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Southern Paiute: A Portrait

"Madelan Redfoot at Her Home with Her Parents" by Michael Plyler

“Madelan Redfoot at Her Home with Her Parents” by Michael Plyler

In 2000, Michael Plyler and Logan Hebner began to photograph and interview Southern Paiute elders from throughout their homelands in the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau and Mojave Desert. This exhibition celebrates the lives of 13 of these elders. Their book, Southern Paiute: A Portrait, features more than 30 such interviews and portraits, representing every tribe and band from throughout the confederation in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California.

Hebner began writing about the Southern Paiute in 1990, when the Kaibab Band on the Arizona Strip turned down hundreds of millions of dollars by refusing to allow a hazardous waste incinerator on their reservation. Impressed by their decision, he asked to see interviews with different elders. The fact that they didn’t exist was the genesis for this project.

The idea for the interviews was simple: just ask about their lives and what they thought was important. The resulting stories act as individual biographies, but together they form a collage of these people, reaching deep into their archaic past.

Although their homeland — containing 16 national parks and monuments — is now appreciated for its beauty, until recently their deserts were considered useless, and the Southern Paiute culture survived in isolated, ignored pockets in these American deserts. As late as 1918 the San Juan Paiute still lived their ancient migration between Douglas Mesa and Allen Canyon in southeast Utah. These elders often told stories, heard from their grandparents, from before white people came into their country. Some stories reveal for the first time their perspective on controversial events such as the massacres at Mountain Meadows and Circleville, and have added to our understanding of these tragedies.

Together these portraits and interviews paint a compelling picture of the depth of their shared history with each other and their lands, the challenges they face today and how very different their lives and culture were just one or two generations ago.

Resources

2016-2017 Traveling Schedule

No exhibits are currently scheduled.