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Forrest Cuch

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If you look at the early Mormon settlers' theology, they wanted to think that this was a virgin land that was not occupied by any people so that they could basically claim it as their promised land. And the presence of the Utes, Shoshones, and Goshutes kind of interrupted that narrative. And it's been, I think, avoided. The dominant culture kind of doesn't like to deal with that. They would rather sweep that under the rug, and I think that's a mistake. You only heal if you address the truth. You have to face the truth in order to begin to build a true relationship. Admitting that the Indian people were here first is not going to destroy your faith. You might have to modify the narrative a little bit, but our intent is not to destroy their theology. Our intent is: let's establish the truth so that we can someday become friends. 

This is our homeland; that's all there is to it. You can't erase us.

Forrest Cuch is a member of the Ute Indian Tribe. He was raised on the Uintah and Ouray Ute Indian Reservation in northeastern Utah. In 1860, the Ute people were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in Utah Valley and the Great Salt Lake Basin, which Cuch says has led to a significant disconnect between the Ute people and the Great Salt Lake today. Cuch was previously the education director for the Ute Indian Tribe, as well as director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. He is the author of A History of Utah’s American Indians

This photo was taken at Warm Springs — important hot springs to Indigenous people of the Great Basin. Cuch is on the board of the Warm Springs Alliance, which is restoring and preserving these hot springs in north Salt Lake.

Forrest Cuch
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