Springdale denies Paiutes’ request to build Native American cultural center

ST. GEORGE – The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah’s zone change request to build commercial property featuring a Native American cultural center in Southern Utah was denied by the Town of Springdale at a town council meeting Wednesday night.

“Can you imagine the sound of Native Americans once again ringing through the canyon? Drumming and singing, it sent a chill down my spine,” Gaylord Robb, a spokesman for the tribe, said.

Frustrated but not disheartened, Robb said, “Basically, I explained to them, 200 years ago, if you’d gone up into that canyon you wouldn’t have found anything but Paiutes. Europeans were welcome with open arms, and now the Paiutes go up there and ask for rezoning for a cultural center on less than a quarter of a square mile of land and the arrogance of Europeans is to tell them ‘you’re not welcome on that property.’

He insisted the character of the hillside would remain intact and offered up the solution of a trolley to avoid excavation into the hillside.

“They don’t want their view blocked,” Robb said.

The property in question

When the property, which spans 178 acres, was annexed into the town, it was automatically classified as hillside residential.

Essentially, the request for the zone change was to transform it from residential to commercial so planning and building could begin for the cultural center.

“The landowners gave us commercial permission before we purchased the land. We’ve spent $50,000 learning how to properly use that land and have submitted those plans to the city,” Robb said. “That 50 grand was basically wasted unless we can bring some other option to them that will work.”

The tribe’s goal

“The vote of the Springdale planning and zoning commission was five to zero against rezoning,” Robb said. “What we were asking for was 57 acres to be zoned commercial. At the most, 40 would have been buildable. The other acreage would be for a road or tram. We don’t want to disturb the hillside.

“The property is 178 acres in size, so we were going to zone the rest of that property for public use to build trails and have ancient replicas of Native American sites so people could walk around and see what Native Americans’ lives were like before the European settlers arrived.”

Demonstrations along the trails would include showing and educating the public on medicinal plants and foods the Native Americans worked with and ate at the time.

“We would have been respectful of the land as the Paiutes always have been,” Robb said.

The town council voted unanimously to deny the zone change request with the following findings:

The zone change was inconsistent with these objectives of the General Plan:

2.1.4 Preserve natural open space areas throughout the community.

2.2.1 Protect scenic views of ridgelines, hillsides, cliffs, the Virgin River and the river corridor, and other natural scenic elements as seen from the valley floor and the SR-9 highway corridor.

3.2.1 To the greatest extent possible, avoid rezoning properties from residential to commercial.

7.6.1 Minimize the impact and effect of the town and its developments on the Virgin River Corridor.

13.1.1 Ensure new development and redevelopment in the town is consistent with the Future Land Use Map.  The map designates this land as ‘Conservation’, which is defined in this way: These are areas of high natural resource value. These areas could include steep slopes, important view sheds and other visually important areas, wetlands and riparian areas, wildlife corridors, and other areas of high resource value. Conservation areas should be minimally developed. Development that does occur should be designed such that it does not impair the resource value of the area. Public access to conservation areas may be appropriate, and should be accomplished through pedestrian trails. Suggested uses: Open spaces, very low density residential (single family: one unit per five acres.)

Springdale responds

Springdale Mayor Pat Cluff empathized with the community’s desire to build a Native American cultural center, but said “it was a really big project and it was in the foothills in an area that has no commercial zoning at present. There are sensitive lands over there. Preserving the character of the town is a big thing for us.”

Cluff said the cultural center would have increased the village commercial zone by 40 percent all at once. “Many people were in favor. We liked the idea of the cultural center, but the placement is inappropriate.”


“I’ve been working for the Paiute tribe for four years,” Robb said. “It’s a project that was already started when I got here. We have a private landowner who has been great about working with us on the details, and is still committed.”

Right now the city and tribe are working on other solutions.

“It’s not a dead issue. We’re examining other options, but I cannot comment on those right now,” Robb said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @sarahisaacson1

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Maggie June 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Sounds like it is indeed not a dead issue. Keep working. The history of this state is very important and needs to be preserved and taught. The Paiute tribe is indeed a huge part of that history and should be respected.

