Saturday Sunset Series Event
Saturday August 25, 2012 7:30 PM
Robber’s Roost Bookstore, Torrey, Utah

Michael Plyler (photographer) and Logan Hebner (author) will share their program titled “The Southern Paiute: A Portrait.” The program was co-sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council and the Entrada Institute.

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, in the states of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Their book, Southern Paiute: a Portrait, features interviews with over thirty elders, representing every tribe and band from throughout their confederation.

Hebner began writing about the Southern Paiute in 1990, when the Kaibab people in Arizona turned down hundreds of millions of dollars by refusing to allow a hazardous waste incinerator on their reservation. Observing from the periphery, he was impressed with their humor and wisdom. As he began to research these people, he was appalled, in the very little that was written about them at all, how they were dismissed as “diggers.”

The interview premise was very broad, to just ask about their lives, what they thought was important. The resulting individual stories act as biographies, but also reach deep into their archaic past. Though their lands are now appreciated for their beauty, containing sixteen national parks and monuments, until very recently their deserts were considered useless, and the Southern Paiute culture survived in isolated, ignored pockets. Many of the Southern Paiute they interviewed told stories heard from their elders who remembered from before whites came into country. These interviews paint a compelling picture of how different their lives and culture were just one or two generations ago. They also offered previously unheard accounts of controversial histories, such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and this project has led to ongoing discussions with LDS historians regarding the disputed role of the Southern Paiute in this tragedy.

An image from their book is shown below.