While thousands celebrated their heritage today by commemorating the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, other’s gathered to celebrate a culture that existed in Utah long before the Mormon settlers.
The 18th Annual Native American Celebration in the Park includes many elements of a traditional Native American Pow Wow ceremony, where both Native American and non-Native American people meet to dance and sing to honor American Indian culture. Dozens of Native Americans gathered in Liberty Park dressed in traditional garb and invited the crowd to join. Cal Nez is the President and co-founder of the event. He says like Native Americans, the original pioneers were victims of atrocity.
“I guess that’s one part of why their message and the message of my people are very much the same," Nez says. "And I don’t think very many people understand that.”
In that way, Nez says this celebration is one in the same with the Pioneer Day events.
Emberson Bill is the lead singer of the Cliff Eagle Drum group. He points out that at one time, this celebration was considered illegal, even punishable by death.
“We came a long, long way since then and people are starting to understand the true valiance of what this is," He says. "And all it is is a passing down, because this is kind of all we have left.”
Bill says the Pow Wow is catered to the masses, so that hopefully more people will become involved in supporting Native American culture.