"Southern Paiute: A Portrait," by William Logan Hebner, Utah State University Press, 208 pages, $34.95 (nf)
William Logan Hebner asks the question,”Why in all this time, has nobody simply asked the Southern Paiute for their stories?”
Hebner accepted the challenge to fulfill his own question. Hebner moved to Utah in 1981, opened an award-winning restaurant and worked as a river guide. Michael L. Plyer has been a photographer for more than 30 years. Together, Hebner and Plyer have created a masterpiece of previously unrecorded history.
Southern Paiute are largely unknown to the general public, and often not understood.
They have endured a history of their children being kidnapped for an Indian slave trade along the Spanish trail. They were also blamed for the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The Southern Paiute have seen their ancestral lands slip through their fingers to settlers and miners. They have witnessed their resources vanishing as towns materialized.
Yet, these resilient people have endured and survived and in the throngs of an ever-changing world they have still managed to hold onto something all their own - their history.
Now, their stories that have been handed down through generations have been recorded.
In this history, Hebner explores the the lives of 30 individuals, including Margaret King who is 106 years old.
She lives in an isolated canyon with gardens, orchards and sheep. Streams bubble and flow through the land. In her younger years, King’s knowledge of plants and natural remedies earned her the title of medicine woman. She delivered babies, healed many who were sick and kept herself healthy through this special knowledge.
She still retains her humor, telling Hebner in her interview that someone should have come years ago. She explained light-heartedly that she would have remembered more stories then.
"Southern Paiute: A Portrait," shows the mind and heart with a people along with the emotion of their pain, their rejection and also their triumphs through Hebner's words and Plyer's photos.
An important nugget of the Southern Paiute and the LDS Church history, in particular their encounters and journeys together, are shown in this work.
Historians of the early days of the LDS Church, of native peoples, of the West and the descendants of these endearing people will find this record a welcome treasure.
Becky Robinette Wright is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Virginia.