Commercial air tour operators urged to honor Bryce Canyon’s meaning to Native

Bryce Canyon Airport, during a Fly-in and Car Show event, Bryce Canyon, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Bryce Canyon Country Facebook page, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Pilots flying tours over Bryce Canyon National Park are encouraged to give an offering before they start their flights, a Native American cultural leader says. 

Helicopter tour over Bryce Canyon, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy Bryce Canyon Country website, St. George News

The tribal consultation of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians sent this message to park officials when public comment was sought by the National Park Service and Federal Aviation Administration for the Bryce National Park Air Tour Management Plan earlier this year.

“An offering is in the form of loose tobacco given to the land after saying a prayer or talking about why you are there,” Shanandoah Anderson, cultural manager of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, said. “When you are finished with your prayer, you sprinkle the tobacco onto the land.”

The document authorizes up to 515 air tours per year on defined routes over the park. Although there have been commercial air tours over Bryce Canyon for years, no defined operating guidelines exist. 

Anderson said that pilots are asked to respect the traditions of the Native Americans by asking the land for good and safe travels while they are in the area. 

The Hoodoos in the area talk of a legend of bad people that were turned into stone by Coyote the trickster,” Anderson said. “The Southern Paiutes call the hoodoos ‘Red Painted Face’ in Paiute ‘Angka-ku-wass-a-wits.’ In later years the Paiutes called them ‘oohdoos,’ meaning something scary, like ghosts from the past. An offering would be left near them to ask for no harm while they were in the area.”

Peter Densmore, Bryce Canyon National Park spokesman, said the plan helps manage significant adverse impacts from commercial air tours on the park. He said the air tour management plan would safeguard natural resources, preservation of wilderness character and visitor experience.

Bryce Canyon National Park, unspecified date | Courtesy of lucky-photographer/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“The plan’s purpose is to protect opportunities for park visitors to experience quiet and solitude in a remote natural setting,” Densmore said.

Anderson said there are traditional cultural properties in Bryce Canyon National Park within the area that has flyovers for the Southern Paiute tribes/bands and the neighboring tribes.

“Bryce Canyon (Unka-timpe-wa-wince-pock-ich) is a significant place to the Southern Paiutes in the spring, summer and fall months, living in the region harvesting all that the land had to offer,” Anderson said.

Densmore said an essential part of the process of the plan included Native American tribes. He said the park reached out to tribes with lands within or adjacent to Bryce Canyon. The park personnel also contacted…

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