April 20, 2023

5/17: First Peoples of Great Salt Lake - A Cultural Landscape

The story of the Great Salt Lake is long, and full of human history. Join the person who wrote the book on prehistoric Utah in this webinar!

Wednesday, May 17, from 12-1pm MDT

Register for this free webinar here.

This is a story of more than 700 generations of Indigenous Americans in a cultural landscape centered on, but also much larger than, the Great Salt Lake. From Nevada, across Utah and Idaho, to the center of Wyoming is a cultural landscape whose deep history dissolves state lines. The story here takes a different approach to understanding the ancients than is typical of archaeology. It conveys findings from the natural and social sciences, but this is not a science book. It is not about objects. It is a story of place - where people lived and how they lived. It is a story of language histories, the mingling of peoples, indigenous, and immigrants, and the transformations that arise from interaction, both through cooperation and conflict. It is a story of cultural resilience, persistence, and a changing sense of place.

The story challenges the Pristine Myth, the cultural bias that Indigenous peoples were timeless, changeless children of Nature. The myth that America was sparsely populated, and that Native Americans were too primitive and too few to have a role in shaping the world in which they lived. The story challenges the Biblical Model, the notion of history as a string of discreet events among bounded peoples and cultures bumping into each other, while staying true to their origins as they wander the earth. People arrived in the Great Salt Lake region more than 14,000 years ago. They stood on the shores of a later Lake Bonneville. The landscapes and ecosystems had never felt the presence of humans. It was destined to become a Human Wilderness and Indigenous peoples were active agents. Native America, even the harsh Mountain and Desert West, became fully populated. This book tempers some of archaeology’s received wisdoms about ancient Native American history. It is story is far deeper in time than any modern genealogy can trace.

About Our Speaker: Steve Simms

Steven R. Simms is professor emeritus of Anthropology at Utah State University, in Logan, where he taught since 1988. He had also taught at Weber State College and the University of Utah. He conducted archaeological field work across the United States and in the Middle East for 50 years, participating in hundreds of field trips. Simms authored more than 100 scientific publications. His books include “Ancient Peoples of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau” (2008), and “Traces of Fremont: Society and Rock Art in Ancient Utah” (2010), which was awarded the Society for American Archaeology Book award in the public audience category and the Utah Book Award for nonfiction. He directed more than 60 archaeological projects, including the Great Salt Lake Wetlands Project 1990 – 93, funded by the state of Utah, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Science Foundation. He served on the scientific advisory board of Friends of Great Salt Lake since the organization was founded in 1994. Since childhood, he has hiked the mountains and deserts of the American West and slept on the ground nearly a thousand nights. In retirement, he practices social distancing and lives with his partner Judy Nelson, a ceramicist, at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains in Story, Wyoming.