A brief history of Utah
Once upon a time in a country so large that only those who flew above the land knew its size, lived a great and wise bald eagle. Perched on a high flat-topped plateau, the eagle said to her young. “See those hunter-gatherers below? They live in caves; they are very fierce and brave. They hunt the formidable mammoths for food. These people respect the land and only take what they need from it. They do not know that other people like them exist throughout this land of beauty and mystery. They do not know that the land stretches from sea to sea for they have never seen the sea.”
Centuries went by and still the eagles watched below. “Look,” said the leader of eagles. “Those farmers below have been here many years, since the great blocks of ice moved through the land, they have learned to plant crops and raise animals for food and products. They are strong and determined people who only take from the earth what they need to survive. They live here in these mountains, basins, deserts, and great salt flats, and still do not know that the land extends way beyond their surroundings. They still do not know that other people exist outside their world. They have learned to make baskets for collecting and spears so they can hunt from greater distances. They have separated, some now have gone to the north and some to the south.
Time passed slowly and the eagles kept an ever watchful eye. “For years we have watched these tribes live off of the land but things are about to change, explorers from Spain, far across the waters, have come. They will record their journey and the beauty of the land; soon more people will want to come here and see what they have experienced and written about.”
And so they did. In 1776 Franciscan friars Dominguez and Escalante traveled the length of the land we now know as Utah, recording the beauty of the landscape.
’Take heed,” the eagle said, some fifty years later. “The mountain men have come looking for beaver. These men will mingle with the natives who will trust them at first, but they are not to be trusted, they will turn on the natives in time. They are greedy and take more than they need to survive.“
Now the rivers were filled with canoes, all loaded with furs to be traded. Outposts were built to supply the trappers and increasing population with goods. Trails were forged through the land. Cabins were built and sometimes a spark set the landscape on fire. Nothing was safe., animals and natives ran and hid from the strangers, but soon there was nowhere else to go, nowhere to hide.
With saddened heart, the eagles moved ever higher, ever farther into the outskirts of Utah, avoiding the increasing influx of trappers, mountain men, gem seekers and explorers. “Be careful,” the master eagle said to his children. “We are no longer safe as before. These people who come have blood in their hearts and will kill us for the sake of a trophy in their hands. Be ever watchful, ever cautious. Cry for the native people who have respected us and our land for their lives too are about to change. They are about to be betrayed.”
It was 1847 and Mormons, looking for a place to practice their religion and set up a santuary, came in large numbers. They did respect the land, building farms and prospering, but they quarreled with the native people. By 1850 territorial status was achieved and by January 4, 1896 statehood was established. The population of Utah was now approaching a staggering quarter of a million people. Nothing was as it had been before. The past was gone forever.
In the distance, from above, could be heard the lonely screech of the eagle. “My children” said the eagle. “Remember that once upon a time this land was open and free, we had nothing to fear. Today is a different world. White man has come, white man has conquered, but most white men are greedy and give no respect to land or beast. Remember our ancestors who flew free and wild. Try to stay as far from civilization as you can. I ask you to go and find the most remote place you can, for only there will you be safe from harm. Fly past Castelton Tower and take note of her lonely figure rising above the mountain and realize that now, we too, are in danger and must stand tall and struggle to survive. We must live to tell the story to our children.