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Paiute Federal Recognition and Sovereignty

Lesson Summary

  • Through process drama activities, explore the history of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.
  • Explore losing and regaining federal recognition.
  • Work in collaborative groups.

Lesson Plan and Procedure

Lesson Key Facts

  • Grade(s): 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Subject(s): Drama, English Language Arts, Social Studies, Native American, Tribe Approved
  • Duration of lesson: 60 minutes or two sessions, 30 minutes each
  • Author(s): Haley Flanders Anderson and Emily Soderborg
Paiute Logo

This lesson was written in partnership with Dorena Martineau, the Paiute Cultural Resource Director, and was approved by the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah’s Tribal Council. Before teaching this lesson, please explain to your students that there are many Indigenous tribes in the United States and that this lesson specifically focuses on the five bands of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and does not represent other Native American groups. It is the hope of the Paiutes that other native tribes will respect their choice to share these aspects of their history and culture.

Note: If you plan to split this into two 30-minute sessions, an appropriate breaking point is at the end of the introduction before the instruction/rehearsal.


Teacher: We are going to play a game called, “Stuck in an elevator.” I am going to put you into five groups. I will give each group a different genre, and youElevator will brainstorm together how characters in that genre might manage to get out of a stuck elevator together. Each group will act it out, and the rest of class will guess what genre you are portraying.

Put your class into five groups and number the groups to reflect the order they will perform. If necessary, review the definition of genre: a category of art or literature that has similar themes, characters, style, format, and/or subject. Then, either verbally or on a slip of paper, give each group a genre from the list below, or feel free to come up with your own. Give the groups about five minutes to brainstorm and rehearse. Have the groups perform one group at a time. After each performance, have the students raise their hands to guess the genre.

Here are some genre suggestions:

  • Superhero/action
  • Horror/tragedy
  • Fairytale/fantasy
  • Comedy
  • Drama (consider adding specificity: police, medical, Shakespeare, romance)
  • Detective/mystery
  • Sports
  • Western
  • Documentary/biography
  • Musical
  • Silent movie


Teacher: What was this experience like? What was difficult about this activity? What was easy? What did you like about another group’s performance? What were the similarities or differences between groups’ methods of escaping the elevator?

Likewise, many groups of people throughout history have felt unseen, due to the policies enacted by people in power, silencing their voices. Today we are going to learn about a group of Native American people, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, and explore what it was like for them to be without federal support, and then to receive it many years later. We will be performing a choral reading and then process drama activities in your same groups as the elevator activity, but this time, each group will represent a band from the tribe.


Historic Lands Map

Show the class this image and point out the Southern Paiute tribal region.

Teacher: Here is the Southern Paiute region, located in the southwest corner of Utah. Picture what it would be like to live there. Use your imagination, or if you have visited this region before, tell us what the climate and geography is like. (It is a dry, desert climate.)

Teacher: The Southern Paiute traditionally call themselves “Nungwu,” (NOONG-WOO) meaning “the people.” Today, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is made up of five bands. What do you think is the difference between a tribe and a band? A band is a much smaller group of people, mostly related. In comparison, a tribe is a larger group, sometimes comprised of smaller bands, which share a language along with basic customs and beliefs.

Hold up a map of Utah with the following towns/counties highlighted (see Equipment and Materials Needed section). Point to the corresponding towns as you watch Karma Grayman share part of a legend about the five bands. (View from 18:20-20:30)

Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Reservation LandsTeacher: In the video, Karma Grayman, a Paiute elder, taught Paiute children about the five bands of the Paiute tribe. Raise your hand if you have been to any of these locations before:

  • Indian Peaks Band in Cedar City, Iron County
  • Cedar Band in Cedar City, Iron County
  • Koosharem Band in Richfield, Sevier County
  • Kanosh Band in Kanosh, Millard County
  • Shivwits Band in Washington County

Note: There is a phonetic pronunciation guide for these Paiute band names at the end of the choral reading.

Teacher: We will now do a choral reading of information to learn about the history of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. Choral reading is an interpretive reading of text by a group of voices. Students may read individual lines or stanzas alone, in groups or in unison as a whole class. Since the Paiute tribe contains five bands, we are going to arrange the class into five small groups to represent these five bands for this reading. Do you remember your groups from the elevator activity? These will be the small groups in the choral reading and the solos will be five individual narrators, one from each group.

Pass out the choral reading sheets to each student (see attached PDF). Have each group choose their narrator or select a narrator from each group yourself.

The teacher should do the initial reading. This will set the pace and model proper pronunciation for students as they listen. After the first reading, have the students do the choral reading all together as a class.

Teacher: What are your initial feelings about what we read?


