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Featured Projects

The American West Center consults, researches, publishes and provides educational and curricular support to Indian tribes, school districts, other interested organizations and the general public. Some of the most notable past and ongoing Center projects are listed below.

The Utah Architects Project features collaborative research between the Utah Center for Architecture, the Marriott Library’s Special Collections Department, and the American West Center. Center staff Chelsey Zamir and Patrick Thompson are creating biographical articles on numerous prominent Utah architects and posting them to (and enhancing) the Utah Center for Architecture’s comprehensive and user-friendly database. These biographical articles include personal, educational, and professional information on the architect, as well as a list of their significant projects with included images. The evolving database is geared towards researchers or anyone interested in Utah history, Utah’s architects and architectural history."

Famously dubbed “America’s best idea” by Wallace Stegner and numerous promoters after him, national parks fill a vital role in the American imagination, acting as canvases for American conceptions of wilderness, recreation, and the nature of America itself. “Nature tells you something about the republic’s birth and development, pain and sorrow ideals and enduring promise,” historian Mark Fiege reminds us. Parklands have held a prominent place in the drama of American nationhood since Congress created Yellowstone in 1872. Out of a total population of approximately 322 million, National Park Service sites drew 307 million visitors in 2015. Zion National Park played a significant part, attracting 3.68 million visitors, making it the sixth most visited park in the country. The Zion National Park Administrative History is a dissertation-length scholarly project, a fusion of academic and public history seating Zion's creation and development in the wider contexts of environmental history, Western history and the history of recreation and tourism while providing the National Park Service with a practical guide to Zion’s history for daily administrative use.

The Vietnam War Oral History Project documents how American involvement in Southeast Asia changed Utah and the United States. The Center has begun interviewing veterans, members of the Vietnamese community, civilians, and government personnel—people involved in any way with the Vietnam War. We invite the Utah community to contribute their stories and help us preserve the legacy of this important period in our history. The Vietnam War Oral History Project marks a new chapter in the Center’s long-standing commitment to documenting the service of Utah’s veterans.

The American West Center entered into a partnership with the Utah Division of Indian Affairs to develop and produce teaching guides and lesson plans for teaching the history, culture, and current issues of Utah's American Indian tribes in the fourth, seventh, and eleventh grades. The Utah Indian Curriculum Project was also developed in collaboration with KUED-TV, which, in the spring of 2009 aired We Shall Remain: A Native History of Utah, a five-part documentary series focusing on the stories and ways of the Ute, Paiute, Northwestern Shoshone, Goshute, and Navajo people. The teaching guides and companion website integrate the We Shall Remain programs into age-appropriate classroom learning tools and offer an American Indian perspective on historical events and contemporary issues in Utah. For more information on this project please contact the Center.

 News

 "American West Center, KUED Collaborate on Major Curriculum Project for Utah Schools"

 "We Shall Remain: Bringing Utah's Native History to Life," FYI: News for Faculty and Staff, 2009

 "For Everyone in Utah,This is Our Story," Salt Lake Tribune, April 10, 2009.

"American Indians focus of new Utah curriculm," Deseret News, September 30, 2009.

The Utah Indian Curriculum Project and Utah American Indian Digital Archive at UtahIndians.org

Partners

 KUED-TV

 Utah Department of Community and Culture

 Utah Division of Indian Affairs

 Utah State Office of Education

Pueblo Water Rights Inventory. The American West Center worked with the All-Indian Pueblo Council to expand the archive to include extensive water rights documents and information. A general inventory of documents available at the archive and elsewhere was created and separate inventories for each Pueblo were also produced. 1993-1995.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Water Rights. The American West Center is working with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to develop documentation of their water rights as well as other rights which they received through treaties but are now in dispute. This project is current.

Big Cottonwood Canyon Water Distict. The center is continuing a project which will provide a history of this water district. This project is current.

The American West Center is recognized for its cooperative work in researching over a dozen tribal histories which are used in the school curricula on reservation and neighboring communities.

 Sharing the Desert: The Tohono O'odham in History

 A History of the Northern Ute People

 Numa: A Northern Paiute History

 The Southern Utes: A Tribal History

The American West Center also works with tribes to develop historical and ethnographical documentation to support legal claims. It has assisted fifteen tribes with developing tribal archives relevant to their land, water and culture.

 Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Archive

 "The Rivers and Fisheries of the Shoshone-Bannock Peoples"

 The Tohono O'odham Tribal Archives

 Interviews

The American West Center has aided numerous tribes in the establishment of tribal archives. This activity usually involved going to the various repositories of the the National Archives to extract and copy documents relative to the history of the respective tribes. Usually researchers from the tribe as well as from the center would go in order to educate the tribal representative as to the collection process. Staff members of the center would then help to catalogue the collection and create card files to identify the documents and to reference them according to subject. The following are the tribes or tribal groups for which archives have been established: Acoma; All-Indian Pueblo Council; Hupa; Lummi; Nevada Inter-Tribal Council; Santa Ana; Shoshone-Bannock; Southern Ute; Tesuque; Tohono O'odham; Uintah-Ouray; Utah Navajo Development Council; Ute Mountain Ute; White Mesa Ute; Zuni.

The American West Center coal mining card collection. The staff at the center created a card file with synopses of newspaper articles dealing with Utah coal mining issues. The file is available at the Marriott Library.

The American West Center hard rock mining card collection. The center's staff created a card file with synopses of newspaper articles dealing with Utah mining issues.

Oral History transcription. The American West Center continues to work with the Marriott Library as the contract transcriber for the oral histories of the state and the university.

Because of the experience in working with oral histories, the American West Center staff was involved in the editing of Calvin Rampton's memoir As I Recall (University of Utah Press, (1989) and Stan Lyman's recollection Wounded Knee 1973 (University of Nebraska Press, 1991.) The Wounded Knee book has created about $2,000 of royalty payments to the center.

 The American West Center is involved in a variety of environmental history and policy projects. These projects include the history of Big Cottonwood Canyon; environmental protection on Indian reservations; and "An Inventory of Documents Relating to Pueblo Water Rights."

During the 1980s and early 1990s the HIV epidemic came to Utah and only one physician, Dr. Kristen Ries, would treat people with AIDS. After Ries retired, members of the gay community stepped forward to create an archive documenting the course of the epidemic in Utah. As part of that broader goal, AWC affiliate faculty member Dr. Elizabeth Clement, Associate Professor of History, is conducting an oral history project that documents the medical, social, cultural, political and religious aspects of the epidemic in this very conservative place. She has interviewed over 30 who interacted with the epidemic including medical professionals, social workers, therapists, nuns from Holy Cross hospital, drag queens engaged in safer sex education and fundraising, community members who founded or volunteered for first AIDS Project Utah and the Salt Lake AIDS Foundation, and later, the Utah AIDS Foundation, as well as people with AIDS, their lovers, friends, and family.  All of the interviews are being transcribed and will be available to researchers at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library.

 

In the spring of 2017 the American West Center launched a new project on behalf of the State of Nevada Indian Commission– the preparation of a National Historic Landmark Nomination for the Stewart Indian School. Located just south of Carson City, Nevada, the boarding school opened in 1890, part of the attempt to “Americanize” Native youth through education. For nearly a century, the Stewart Indian School followed national models for the assimilation of Native American children.

Although the school closed in 1980, the complex remains a vital heritage site for Native Americans. Thousands of alumni throughout the West recall their days at Stewart. For many, life at Stewart was an amalgamation of both positive and negative experiences. Painful memories of leaving families and cultures behind still haunt some former students. Others recall their days at Stewart with fondness, often as the place where they formed friendships that lasted a lifetime. The Stewart Indian School offers a rare glimpse into the past of Indian assimilation programs, education systems, and cultural exchange. Its rich history illuminates how communities in the American West negotiated a landscape of intense cultural and societal changes.

The American West Center is in the unique position to assist the Nevada Indian Commission’s preservation efforts by preparing a National Historic Landmark nomination for the former boarding school. Today, the Stewart Indian School complex has over 80 extant buildings and structures and is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. National Historic Landmark designation is reserved for “nationally significant historic places” that “possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.” While over 90,000 properties are currently listed on the National Register, only 2,500 have been designated National Historic Landmarks. Landmark status brings increased protection as well as access to a range of grants and technical assistance programs. It also raises public awareness and interest and facilitates Heritage Tourism programs. NHL nominations demand rigorous research. They must both demonstrate the national historic significance of the site as well as document a high level of historic (architectural) integrity.

Last Updated: 9/6/17