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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

Kaibab Paiute Historical Events

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The Slave Trade.  Prior to the arrival of the Latter-day Saints (The Mormons) in 1847, and following the exploration of the ancestral lands of the Kaibab Paiute by the Spanish, the Southern Paiute bands, including the Kaibab, were impacted by the slave trade. By the early 17th century, Spanish colonies in what are now northern New Mexico and southern California had institutionalized slavery and other forms of servitude. Ute and Navajo slave raiders preyed on Southern Paiute bands. Spanish expeditions and American trappers repeated this pattern. Women and children were the most sought after as captives. One Indian agent noted that prior to 1860, scarcely one-half of the Paiute children escaped slavery, and that a large majority of those that did were males. One history of Utah refers to the trade as follows:

In historic times the Ute carried on extensive slave traffic. Children were obtained by barter or by force from poorer bands of Paiutes and exchanged with the Navahos [sic] and Mexicans to the south for blankets and other articles. Certain Paiute bands were almost depopulated by this traffic.

The Kaibab Paiute maintain a memory of these raids by the Ute and Navajo. Feelings of enmity harbored by the Kaibab Paiute toward these other tribal groups are often explained today by reference to this past raiding activity. Some documentation suggests that Southern Paiute bands responded to the threat of enslavement by retreating from heavily traveled areas, particularly the Old Spanish Trail that wound along the current border of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. The trail opened as a commercial route in the 1830s. This twelve-hundred mile rugged path was charted to link the old established settlements in New Mexico with the fledgling Spanish colony of Los Angeles, California. The New Mexicans carried serapes, blankets, knives, guns, hardware items, and cloth bought in the Santa Fe trade westward to California. At the same time, the slave trade may have forced abandonment of ecologically favorable areas, inhibiting the expansion of horticultural activities among the Southern Paiute including the Kaibab band, while increasing their dependence on hunting and gathering as a way of life.


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