ST. GEORGE — As Americans gathered at cemeteries across the country to place Christmas wreaths on the graves of veterans, the Shivwits Band of Paiutes did things a little differently. A small crowd gathered at the Shivwits Cemetery on Saturday for a Wreaths Across America ceremony.
The ceremony included the raising of the American flag, a gun salute and a traditional song and drum performance by members of the Mountain Ute Tribe, who visited from Towaoc, Colorado, to take part in the celebration.
There were 1.7 million wreaths laid at 2,557 locations across the U.S. on Saturday, according to a press release from Wreaths Across America. The event is a coordinated wreath-laying effort that usually incorporates a patriotic ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., and other cities throughout all 50 states.
There are 20 veterans buried at the Shivwits Cemetery, and Shivwits Tribal Councilman Glenn Rogers said it’s important to recognize and honor them because otherwise they would be overlooked.
“It’s a little reservation, there’s not very many people living here,” Rogers said. “It’s good to acknowledge the veterans like that with Wreaths Across America and it’s good to acknowledge the drum group that’s here. They’ve helped us a lot with the cultural knowledge of their people. It’s really an honor to have their tribe come here. It’s a big get-together in that way because they have veterans too that are deceased so it’s really great to see that.”
Rogers spoke during the ceremony about his uncle, Crawford Snow, who was killed on Mother’s Day, 1967, in Vietnam. Rogers remembers Snow fondly and hopes that other people will recognize his uncle’s contributions when they hear his story.
“I remember coming up here and seeing how sad it was to see him buried like that,” Rogers said. “I grew up with him. He showed me how to hunt deer. He was always a hunter. He would always outrun us kids in those hills up there. He was always hunting squirrels, cottontails, things like that. As I got older, I used to go deer hunting with him and I knew him that way.”
Snow’s brother Angus, the last of Snow’s siblings, was there Saturday to lay a wreath on his grave. It meant a lot to see that, Rogers said, and be joined by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Utes and several veterans who held flags during the ceremony.
“It’s just sad that they don’t recognize Native American veterans out here,” Rogers said.
Many Wreaths Across America celebrations nationwide were conducted without crowds this year due to the coronavirus, including some in Southern Utah. The Shivwits’ celebration was one of the few local ones to include a brief ceremony. It still looked different in many ways from years past, said Valerie King, regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution Color Country Chapter.
The DAR laid the wreaths with the help of members of the Shivwits tribe, whereas normally local cadets do the honors. The cadets were busy this year with a separate event, King said, so the DAR stepped in to lay the wreaths in addition to supplying them. The DAR have been buying the wreaths since 2010 but has never participated in the ceremony before. The Ute drum performance was also a new addition.
Although the Shivwits are very private people, they’re proud of their veterans and their contribution to serving, King said.
“It’s always an honor and a privilege to be a part of the ceremony because it’s obviously different,” she said. “They put their culture into this and that’s why I always enjoy coming to this particular one. It’s more intimate.”
The Shivwits Cemetery was the third one the DAR visited Saturday, after laying wreaths at St. George City Cemetery and Tonaquint Cemetery.
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