LOVE OF A PAIUTE MOTHER

Piaute Indian MaidenThe small, Paiute woman hid in the tamarack along the shores of the Virgin River just below the area where the town of Rockville would soon be founded.  It had been a weary time for her.  She had come over fifty miles on foot.  But, as tired as she was she couldn’t rest.  The life of her child was in the balance.  It was 1855 and the warm fall season was slowly turning to winter.

It was the first child for this young mother, and she had cared for the boy tenderly while she waited for her husband to return from his fall hunting trip in the high mountains to the north.  The baby meant everything to her.

For generations the Paiute Chiefs of the Great Basin had extracted tribute from the impoverished tribes along the Virgin River.  They routinely kidnapped women and children to trade to the Navajos at the next full moon in the Fall.  This trip hadn’t been very successful.  They would have little to trade with the Navajos, and their families faced a cold winter without the heavy wool blankets the Navajos wove from the wool of their sheep.  The Piute Chiefs blamed the lack of success in kidnapping on the Mormon settlers to the north, who now protected the tribes in other areas from such raids.  This time the Great Basin Paiutes were angry because they had only been able to take a few coyote skins, and one baby papoose.

This night the Indian mother watch the guards until dawn, when she noticed that the last guard had fallen asleep.  Softly she crept to the spot where her baby lay near a dozing guard.  Carefully covering her infant’s mouth before she picked him up, she slipped back through the willows until she was sure she was out of listening range of the raiding party.  Then she ran – over the sand-covered foothills toward her home-lands on Ash Creek.

For more than two miles she ran in the gray light of dawn, knowing that if she was caught by the raiding party they would kill her.  Then she heard hoof-beats behind her, and she knew that she would soon be captured, and her baby would be taken back into captivity.  A howling horseman appeared over a ridge.  She was trapped between the horseman and a sheer cliff above the river.  Below the muddy waters of the Virgin River swirled.  She paused only for a moment, looking first at the Indian Warrior and then at the cliff.  She turned and headed straight for the precipice.  As she cleared the edge of the cliff she hurled her baby into the air, and they both plunged to a watery death below.

Thus, it was that an age-old custom of slave traffic ended.  Never again did the Great Basin Paiutes venture on raiding parties into southern Utah, and during the Black Hawk War to the north and the Navajo Battles to the south, Rockville was a protected pocket where its people received no native American tribal attacks.  The Virgin River Paiutes remembered this young mother, and saw to it.

(Source: a story by Vern Hall written in “Under the Dixie Sun”, published by the Washington County Chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.)

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