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Utah Students Get Straight Scoop from Utah’s Natives

Oct. 2, 2009 – Did you know that the Ute tribe manages one of the largest herds of buffalo in the United States; or that the Paiute have a strong tradition of female leadership; or that the Navajo Nation has its own president, vice president, and government apart from the United States; and that over 75 percent of the White Mesa population votes (as opposed to 52 percent of Utahns)?

These human and historical facts are part of a comprehensive new study program for K-12 educators in all Utah schools developed at the University of Utah.

The We Shall Remain: Utah Indian Curriculum Guide (UICG) was designed to bring to life the unique history and culture of Utah’s first citizens: the Ute, Navajo, Goshute, Southern Paiute and Northwest Band of the Shoshone nations. Importantly, the content was generated in collaboration with Utah Native Americans.

Virgil Johnson, a high school American history teacher and member of the Goshute tribe, contributed to the creation of the curriculum, including a television documentary series. “We were honored to be able to give the straight scoop,” he says. “This curriculum comes mostly from the Native American perspective. Lots of research went into this and if the schools use it, the new curriculum will change students’ perspectives of Native Americans in Utah. Not enough emphasis has been given to this.”

Created by University of Utah’s American West Center, with its partners the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, KUED-7, the Utah State Office of Education and the American Indian nations that call Utah home, the UICG is much more than printed materials.

An interactive web site offers personal stories, Google-earth maps, art work, tribal histories, and through the Utah American Indian Digital Archive-another project just completed by the American West Center and J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections-access to over 25,000 pages of rare documents, photos, maps, and oral histories ( The lesson plans and the materials that come with them complement and extend the classroom use of KUED’s “We Shall Remain” documentary series providing Utah teachers arguably the finest set of resources to teach local Native American history of any state in the country.

We Shall Remain will open up the eyes of our students to both the history and the contemporary experience of American Indian communities in Utah,” says Elizabeth Player, UICG curriculum coordinator with the American West Center. “I think for too long the American Indian story has been considered only a nineteenth century story. This shows that Utah’s American Indian nations are here, they’re vital, they’re living their culture. To make sure that our students are seeing that in their classrooms is going to make a big difference.”

“The history of Utah, and indeed of the United States, looks significantly different when viewed from the Indian perspective,” says Matthew Basso, American West Center director and professor of history and gender studies at the University of Utah. “It is essential for students to learn about Utah’s tribes’ long struggles for survival and why those struggles occurred. It is just as essential for students to realize that while each of these tribes has had setbacks and tragedies, they have also had triumphs.”

Basso explains that the Center was chosen to produce the curriculum due to its previous experience with American Indian projects. “The Center has drawn on more than forty years experience collecting, preserving, interpreting, and disseminating the remarkable histories of the West’s diverse populations, particularly American Indians,” he says. “The Center’s history of collaboration with tribal communities and commitment to weaving heretofore silenced Indian voices into the historical narrative will be very apparent in these lessons.”

Training workshops will be held to help fourth grade, seventh grade and high school teachers use the guide to its fullest. The workshops are scheduled into 2010 at schools throughout the state. Every teacher who attends a workshop receives their own binder with the lesson plans for the level they teach along with the five KUED DVDs.

Pam Su’a, a social studies consultant for Jordan District, attended a workshop and writes, “The We Shall Remain series fills a gap in the seventh grade Utah Studies curriculum. The series is well done, is Utah-centered and pulls together great resources–oral histories, primary sources, and geographic tools to give students a real look at not only the five Utah tribes historically but also in present day Utah.”

For more information on the UICG or to schedule a workshop, contact Elizabeth Player at the American West Center at 801-581-7611, or The Utah Indians web site is available at For more information about the American West Center, visit