UTAH : The Beehive State

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UTAH
I see the gentleman from Utah Our friendly Beehive State How can we help you, Utah? How can we make you great?" "Well, we got to irrigate our deserts So we can get some things to grow And we got to tell this country about Utah `Cause nobody seems to know" Partial lyrics from a Randy Newman song.

The region of land that we arbitrarily call Utah is an amazing and beautiful place. Utah is named for the Ute Indians. In the Ute language (a form of Shoshone) Ute means µpeople of the mountain¶. Although many people might think of Utah as mainly a desert land, it is studded with many large mountain ranges and actually boasts the highest average mountain height of all the states including Alaska: 11,222 feet. The Beehive state is 82,000 square miles in area (12th largest). It is roughly 300 miles wide and 360 miles tall. It¶s called the Beehive state because the Mormons held the beehive, or skep, as a special religious symbol. Utahans today associate the beehive symbol with human industry and the pioneer virtues of thrift and perseverance. The state motto is ³Industry´ ± in the personal sense, not meaning Big Business. The Book of Mormon uses the term µdeseret¶ for bee and from 1848-50 a Mormon Provisional State of Deseret was established. Deseret tried to join the Union but was rebuffed. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican War (1846-48) in February of 1848. This dissolved New Mexico and also annexed both the Republic of Texas and California. Utah petitioned and eventually became a formal US Territory in 1850. Brigham Young was appointed the first Territorial Governor. The Utah Territory was vast and also included most of what we would recognize today as western Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. The Territory had many troubles with the Ute and other (Navaho, Bannocks, Cheyenne, Piute, Goshute, Blackfoot, Shoshone, etc.) Indians (especially notable within present day Utah were the Wakara War of 1853-55 and the Blackhawk War of 1863-68). Eventually the various Indian tribes were decimated by broken treaties, measles, liquor, and war. They were exiled to a handful of Reservations in Utah and elsewhere. (As late as 1908, there was a rebellion and breakout of 400 Ute Indians from a Utah reservation. They fled to South Dakota.) Today there are about 3000 Ute Indians ± most of them of very mixed blood. Prior to the Westward expansion, there were about 10,000 Utes. Ethnic, religious, legal (mining, oil, gambling, and land disputes), and economic difficulties remain intense and are ongoing within the Indian communities. In about 1916 many Utes embraced the Peyote religion and that freaked out both the Mormons and Government agents. In 1956 Utes in Utah were denied the right to vote based on the premise that they did not have this right because they did not pay federal taxes on the

Reservation. This was overturned after a prolonged series of court battles. The Utah Legislature and various Federal agencies in Utah today expend considerable time on Indian (and Mormon) issues. There were also strong tensions between the Mormons and other ethnic, religious, and mercenary groups traveling through or attempting to settle in the Utah region. The Mormons did not consider themselves Americans. The gold and fortune seeking 49ers passing through to California definitely did. Responding to numerous provoking incidents, in 1857 President Buchanan sent an expeditionary force under General Albert Johnston to put down what was viewed as a rebellion against Federal authority. This is known as the Utah War (1857-58). During this period in 1857 a major tragedy occurred in which a combination of Mormons and Indians slaughtered about 100 pioneers who were bound for California. There were other similar incidents. Eventually, through threat more than force, Johnston got things under control. Brigham Young was deposed, and a new governor was installed: Albert Cumming. Next came the American Civil War (1861-65). Although not untouched, to some extent Utah was merely on the edges of that conflict ± again due largely to Mormon ambivalence. Both Cummins and Johnston went east to participate in the War. Indian troubles subsided a bit because there was a relative vacuum of soldiers in the Utah Territories. After a lot of additional wrangling over the succeeding 30 years, mainly over chronic Indian troubles, slavery, and the thorny issue of polygamy, Utah eventually moved to its current borders and American statehood on Jan 4, 1896. It was the 45th state to join the Union. Notably, women had full suffrage. Neighboring Arizona and New Mexico did not become states until 1912. The final link of the transcontinental telegraph was established in Utah in 1861. Another important final link occurred on May 10, 1869, when the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific were joined via the famous golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah. Utah was impacted by WW1 but I¶ll gloss over that. Radio came to Utah in 1922. I¶ll also glibly ignore the Great Depression. Modern paved road systems were not well established until after WW2. (The last main sections of I-70 in Utah were not completed until about 1992.) Utah has an interesting and rather tragic chapter related to the A-bomb and mining of uranium during and after WW2. -- A secretive legacy of radiation poisoning and cancer. Another interesting twist: Japanese Americans were ³quarantined´ in Utah during WW2. Weapons testing by the Army and Air Force continue today in the Great Salt Lake Desert. Utah currently has about 2.3 million residents and its largest city is Salt Lake City with an in-city population of about 180,000. Provo has about 110,000 citizens. Today, Utah presents an odd mix of rural agricultural and tourist economies mixed with very high-tech industries. Over half the state¶s area is comprised of public lands. There are 5 National parks: Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion. There are 32 other huge National Monuments, National Forests, and National Recreation and Wilderness Areas. To name