Teacher: Has anyone heard of process drama? It is where you pretend to be in the world or scenario that we are studying. Based on the instructions I give, you will act as people, places, and things in that environment through improvisation. There are no scripts and no set performances. It is all simply a process to explore this setting as a class, so that we better understand and relate to it as we read and learn about history. Now, let’s begin.

Teacher: Sit with your groups from the elevator activity and I will give you a band name and the band’s logo along with a brief description that shares the meaning of different parts of the logo. As a group, decide how you will represent the logo and then make a tableau. A tableau is a still image made with your bodies, like a frozen sculpture. Each group will present these tableaux one at a time while a member of your band reads aloud the description on the paper and holds up the picture of the logo.

Have your class sit in their five groups. Hand each group one description paper for either the Cedar, Indian Peaks, Kanosh, Koosharem, and Shivwits band (print and pass out “Paiute Bands Tableau Information”). Give them 5-10 minutes to practice reading the information aloud and making the logo with their bodies through a tableau. They do not need to read the contact information on the documents. Gather the class together and have them continue to sit in their bands as the groups perform for each other.


Children creating a place.Teacher: As a tribe, we all performed the same process drama activity of making tableaus. Now, we will perform three more process drama activities, and each band will take a turn. Continue to sit with your bands and I will call on your band when it is your turn to participate.

Activity 1: Creating a Place

Note: During this activity, you can use Paiute flute music to underscore the students’ acting and add depth to their experience. Little Sun in the Blue Sky by Shanan Martineau is an approved Paiute album and can be found on YouTube. You could also use nature sounds from a sound effects website that fit with what is being described (brush being gathered, water flowing, and so on.)

Teacher: Our first activity is called “Creating a Place.” To better understand the Paiute people, we are going to represent aspects of their tribal ways in southwestern Utah before westerners arrived, and then when settlers began to come onto their land. As you silently act these settings out with your bodies, I will simultaneously share facts. I will also hold up pictures to help you.

  1. Indian Peaks Band, please stand where you are. Show us building Paiute homes, called wickiups. (Pause to cue their acting and hold up the picture on page 1 of the document, “Creating a Place images.”) Many Paiute Indians lived in wickiups. The Paiutes called them kahns (IPA “kɑːnz”), their word for home. Wickiups are small round or cone-shaped houses made of a willow frame and covered with brush. At times they also used tipis. Because they moved frequently from place to place as they hunted and gathered food and resources, they needed homes that were portable or easy to build. Within the bands, the Paiutes lived in independent groups of three to five households or about 15-30 people. Thank you, Indian Peaks. You may be seated.
  2. Cedar Band, please stand where you are. Show us Paiute irrigation gardening. (Pause to cue their acting and hold up the picture on page 2.) In the Paiute language, “paa” means water. During spring, in the valleys to the west and south of Cedar Breaks, the Southern Paiute practiced floodplain gardening, creating reservoirs and irrigation ditches to water corn, squash, melons, gourds, sunflowers, beans, and wheat. Thank you, Cedar Band. You may be seated.
  3. Koosharem Band, please stand where you are. Show us how the Paiutes were also nomadic hunters and gatherers. (Pause to cue their acting and hold up the picture on page 3.) The Paiute traveled to various areas throughout the year to harvest food and natural materials in the appropriate seasons. After planting their fields in the spring, the Paiute often journeyed high up to the meadows and forests of the surrounding plateaus. Here, the Paiute hunted mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, woodchucks, rabbits, and gathered berries and plants. Thank you, Koosharem Band. You may be seated.
  4. Kanosh Band, please stand where you are. Show us Paiutes traveling between their hunting, gathering, and watering grounds. (Pause to cue their acting and hold up the picture on page 4.) Now, as you are farming, hunting, and gathering, others, such as the Mormons, are building Westernized settlements on your land. Show us greeting the newcomers to your land. These new settlements rapidly bring an end to the Paiute’s traditional way of life since these settlements are built on vital Paiute hunting and gathering grounds. Show us your reactions to being denied access to water sources and losing your crops. Livestock grazing in the surrounding areas destroys many of the plants that were a staple of the Paiute diet. As a result of these settlements, the only land left to the Paiutes was mostly unfarmable. Thank you, Kanosh Band. You may be seated.
  5. Shivwits Band, please stand where you are. Show us Paiute people living on a large area of land. Spread out so that the entire classroom represents your land. Wave to your neighbors. (Give them a few seconds to spread throughout the room.) Now show us Paiute people slowly being confined in an area 100 times smaller than their traditional homelands. Slowly walk back to your group's spot and squeeze very tightly together. (Pause to cue their acting and hold up the pictures on page 5.) The Paiutes’ original homeland spanned more than thirty million acres. The first Paiute reservation was established in 1891 on the Santa Clara River west of St. George and was federally recognized in 1903. After this, three other Paiute reservations were created. With these reservations, the tribes at least had their own lands again and tribal sovereignty, but it was very difficult to maintain their culture and way of life inside such a small, confined area. Thank you, Shivwits Band. You may be seated.

