Diversity in the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area

Engagement that Expands Visitation to Reflect Local and National Diversity

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area (MPNHA) produces a television show, “Discovery Road,” which tells stories of the region from all perspectives, not simply that of “Mormon pioneers.” The show is aired by four regional television stations in addition to UEN, the Utah Education Network, and viewed by K-12 students as they study Utah history in their state social studies curriculum. A few of the episodes of “Discovery Road” that reflect local and national diversity include “Paradise on the Prairie” and “Native Americans and Sacred Water.”

Through the medium of television, viewers learn about lost Jewish Colony from a century ago,  an educator who clashed with the Mormons, and a small town hot springs connected to ancient Native American culture, highlighting the diversity of the area and allowing the public sector to engage with a historic corridor of Utah that was critical in the shaping and development of the state as it is today. The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area tells the stories of the Mormon pioneers by telling the whole story, which includes the stories of different cultures, clashes, and conflicts through its popular “Discovery Road” television series.

Discovery Road has served small towns and its populations by gathering their unique and little known stories and bringing them to a public platform locally and nationally. The shows connect with both local residents and international visitors alike through storytelling. As the MPNHA is home to three of five of Utah’s national parks, this interaction brings added insight to the important role national parks play in the landscape backdrop where these events have occurred. The shows are successful favorites on local community stations and prime time fixtures on the Utah Education Network. By featuring these stories on the MPNHA’s website, YouTube, and social media, a worldwide audience can see and hear the stories that previously were otherwise undiscovered.

Engagement that Builds Relationships with Diverse Communities

In addition to featuring diversity of the area with “Discovery Road,” the MPNHA coordinates programs and projects with the Native American communities with the help of a Native American ombudsman. Most recently, this cooperative effort between the MPNHA and the Native American community resulted in a highly successful symposium to mutually address current issues and projects that are relevant to all residents of the MPNHA, regardless of their ethnicity. In addition to the symposium, the MPNHA provided a grant to sponsor a familiarization tour with the Six County Association of Governments. As part of the program, county commissioners and other officials visited Native American leaders along the Mormon Pioneer Heritage Corridor, mutually strengthening their relationship and understanding of current issues that are pressing for the Native American community living in the six counties that are inside the borders of the MPNHA.

Among stories told by “Discovery Road” include that of the Blackhawk War and important persons in the conflict which was the result of mounting tensions between the settlers and Native Americans, which included members from the Ute, Paiute, Apache, and Navajo tribes. The conflict lasted from 1865 to 1872 and is explored by “Discovery Road” in its show, “The Blackhawk War,” exploring the conflict in an unbiased manner.

In 2015, the MPNHA sponsored a two-day event, “The Soul of the Native American Artisan,” which highlighted the artistic talents of David K. John, a local Navajo artist. This event was highly successful and featured art and dance from Native Americans from the region. The Navajo people shared much about their culture including views on the environment, animal life, and use of natural resources.

Engagement that Heals Past and Present Harm

As conflicts between peoples can create chasms lasting for generations, the MPNHA works to be  sensitive to cultural differences that have existed and present all viewpoints with projects, especially in episodes of “Discovery Road.” The MPNHA addresses difficult topics with transparency, working to present multiple facets to stories shared. The history of Butch Cassidy is explored and his relationship to the area in the episode entitled, “The Apostle and the Outlaw.”  In addition to relationships with Native Americans, “Discovery Road” has produced episodes with other groups, including African Americans.

By addressing and sharing differing viewpoints than those typically seen, such as  the reverence that Native Americans show for natural resources, such as water, which is highlighted in the episode, “Native Americans and Sacred Water.” The MPNHA relies heavily on input from the State Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to continue to address issues with sensitivity and effectively giving all people a voice.

Among projects designed to give voice to the diverse population in the region, the MPNHA published, a book that explores the history of the region, Legends, Lore, and True Tales in Mormon Country, edited by Monte Bona.