Shinob to St. George: How the Shivwits Tribe Adapted and Endured

Dated: August 7 2023

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Out in the harsh scrublands of southwest Utah lives the mighty Shivwits tribe. For centuries these intrepid desert-dwellers have carved out an existence in terrain better suited to rattlesnakes and scorpions. Archaeologists think the Shivwits are descended from the old-timey Puebloan peoples, who knew a thing or two about surviving in the dry Southwest. 

The Shivwits made their homes in several settlements along the Santa Clara River near present-day St. George. Their main hangout was a village called Shinob, located where the river exits a narrow gorge. Shinob offered kickin' fertile soil and ample agua for irrigating crops to support the tribe. These crafty farmers grew corn, beans, squash and more. Of course, they also hunted and gathered grub to supplement their plant-based diet. 

Things got a little spicy when Spanish explorers and settlers moseyed into Shivwits territory in the late 1700s. Early encounters were mostly friendly, but squabbles over land and resources soon flared up as more colonizers moved in. Mormon settlers bringing their wagons to Utah in the 1850s cranked up the heat even more. 

In 1891 the Shivwits got their very own 320-acre reservation along the Santa Clara River. But their land kept shrinking as the years went by. By 1934 water and resource shortages forced many tribal members to find work in nearby towns.

Today around 200 hardy Shivwits live on the reservation, while commuting to jobs in bustling St. George. They keep ancient tribal traditions alive through activities like basket weaving, pottery making, and storytelling. 

The Shivwits have rolled with the punches for the past two centuries, preserving their one-of-a-kind culture while adapting to an agricultural and wage economy. These descendants of nomadic hunter-gatherers have shown true grit in making their home in the unforgiving deserts of Utah. Respect!

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Scott Dutton

Are you tired of real estate agents who push you harder than a rush hour commute? Well, you're in luck because I'm Scott Dutton, the Southern Utah REALTOR® who knows how to listen, advise, and gui....

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