Activity 2: Soundscape

Teacher: After white settlements were built and reservations were created, there came more hardship for the Paiutes. We will explore aspects of three periods: early reservation, termination, and restoration using a process drama activity called soundscape. In a soundscape, we only use our voices or the sounds our bodies can make to create the sounds expressed in a specific location or event in time. As you make sounds, listen to your group. Add new sounds or shift your sound to explore all possible aspects of place. You could also use short phrases of spoken text in addition to sounds. All bands will stay where they are. I will call on each band to begin making the soundscape. Each band will perform three times.

Round 1 (Early Reservations):

  • Indian Peaks Band: The sound of hand-weaving plant fibers into finely crafted baskets that could be used to carry food and water.
  • Cedar Band: The sound of chipping agate rock to make stone tools, such as arrowheads and spear points.
  • Koosharem Band: The sound of bilingual people learning to read and write in English while also maintaining their Paiute culture.
  • Kanosh Band: The sound of building irrigation systems to increase farming.
  • Shivwits Band: The sound of establishing their band’s own constitution and tribal council.

Round 2 (Termination):

  • Indian Peaks Band: The sound of Southern Paiutes asking questions about how to pay taxes without jobs.
  • Cedar Band: The sound of mourning as many Southern Paiutes were dying from lack of healthcare resources.
  • Koosharem Band: The sound of a telegraph being sent to Washington D.C. expressing the desire to not be terminated.
  • Kanosh Band: The sound of frustration when termination made their farming efforts useless.
  • Shivwits Band: The sound of former tribal councils and tribal members questioning their role and identity now that they were no longer considered Indian.

Round 3 (Restoration):

  • Indian Peaks Band: The sound of petitioning Congress for nearly ten years to gain federal recognition as one combined tribe.
  • Cedar Band: The sound of the tribe finding out in 1980 that they received federal recognition once again due to Congress’ “Paiute Reservation Plan.”
  • Koosharem Band: The sound of a newly organized Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, PITU, Tribal Council holding a meeting to discuss important issues regarding their people and lands.
  • Kanosh Band: The sound of Paiute people accessing newly built healthcare facilities on or near each band’s reservation.
  • Shivwits Band: The sound of again being eligible for college tuition and other assistance so education could be pursued.

Teacher: What was this experience like? What was easy? What was challenging? What was your favorite sound to listen to and why? How did making the soundscape help you picture the setting and these important moments in Paiute history? What were the feelings you had when you performed Round 1 (Early Reservations)? Round 2 (Termination)? Round 3 (Restoration)?

Activity 3: Class Tableau

Teacher: As we explored the restoration phase of Paiute history, we showed the tribal nation’s restored sovereignty. They were able to govern themselves through their recognized tribal council. The separate bands joined together to create the unified Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. Here is a picture of their Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah logo.

Teacher: We will now create an entire class tableau. This won’t be a tableau of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah logo, but will instead show how the Paiute people felt as they were again granted federal recognition. To do this, physically move together and create a frozen picture symbolizing the individual bands joining together to form one federally recognized tribe. Decide your actions based on the feelings the Paiute people might have felt at this time. All bands will need to work together and be ready to create the tableau in fifteen seconds.

Activity 4: Role on the WallSticky notes on outline of Utah

Have the students gather on the floor.

Teacher: Our final process drama activity is called “Role on the Wall.” On the whiteboard, I am going to draw an outline of the state of Utah. Take a few minutes to silently think about why you feel it is important for Southern Paiute history to be taught as a part of Utah history. How does it benefit your knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for the people of Utah? How have the process drama experiences from today created meaning for you?

Pass out sticky notes and pencils to each student.

Teacher: On your own, come up with a word or phrase that shares your main take-away from what you have learned about the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and why that idea is important for us today. Write your word or phrase on the sticky note, and then come put your word inside the outline of Utah. Watch how I do my own example.

Model writing on and placing sticky note within the Utah outline on the board.

Give the students a few minutes to brainstorm and write on their sticky notes and attach them to the board. Then give the class time to read what each individual wrote inside the outline of Utah. Have the students sit down for the concluding discussion.


