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Monument Valley   |  Rosie Serago

Native Nations in Utah

Utah is home to eight distinct Native Nations, each with their own contemporary traditions, festivals and lifestyles, as well as a unique heritage that can be found among the state's many dwelling sites, petroglyph and pictograph panels and museum exhibits. Today, members of the Bannock, Goshute, Navajo, Paiute, Shoshone and Ute tribal nations continue to live on the lands of their ancestors, and invite visitors who visit with respect.

Whose Native Land Am I On?

Visit With Respect

Utah is filled with a variety of different state and federal designations when it comes to its connection to Native Nations. But it’s also important to understand that there is a strong cultural history to Utah's lands, even if it doesn’t fit in an official category. While many nations welcome visitors for activities and events, each comes with its own set of regulations and etiquette. Do some research to understand your destination and the customs of the people who live there. However, some general guidelines on visiting reservations include: 

  • Avoid taking pictures of people or events unless you have permission. Remember, this is where people live and work.
  • Act respectfully at all times, but particularly at important sites and burial grounds.
  • Don’t remove pottery or other artifacts you may find — this is a violation of federal law. (Watch: Voices of Bears Ears — The Archaeologists)
  • You are a guest on the reservation and allowed on site with the permission. Act accordingly.
  • Follow all travel guidelines related to COVID-19. Check for updates on Utah’s best travel practices before your trip.

Top Experiences by Region

Northern Utah

Home to the Fremont peoples from approximately 300 Common Era (CE) to 1300 CE, Northern Utah is known in more recent history for three primary nations. In the most northern part of the state, you’ll find the Shoshone, who have traditionally lived in Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. Their name translates as “high-growing grasses,” and they were traditionally hunter-gatherers who relied on bison as their primary sustenance. 

The Goshute people live in the desert landscape in western Utah and eastern Nevada. The harsh environment meant that they remained largely isolated until Mormon settlement in the mid-19th century. 

The largest group is the Ute people, with ancestral lands east of the Great Salt Lake and into Colorado. The Uintah and Ouray reservation, about 150 miles east of Salt Lake City, is the second-largest reservation in the country, at 4.5 million acres. The nation currently has a membership of more than 2,000, with about half of the members living on the reservation.

Top Places to Visit

Annual Events

  • Living Traditions Festival | Salt Lake City | May
  • Heber Valley Pow Wow | Soldier Hollow | June
  • Northern Ute Pow Wow | Fort Duchesne | July
  • Native American Festival and Pow Wow | West Valley City | August
  • Native American Pow Wow | Tooele | September

Top Experiences

  • Tour the Native American Village, directed by Navajo Meredith Lam, and interact with Native American’s dressed in traditional attire while they share their crafts and stories. 
  • Take a drive on Nine Mile Canyon Road and stop to see the displays of Fremont petroglyphs along the way. 
  • In Salt Lake City, check out the Native Voices exhibit that explores Native American art and culture at the Natural History Museum of Utah.
  • See both artifacts and contemporary Native American art at the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art.

Photo: Sandra Salvas

Edge of the Cedars

Southeastern Utah

Once inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans, Southeastern Utah is now home to the Southern Utes, including the White Mesa Utes, and the Diné people, commonly known as Navajos. The Diné are the second-largest federally recognized Native Nation in the United States, with more than 300,000 people in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. While they have a history as hunter/gatherers, they also developed farming techniques. They originated in what is now Mexico, but Spanish explorers forced them north to what is now the southwestern United States.

Photo: Tom Till

Top Places to Visit

Annual Events

  • Annual Pioneer Celebration | Monument Valley | August
  • Bear Dance: Traditional Hand and Stick Games | White Mesa | September
  • Bear Dance | Bluff | Labor Day
  • Navajo Fair and Rodeo | Bluff | September

Top Experiences

  • Tour Monument Valley with a native guide (look up Airbnb experiences or offerings at Goulding’s who offers exclusive tours of the area).
  • Visit House on Fire during sunrise or sunset to get iconic photos of this well-preserved site in Mule Canyon.
  • Go inside a reconstructed kiva at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum to get a glimpse into the ancient life of Ancestral Puebloan lifestyle and architecture, as well as a large collection of pottery and artifacts.
  • Head to Bears Ears Education Center to learn how to respectfully visit the Bears Ears National Monument, one of the largest archeological sites in the world. 
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Spanning high-elevation peaks, wild plateaus, deep canyons and towering sandstone, Bears Ears National Monument is at the heart of southeastern Utah. These lands are imbued with layers of culture.

Photo: Barry Gutierrez

Southwestern Utah

Also once inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans and the Fremont, Southwestern Utah is primarily home to the Paiute people, although that description can be deceiving as the group consists of several different nations. The Paiute have traditionally been a nomadic people that covered more than 30 million acres in the western United States. Those settling in Southwestern Utah, known collectively as the Southern Paiute, lived primarily in small family groups, only gathering occasionally for trade and commerce.

A stream flowing through Zion National Park.

Photo: Angie Payne

Top Places to Visit

Annual Events

  • Paiute Restoration Days Pow Wow | Cedar City | June
  • Western Legends Heritage & Music Festival | Kanab  | August
  • Cedar Band of Paiutes Thanksgiving Pow Wow | Cedar City | November

 

Top Experiences

  • Hike at Parowan Gap to see the impressive collection of petroglyphs, most likely made by the Fremont, just outside of Cedar City.
  • Enjoy an afternoon at Navajo Lake, which was known to the Paiute Indians as Pa-cu-ay, which means “cloud lake.” Boating, fishing, swimming, and mountain biking are all popular here now.
  • Take a drive on scenic Johnson Canyon Road where you can see several petroglyph sites.
  • Go off-roading on the 245-mile Paiute ATV Trail in the Fishlake National Forest and explore upwards of 900 miles of spur trails you will find off the main loop.
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    3 Days

    Bears Ears Area Starter Kit

    A pair of distinctive, towering buttes stand against beautiful scenery. We call them "Bears Ears." With the help of local expertise, respectfully explore ancestral cliff dwellings and massive natural bridges in a fascinating desert ecosystem.

    Hiking, History and Heritage, Road Trips, Solitude

    See Itinerary

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    5 Days

    Native Spirit

    Countless generations of Native Americans have called the landscapes of Utah home, from the hunter-gatherers of the prehistoric era and the Ancestral Pueblos.

    See Itinerary

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    6 Days

    Phoenix to Monument Valley: Exploring Utah's Historic Sites

    Put yourself in the shoes of the area’s first inhabitants and imagine their excitement and awe at the same views that stretch before you as you embark on this six-day road trip to the Monument Valley Region.

    See Itinerary

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