricted when the plateau on either side of the Colorado River, including the Grand Canyon, was set aside first, in 1893, as the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve, then, in 1908, as the Grand Canyon National Monument. It was not until the 1970s that Southern Paiutes were offered the opportunity to use the natural and cultural resources on the north rim of the Grand Canyon when the Grand Canyon National Park archaeologist visited the Kaibab Paiute Tribal Council. During the early 1900s, Southern Paiutes were moved onto reservations in Nevada, northern Arizona, and southern Utah. Various Southern Paiute tribes organized under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (48 Stat. 984).

On September 1, 1954, the U.S. Congress passed termination legislation (68 Stat. 1099, 25 USC 741 et seq.) that included four Southern Paiute tribes in Utah. This decision contradicted all studies and recommendations made earlier by U.S. federal agents, and it left the Southern Paiutes who were involved with little other than the marginal lands in their possession. On April 3, 1980, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (PITU) became the seventh tribe in the United States to be restored to federal recognition status (PL 96-277).

The PITU was established as a composite tribe of the Shivwits, Kanosh, Koosharem, Indian Peaks, and Cedar City Bands. Today, members of four federally recognized Southern Paiute tribes – the PITU, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Moapa Band of Paiutes, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe – occupy lands adjacent to the Colorado River Corridor.

In 1951, the Southern Paiutes filed a claims suit with the Indian Claims Commission see record seeking compensation for their lands which had been taken. The Commission made its final judgment on January 18, 1965. In this settlement, the precise value of the land was not determined; the Paiutes were awarded $8,250,000 for 29,935,000 acres of land. The land claims settlement did not extinguish other rights, such as those associated with water and cultural resources.

 
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