but a few of the more famous: Cedar Breaks, Deseret Peak, Dinosaur, Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Monument Valley, Rainbow Bridge, Natural Bridges and Island-in-the Sky. In addition, there are 21 massive Bureau of Land Management areas and 50 State Parks. Many of the State Parks rival the National Parks in size and splendor. Other lists might emphasize other unique features such as the Bonneville Flats, the Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, the Great Salt Lake Desert, the Sevier Desert, and the Escalante Desert. Or some of the many mountain ranges: the Wasatch, Uinta, Henry, Confusion, Mormon and Wah Wah ranges. Or the great plateaus that form steps of the Grand Staircase which leads south over the Colorado Plateau to the Grand Canyon: the Tavaputs, the Markagunt, the Paunsaugunt, the Kaiparowitz, the Kanab and others. Or the major rivers: the Green, the Sevier, the Virgin, the Muddy, the Fremont, the Dirty Devil and, of course, the great Colorado leading down and through the Grand Canyon. Maybe we should also list some of the famous trails: the Spanish, the Mormon, the California, and the Fremont. Obviously, a person could spend a whole lot of vacation time exploring Utah and barely scratch its large and diversified surface. As the lists above indicate, the geology and topography of Utah are unique and interesting. Utah is one of the Four Corners states and shares much of its geological and ecological character with western Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. A ridiculously collapsed synopsis of Utah geology might go something like this: According to current geological mythology, the formation of the Colorado Plateau, which comprises the vast intermountain region between the Rockies on the East and the Sierra Nevada Range on the West, took its basic form about 570 million years ago. A huge east/west tectonic stretching event occurred. Hurricane fault was left as evidence. In a literal / littoral sense, a vertical time ruler can be read on the walls of the Grand Canyon. Starting from the river bottom, rock strata record the whole Paleozoic period from 570 up to 245 million years ago. The formation of the Grand Staircase and the rock foundations of the regions that we think of as the Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, and Arches, occurred mainly in the Mesozoic period (245 up to 100 million years ago). The bedrocks and fault movements that formed Bryce took place even later ± about 66 million years ago. The current topography that we recognize as we fly over the Colorado Plateau was formed in the Cenozoic period which runs from 66 million years ago up to the Quaternary period starting about 1.8 million years ago. The surfaces that we travel over today were ³finished´ in the Quaternary. We are now living in the brief Quaternary and we should note that the Earth is still changing. Today the whole intermountain region is arid and desert like. This was also true in spades between about 150 to100 million years ago when the whole region was covered by a vast hot desert that would dwarf the Sahara ± which happens to be at the same latitude. But starting about 100 million years ago, during the age of dinosaurs (Cretaceous), an immense body of water moved into the region. This is known as the Western Interior Seaway and it ranged from Canada to Mexico. At approximately this same time there was a period of rapid mountain building to the West. This is known as the Sevier Orogeny. The mountains formed during this time were 12,000 feet high and made a barrier that blocked the huge lake from extending further west. Meantime, on

the East, the Rockies and San Juan¶s were uplifting. Over millions of years the sea became a system of lakes. Dinosaurs roamed the marshy swamps and humid coastlines. Giant crocodiles, giant turtles, and aquatic dinosaurs such as the Plesiosaurs lived in the inland lake system and tropical jungle areas that formed over millions of years. Most of northwest Utah was under Lake Basin. The Bryce Canyon region was once covered by Claron Basin. Today, when we gape at the sandstone bridges of Arches or the sculpted, fossilimpregnated, hoodoos of Bryce, we are looking at the eroded remnants of a vast desert that compressed into a vast dry seabed that was left when an immense sea formed huge lakes and these then evaporated. The evaporation began about 80 million years ago but about 66 million years ago there was a great cataclysm, probably an asteroid impact in the Yucatan, and the lakes dried up completely. The dinosaurs died. Small mammals emerged. Much later, the huge dinosaurs of the Cretaceous were replaced by large Pleistocene mammoths, mastodons, camels, saber tooth cats, horses, musk oxen, and giant sloths, giant short-faced bear, giant elk, and giant bison. Much of the area was scrubbed and polished by the glaciers of the Ice Age(s) and their slow accessions and recessions leaving vast slick-rock formations. When the glaciers melted, fresh water lakes formed. The concentrated waters of the Great Salt Lake are a last puddlelike remnant of one of these huge evaporated Ice Age lakes. This huge Pleistocene lake is known to geologists as Lake Bonneville. This covered most of western Utah from 30,000 up to about 12,000 years ago. Compared to the almost unimaginable timeline of these geologic events, human history in Utah has been almost infinitesimal and we don¶t know that much about it. There is evidence of man in Utah starting about 15,000 years ago. By 10,000, Neolithic hunters were taking down the giant animals listed above with spears and arrows and eating them. Nomadic tribes foraged and roamed the increasingly arid lands that were left as the glaciers receded. There was little or no agriculture or architecture. These are known as the Clovis people. There is evidence that limited agriculture was present from about 1000 BC to 400 AD when the Utah area was populated by the Basketmaker People. Between 400 AD and about 1300 AD, at a time when Europe was emerging from the Dark Ages and very high civilizations were flourishing in South America, India, China, and Tibet, the Southwest was inhabited by the Anasazi ± the mysterious people that we associate with the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and other pueblos on the walls and tops of hundreds of mesas. The Anasazi roamed the whole region including present day Utah. Theirs was clearly a relatively elaborate culture with art, symbols, pottery, religion, irrigation and sanitation but there is no evidence of written language or calculation. They did not work metal. They grew corn, beans and squash and raised turkeys. No one knows yet why the Anasazi vanished. One theory is that it had to do with cold and aridness caused by a Little Ice Age. Others think it was the Plague. But then, where are the human bones? The existence of the Mesa Verde civilizations and their cliff architecture was missed by all the Spanish and other explorers and was not discovered until a geologist and prospector named John Moss stumbled onto some ancient mounds and cliff dwellings in