Teacher: What are your observations about what other students wrote on the wall? When we started this activity, we played “Stuck in an elevator” with groups representing different genres. Now your same groups represent bands within the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah that felt unseen, and now have federal recognition once again. But does having federal recognition mean that everything is perfect and easy for the Paiutes? Why or why not? How did the process drama activities–Tableau, Creating a Place, Soundscape, and Role on the Wall–help you better understand and relate to these real experiences, both in the past and present, of the Paiute people? How might these activities and knowledge affect you in the future?

Optional Extension Activity: Use the resources found in “Additional Resources” to further study the history of the Southern Paiute, the geography of the Southwestern United States, or important people and legends in Paiute culture and history. Then have students give reports on their findings, focusing more intently on the specific standards outlined in the Social Studies Core.

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Learning Objectives

  • Understand the relationship between the geography in Utah and human life.
  • Understand how Utah's history has been shaped by people, events, and ideas.
  • Understand the roles of civic life, politics, and government regarding Utah’s citizens.
  • Arrange the physical playing space with intent.
  • Work effectively in an ensemble.
  • Observe, listen, and respond in character.
  • Communicate meaning through body and voice.
  • Demonstrate appropriate audience skills.
  • Explore stories from a variety of cultures, genres, and styles.
  • Identify historical, global, and social issues found in a theatre work.
  • Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining and drawing inferences.
  • Report on a topic and recount an experience using appropriate facts and details to support themes.

Utah State Board of Education Standards

This lesson can be used to meet standards in many grades and subject areas. We will highlight one grade’s standards to give an example of application.

Grade 4 Social Studies

  • Standard 1: Students will understand the relationship between the physical geography in Utah and human life.
    • Objective 3: Analyze how human actions modify the physical environment.
      1. Describe how and why humans have changed the physical environment of Utah to meet their needs (e.g. reservoirs, irrigation, climate, transportation systems and cities).
  • Standard 2: Students will understand how Utah's history has been shaped by many diverse people, events, and ideas.
    • Objective 1: Describe the historical and current impact of various cultural groups on Utah.
      1. Explore points of view about life in Utah from a variety of cultural groups using primary source documents.
      2. Explain the importance of preserving cultural prehistory and history, including archaeological sites and other historic sites and artifacts.
    • Objective 2: Describe ways that Utah has changed over time.
      1. Identify key events and trends in Utah history and their significance (e.g. American Indian settlement, European exploration, Mormon settlement, westward expansion, American Indian relocation, statehood, development of industry, World War I and II).
  • Standard 3: Students will understand the roles of civic life, politics, and government in the lives of Utah citizens.
    • Objective 2: Analyze the different ways people have organized governments in Utah to meet community needs.
      1. Identify the forms of government found in Utah in different eras (i.e. historic and current American Indian government, State of Deseret, Utah Territory, statehood era, present).

Grade 4 Drama

  • Standard 4.T.CR.2: Arrange the physical playing space to communicate mood, time, and locale.
  • Standard 4.T.P.2: Demonstrate the ability to work effectively alone and cooperatively, with a partner or in an ensemble.
  • Standard 4.T.P.3: Observe, listen, and respond in character to other actors throughout a scripted or improvised scene.
  • Standard 4.T.P.4: Communicate meaning using the body through space, shape, energy and gesture.
  • Standard 4.T.P.5: Communicate meaning using the voice through volume, pitch, tone, rate, and clarity.
  • Standard 4.T.R.1: Demonstrate audience skills of observing attentively and responding appropriately.
  • Standard 4.T.CO.2: Read, listen to, and tell stories from a variety of cultures, genres, and styles; identify the characters, setting, plot, theme and conflict in these plays and stories; and identify historical, global, and social issues connecting them through a drama/theatre work.

Grade 4 English Language Arts

  • Reading, Informational Text Standard 1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • Speaking and Listening Standard 4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
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Equipment and Materials Needed

  • Video of Karma Grayman teaching Paiute students. (View from 18:20-20:30)
  • Map of historical Native lands in Utah
  • Map of Paiute Bands in Utah
  • Paiute Federal Recognition Choral Reading, one copy for each student (see PDF)
  • Paiute Bands Tableau Information (see PDF)
  • Creating a Place images (see PDF)
  • Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Logo (see PDF)
  • White board and dry erase markers
  • Sticky notes and pencils for each individual student
  • PowerPoint with all visuals attached (optional)
  • Optional: Slips of paper with a genre written on each
  • Optional: Recording of Paiute flute music 
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Additional Resources

This lesson was created thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Utah Division of Arts & Museums.

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Image References

Images 1, 2: The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
Image 3:
Images 4, 5: Curtis Soderborg
Image 6: James Huston
Image 7: Emily Soderborg

© Brigham Young University and Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah