Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah: History
The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, or "PITU" as it is often called, was created on April 3, 1980
by an act of Congress (25 U.S.C. § 761), which resulted in the Restoration Act (public law 96-227).
The Tribe consists of five constituent bands: Cedar, Indian Peaks, Kanosh, Koosharem, and Shivwits.
These five Bands have independent identities as communities that date back hundreds of years.
The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is engaged in the long, slow climb back from near destruction
by the invasion of European settlers and Mormon Pioneers. Their numbers, once in the thousands, dwindled
to less than 800. Various US Government movements only made things worse.
Prior to 1954, each Band (except the Cedar Band) of Paiutes had its own separate reservation and functioning
Tribal government. But Indian policy took a radical step backwards when Utah Senator
Arthur V. Watkins, chairman of the Senate Interior Committee Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, promoted passage of Public
Law 762 on September 1, 1954, which resulted in the termination of all federal responsibility over
Indian tribes. To set an example, Watkins pushed for termination of Utah Indian groups, including the
Shivwits, Kanosh, Koorsharem, and Indian Peaks Paiutes. Once a people able to travel over the land with freedom
and impunity, they were forced to deal with a new set of unfamiliar laws and beliefs.
Repudiation of this termination policy began in 1970 under President
Nixon and eventually led to the restoration of the federal trust relationship of the five Bands
reorganized as the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.
Thus, while the PITU community itself is only in its second generation of existence, the PITU is actually
a confederation of constituent Paiute communities that have been independent for many generations.
The Paiutes have struggled for more than 100 years to obtain a small place to call home and to live free.
Still the effort to secure water rights and land to preserve the culture and way of life goes on. Now the Tribe is
seeking to rebuild and regain its culture, sovereignty, and autonomy, and provide for its people. The struggle is
long and difficult but the Paiute will survive.
Links of Interest:
Utah History To Go: Paiute History