    • Offended in the 435 June 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm

      I’m totally outraged by this asinine decision. This would add much needed rich cultural activity and history to Utah’s busiest national park. It would educate locals and foreigners alike of the rich, native history of the area. Too many ‘outsiders’ think our history begins and stops at mormonism and the (white) pioneers who settled this area (AFTER the Native Americans). This issue must not stop here. i hope to see much criticism by local and national media outlets. These people respect the land and nurture the earth and deserve more dignity and respect!

  • Big Bob June 13, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    This is OUTRAGEOUS!! I despise the white race, they are cancer to the land!

    • Bretticus June 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Wow, what blatant hypocrisy. I’m all for the cultural center. Being a white Mormon male (oh my!) I already knew that Paiutes were in the canyon first. Sounds like a great idea. But, sorry, all the problems in your life, and in Mother Earth’s, are not wrought solely by white men.

  • Dopeness June 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    My family and friends are opting to boycott Springdale and Zion this summer. I’m disappointed how we continue to treat this sacred race of people – even today…

  • Tom June 13, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    The heck with Springdale!! Build the center near the north rim of the Grand Canyon South of St George. It is an under utilized area of natural beauty that could become as much of a destination as Springdale.

  • Tyler June 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    I truely despise my race and I’m continually disgusted with how minorities of all kinds are treated in the area. Our corrupt, greedy, over-civilized society distracted and overly reliant on radio waves and electricity is doomed to collapse one day, and seriously bring us back to our more natural ways, soon…very soon. If you tune in with your senses, you can just feel it…

  • nativeatheart June 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    I was just thinking today how we need a museum like this in Southern Utah! I bet a lot of the locals and old timers would be willing to donate artifacts. The native American culture is a treasure here and should be enjoyed and recognized. Not only do we have Paiutes, but also the Anasazi lived here as well.

  • RockRoller June 14, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Mr. Robb, a few tombstones in Grafton report other than “Europeans were welcome with open arms”…

  • Mister P June 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm


  • San June 14, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I grew up in Hacienda Heights, CA. Google it…there is a massive Buddhist temple and monastery located there that was originally opposed by literally everyone in the town. The reason; no understanding of what a concentration of alternative residents would mean to the area. The resolution was to change/reduce the size of the a towering Buddha the church wanted at the main building entrance, so the building’s facade blended in better and to make the complex open to the locals (until they lost interest) but it took a professional PR firm and a ton of money to convince city property owners that their cats weren’t going to be eaten or their comfort zones infringed upon.

    Springdale is a destination because of the openness and tolerance to different points of view…which distinguishes them from most of Utah. I ate at Oscar’s and shopped there yesterday. If the Paiutes aren’t welcome on land that was historically theirs, it makes me wonder who else isn’t wanted. The City Council needs to grow up and let them build in that canyon. It won’t hurt a thing. It’ll even make you guys look better.

  • Barb June 15, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Build it in downtown St George where the Sunbowl is! That would be a great thing to replace it with!

    • Joseph Smith June 15, 2013 at 2:31 am

      Better yet, build it where the LDS temple is as the Native Americans settled here first!

  • Really? June 15, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Read the article – they didn’t deny the cultural center. They denied a rezoning request that didn’t meet the requirements of city code. Don’t immediately jump to conclusions about this being racist…

  • Julie Gregoric June 17, 2013 at 7:16 am

    This decision by the Springdale Town Council has NOTHING to do with discrimination against the Paiutes. A decision to rezone sensitive land such as the property in question is extremely difficult. Not only would it set a precedent for others to rezone their own properties, it would be unfair to those who have already been denied a change of use.

    I’d venture to guess that not a single person is Springdale would be against a cultural center as long as it was situated in a commercial zone, not hillside residential. There are several large commercial properties for sale in Springdale that would be appropriate for such use.

    I would urge those readers who have strong opinions on the matter to walk the property before condemning the Town of Springdale and its Town Council members.

  • Beverly Florang June 17, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I hope this gets cleared up with the natives being able to have a cultural center. I am of native descent , not from here but , from northern territory.of the United States. The natives have so much to offer the white man. My father taught me so much about the great outdoors. There are native plants around here that are medicinal, things that are poison, some that are natures salves, The way things are going in this world, this knowledge would be of great value. Lets work together and learn from each other. This cultural center would be of great value to us all. Find a place where this will happen.

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