At Galena, UTA and Native American tribes make peace

Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-27 23:59:40-04

DRAPER, Utah -- Leaders of Native American tribes gathered here with executives from the Utah Transit Authority and the governor to dedicate a monument to the first peoples.

"What we're doing here today is a good thing," Governor Gary Herbert said Friday. "It may not be a perfect thing, but it's a good thing."

They dedicated a sundial at what is now called the "Galena Soo'nkhani Village Preserve," a 250-acre piece of land off the Jordan River Parkway near 13400 South that will never be touched by development.

The 3,000 year old village of Galena has been the subject of major controversy surrounding UTA's efforts to develop Frontrunner near the ancient site. Tribes were infuriated by the development plans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporarily blocked the project in 2010 over claims UTA dumped fill dirt on the area.

The Utah Attorney General's Office confirmed to FOX 13 on Friday that it still has ongoing investigations into development deals surrounding the Draper Frontrunner site.

Jason Walker, the chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, said it was all of Utah's tribes uniting that got UTA and the state to back off Galena.

"There's power in numbers, and when you have eight tribes coming together and saying, 'We don't want this,' then good things happen," he told FOX 13. "Today is the culmination of that."

While tribal leaders believe the state and UTA have made amends, some still lamented how little the tribes get.

"I was kind of sad this is all we get," said Northern Ute Tribe member Lacee Harris at the beginning of a prayer service on Friday. "That our people, this is all that's left. These plaques to talk about our people. I guess that's better than nothing, at least to be mentioned."

Walker noted that even if skyscrapers were to be built around Galena, it would forever remain untouched and a monument to the tribes.

As part of the deal, UTA has also purchased lands in central and southern Utah that have historical significance for Native American tribes to be preserved.

"We're very appreciative of the relationship that we've had with the state and the Native American tribes and it seems to have worked out really well," said UTA CEO Mike Allegra.