1874. Word got out but this stimulated only a small amount of interest. In the winter of 1877, brothers Al and Richard Wetherhill, triggered by a visitor From Fort Lewis named Dr. Comfort, discovered the first major Anasazi complex that we know today as Mesa Verde. Even more extensive Wetherhill finds followed in 1888. The two brothers spent the rest of their lives exploring, discovering, and advocating interest in the Anasazi. Richard Wetherhill was killed in ambush by seven Navajo Indians on June 22, 1910. Apparently they had been put up to it by two local Superintendents of Indian affairs on the nearby Navajo reservation. These men intensely disliked Wetherhill who advocated progressive ideas concerning the Indians. The Indian who was the actual shooter, Chis-Chilling-Begay, was convicted of murder but released 3 years later due to further machinations by the two crooked agents: Shelton and Stacher. Around 1630, the Ute and other Indians began to interact sporadically with the Spanish who were pushing north in search of gold and other treasures. The Spanish introduced the horse and the Indian cultures of the region were radically transformed by this technology. Some Indian tribes, however, like the Snake and Blackfoot, preferred to eat rather than ride horses and remained more agrarian. It is known from Spanish records that by 1700 seven major bands of Utes formed a loose confederation in Utah. They were fairly peaceful among themselves and with the Spanish, but they were intense enemies of the Navajos and other Indian tribes to the north, south, and east. A major Spanish exploration into the southwest occured in 1776 (note the year of the American Revolution). This is known as the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition named after two of the three Dominican friars who led it. I don¶t know why Father Francisco Garces is ignored. This marks a point at which interactions with white men and the indigenous populations became continuous. In the early 1800¶s, French and American mountain men and explorers like Jim Bridger (who discovered the Great Salt Lake) Jedediah Smith, Andrew Henry, and later Kit Carson and Charles Fremont (who verified the Great Salt Lake in 1842) had penetrated and mapped large parts of the Southwest including Utah. The Mexicans also came and (sort of) conquered. By the mid 1840¶s white transients and settlers were flooding in from both east and west. By the 1850¶s the Mormons (especially after the Pratt expedition of 1848-50) had explored Utah thoroughly and the irrepresible Westward Expansion was in full swing. For the Indians, the End was beginning. In the 1860¶s the telegraph and trains tied the Atlantic and Pacific together. Information transfer and commerce became relatively instantaneous. The Pony express existed for a total of 19 months in 1860-61. Stagecoaches lasted much longer. The buffalo were exterminated. The cow and sheep industries came into full flower. The Wild West happened. Additional Kit Carson and Fremont forays and other scientific explorers such as John Wesley Powell led a second wave of mountain men, cowboys, Indian fighters, soldiers, outlaws and lawmen onto the stage. Barbed wire and more trains changed the cattle trade radically. To the immediate east, the Apache and Comanche and others were steadily exterminated. By the 1890¶s all the western Indian Tribes, had been force-marched over their various Trails of Tears and were dead or banished to their open air jails. In the early 1890¶s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and others in his Wild Bunch did a little damage in Utah before their flight south to do banditry in Argentina and Bolivia.

I¶ve had a lot of fun writing this improbable tour of Utah. I hope it stimulates your curiosity to find out more about Utah and the other 3 of the 4-Corner states. Better yet, I hope this stings you into personally visiting the wonders of the great Beehive state.

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