Paiutes partner for repository at Mormon heritage area

Museum » The new facility is environmentally controlled, solar powered and has high security level.
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Flanked by a sandstone cliff on one side and the expanse of the Kaibab Plateau, a modern museum repository to hold artifacts and archival material of early Mormon settlers and the Paiute Tribe officially opened Saturday in northern Arizona.

The $2 million facility is the result of a joint venture between Pipe Spring National Monument and the Kaibab Band of Paiutes that already share museum space at the park's visitor center, but now will have a separate repository in the facility to preserve materials vital to understanding the area's culture and heritage.

The new facility is environmentally controlled, solar powered and has high security, said John W. Hiscock, superintendent of the monument, which was created in 1923.

"We made a 25-year partnership agreement with the Paiutes that we [the monument] will provide the building if they provide the land," Hiscock said.

Planning for the repository has been in the works for 11 years and culminated in Saturday's ceremony, attended by about 50 people from the Kaibab reservation and surrounding towns, including Kanab.

Hiscock said the monument's collection consists of archives, archaeological items, ethnological items, and many Mormon pioneer culture items, donated in past years by pioneer descendants throughout southern Utah and northern Arizona. The facility also provides numerous opportunities for the Kaibab Band in protecting cultural and natural history items as well as tribal archives.

Once stored in the facility, items will be available to scholars and local residents by special arrangement. They also will be on display for periods in the museum as part of a rotation system.

Hiscock said many items donated by Mormon families are the result of efforts by the park's first superintendent, Leonard Heaton.

"He would go into the surrounding towns and ask people to donate relevant items," Hiscock said. "We're not allowed to ask for archival material now, but that didn't pertain back then."

Eileen Posvar, a Kaibab Paiutes historian, said the facility will help bring together historical items important to the tribe, including recordings of stories from tribal elders, photographs, music and dance.

"It will be good for the young people of the tribe to be able to listen to these things," she said.

Cyd Martin, director of Indian affairs for the park service's Intermountain Region, told the group Saturday that the repository project is the first time the park service has joined in such a collaborative project with an American Indian tribe and hopes it sets a precedent for future opportunities.

"So much work went into [the repository]," Martin said. "It is a completely unique facility and a shining example for the entire nation."

Pipe Spring monument was created to memorialize a "clash of cultures" dating back to the 1860s when Mormon settlers arrived in the area.

Immediately, there was tension between the settlers, who raised livestock and exploited the natural springs, and Paiutes who subsisted by hunting and gathering and relied on the naturally flowing water on the high desert.

The area and fort built by the Mormons, dubbed Winsor Castle, produced cheese and other dairy products for the LDS temple building effort in St. George and was later a refuge for polygamous wives after the church banned the practice in the 1890s and their husbands became fugitives.

Paiutes partner for repository at Mormon heritage area