Impacts of the Glen Canyon Dam on Southern Paiutes

The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is responsible for administering water releases from the Glen Canyon Dam. Because the traditional lands of the Southern Paiute people have been affected by the dam, in 1991, three federally recognized Southern Paiute tribes – the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (representing the Shivwits Band), and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe – agreed to participate in studies to identify cultural resources impacted by the dam and to recommend strategies for their protection. In 1993, the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians and the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah created the Southern Paiute Consortium (SPC) to ensure more effective government-to-government interactions between the tribes and the BOR.

A significant challenge for the SPC, as for other participants in the GCDAMP, has been the need to distinguish impacts from Glen Canyon Dam from other impacts to the Colorado River Corridor. The entire Colorado River Corridor, as well as specific places within it, is integral to Southern Paiute culture and to the understanding that Southern Paiutes have about who we are, where we come from, and where we go when we leave this life.

Places of specific cultural significance have been accessed over centuries from points throughout Southern Paiute territory, and they are connected through songs and stories. Southern Paiutes recognize a special responsibility for protecting these places. The places are not tightly bounded as “sites” and are located throughout the Colorado River Corridor.

The Glen Canyon Dam has caused tremendous changes to both the Colorado River and the region surrounding it. It has trapped sand Read here behind it and has affected the temperature of the water. Once the dam was constructed, the temperature of the water released downstream became relatively steady at between 45-50 degrees as water was drawn year round from the deep water intakes that draw water for use in producing electricity. Another major change caused by the Glen Canyon Dam has been the regulation of river flows which has made it possible for commercial and private river trips to take approximately 20,000 people per year through the Corridor.

It is impossible to ignore visitor impacts as a significant impact of the dam. At sites where visitors can come in from the rim as well as from the river, it is generally not possible to distinguish the impacts of one group from those of the other. The impacts of the dam on the Colorado River Corridor are shown in the diagram.