Filed Under Native Americans

Indigenous People of Bryce Canyon

The place known today by millions of people as Bryce Canyon National Park has been known by different names to many other people over centuries. The history of those who have journeyed along the canyon before paths were paved there still have a deep connection to the land. And over the past century, an increasing number of people admire the beauty and appreciate such a connection.

Unka tumpee wun-nurrx tungwatsini xoopakichu ahnax, Sikyaatutukwi, Bios to chi bi kool, Angka-ku-wass-a-wits, Bryce’s Canyon.

These are the former names of the geographic marvel now known as Bryce Canyon National Park. Southern Paiutes, Hopi, Zuni, Ute, and Navajo tribes all lived in this region and enjoyed its natural beauty and wonders. Even before these nations, other ancient peoples lived here for centuries. The Indian names, meaning “place of yellow points,” “red painted faces,” and “red rock standing like a man in a hole,” come from ancient legends of the rock formations now called “hoodoos,” meaning scary or a bad omen. Some claimed that the hoodoos were once people who had been turned to stone. This incredible landscape provided a place for indigenous peoples to hunt and gather grass seeds and other foods, creating a deep connection with the land. 

Sadly, from 1850 to 1890, through various laws, acts, and atrocities, Native Americans were forced from Bryce Canyon, some to distant reservations. Those that were far removed from Bryce Canyon, like the Navajo, remembered its beauty through oral histories. The Paiutes were not driven out until about 1880, five years after LDS Scottish Rancher Ebenezer Bryce settled there. From the turn of the century onward, new people began coming into the area to settle or sight-see. In 1916, with help from the Union Pacific Railroad, lodges and rest stations began to be built, providing a place for visitors to stay. In 1923, Bryce Canyon became a National Monument and in 1928 it became a National Park, with the boundaries expanded in 1931 and again in 1942. In 1934 workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps created much of the infrastructure that helped make Bryce Canyon more accessible to the public. Today this beautiful National Park is visited by over 1.5 million people annually.

Though this park is now accessible to many people, the indigenous nations that once lived there still have a great connection to the land through their histories and traditions. In past decades most members of those nations lack the resources needed to visit Bryce Canyon, though more indigenous people are able to visit these sacred sites today. They continue to pass on the traditions and stories to new generations. Some Paiutes have returned to the area and still live nearby. Dozens of people currently reside within Bryce Canyon's lands. Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, a member of the Hopi Tribe, teaches “This is our heaven. This is the human people’s heaven, and we need to appreciate that.” A sacred place to many tribes, and now a nationally protected park, Bryce Canyon deserves respect and reverence as visitors admire its wonders.

Images

Untitled Source: Feilbach, Rachel N. “Views of the Hoodoos (1)” taken March, 2023, Digital Images
Untitled Source:

Feilbach, Rachel N. “Views of the Hoodoos (2)” taken March, 2023, Digital Images

Untitled Source:

Feilbach, Rachel N. “Views of the Hoodoos (3)” taken March, 2023, Digital Images

Location

Metadata

Rachel Feilbach, Brigham Young University, “Indigenous People of Bryce Canyon,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/787.