Native Americans celebrate Utah’s indigenous roots on Pioneer Day

SALT LAKE CITY – Indigenous tribes from across the United States came to Utah to take part in 25th annual Native Americans in the Park, a pow wow coinciding with Pioneer Day celebrations.

For 25 years, Native American tribes from across Utah and the United States have come together to celebrate hundreds of years of tradition with the Salt Lake community.

“It’s so beautiful in that, in the olden days, we are in essence inviting everybody else like we did before Utah was the state of Utah,” said Cal Nez, Native Americans in the Park president and founder.

Dancers of all ages were adorned with bellows, bows and feathers, as they donned traditional garb and regalia in Liberty Park Wednesday afternoon.

Among the kaleidoscope of drummers, singers and dancers was 14-year-old named Shali Chee.

“I do the woman’s fancy shawl,” Chee said as she talked about her dance. “It tells a story of how a butterfly is and how it flies around.”

Chee has been learning the traditional dances since she was able to walk.

“I can express myself and show how happy I am,” said Chee.

Shining brightly in a silver sequin dress, a rainbow neckpiece and a long shawl of sequins and white fringe, she stepped out in front of the crowd.

“It makes me nervous,” she said of the crowd.

But as soon as she heard the drumbeat, her nerves melted away and she began to dance.

“Cheer her on, let’s go!” Nez shouted into a microphone as he stood on the stage watching Chee.

With every beat, Shali can connect with her heritage.

“It’s a blessing because not many people can dance the way I can,” said Chee.

Chee said dancing makes her proud, but it’s the ability to share her passion and people that truly fills her with joy.

“It’s important to let people know that we’re still here and we’re still going strong and that we haven’t lost our culture,” Chee said.

The event will go out with a bang – you can catch fireworks at 10:00 p.m. Wednesday at Liberty Park.

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