Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and Shivwits Band of Paiutes
Under the watchful eye of her grandparents, Shaquoyah grew up on the Pow Wow Trail. Her grandfather was her number one fan and taught her the lessons of kindness and helping others. There’s more to Pow Wows than dancing! Shaquoyah says, “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for my grandparents.”
Shaquoyah lives on the Shivwits Reservation that is part of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. The tribe is comprised of five Paiute bands. She remarks, “Our Paiute language is becoming extinct.” The tribe has ten or less fluent speakers. Shaquoyah is determined to help that number grow. Her grandmother teaches language classes for youth and welcomes everyone. Each lesson is priceless. Shaquoyah knows this and records the sessions so she can review them and share them. Every word on a flash card or handout is a treasure to preserve. With her grandmother, she has designed an ambitious plan to document language, history, stories, and songs through interviews with knowledgeable tribal members and the remaining elder speakers. In the process, Shaquoyah will have the opportunity to speak the language she has learned with elders who may not remember hearing a young speaker. Elders have said, “I have no one to talk Indian to, so I go outside to talk to the earth and myself.”
Shaquoyah is working for social and cultural change. She attends the monthly band council meetings that are run by the elders. She is committed to listening and learning as much as she can. In the process, she may inspire others to do so. Working alongside her grandmother Karma, she finds strength and stories and songs and heart. She is not alone.
Together Shaquoyah and Karma are exponential goodness and hope for their people. They are the best combination of the knowledge and wisdom of an elder and the imagination and courage of a youth. Perhaps just the right combination to assure the language and culture of the Shivwits People of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah endures.