Shivwits Mountain Sheep Dance Performed at “Evening on the Arizona Strip” Event
On Nov. 7, 2013, Little Sun LavaLLee and Leander LavaLLee of the Paiute Shivwits Indian Tribe performed the Mountain Sheep Dance during a tribute honoring the Paiute Tribes of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona during the annual “Evening on the Arizona Strip” fundraiser.
Performed by the Shivwits since the 1940’s, the Mountain Sheep Dance earned members of the Shivwits band a significant following when they performed at commercial performances in Gallup, N.M.; the tribal dancers were featured for years on postcards due to the popularity of the dance. Performances of the Mountain Sheep Dance diminished for some time, however, with the last dance performed by the Shivwits in the 1960’s.
Today Shivwits youth like Little Sun LavaLLee and Leander LavaLLee, supported by their mother Shanan Anderson, carry on the rich history of their tribal traditions through this special dance.
The dance honors the Mountain Sheep as a beautiful and reverent expression of gratitude for the sheep’s ultimate sacrifice - his life, which sustained the lives of grateful tribal members. Anderson noted that the symbolism of the dance and the sheep’s sacrifice teaches tribal youth an important lesson, that “hunting is not a sport but a way of life and with every life taken; thanks is given to the Mountain Sheep for sacrificing his life for the Paiutes to live.” She said, “When the sheep arises at the end, this means there will always be another Mountain Sheep to take his place as long as there are Paiute people.”
Youth also learn the balanced use of their natural resources, a Shivwits value. “The people were taught to always use what was given to them by the Creator and if they stop then it will die out and no longer exist. This is seen today as the homeland surrounding the Paiutes continually diminish over the years and the foods they used to survive on have begun dwindling away,” said Anderson.
The event, a fundraiser for the Dixie/Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, also featured special guests Eleanor Tom and Chloe Valentine Brent, authors of “Why the Moon Paints Her Face Black”.
The mission of Dixie/Arizona Strip Interpretive Association is to enhance the understanding of the history and resources of the Arizona Strip, Southern Utah region and other partner regions. The association supports agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
Photos and story by Rachel Tueller, Public Affairs Officer in the BLM-Arizona Strip District