Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Pioneer Day

This past Saturday, July 24, we celebrated Pioneer Day here in Utah. In the rest of the country, Pioneer Day doesn’t exist. Here, however, it is a huge holiday, on a par with the 4th of July. We celebrate with parades, rodeos, fireworks, barbeques, and picnics – and anyone who doesn’t get the day off from work feels really put-upon. We Utahns are really fortunate to get not one, but two spectacular holidays every July!

by Kelley Lindberg

Pioneer Day officially commemorates the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Great Salt Lake Valley back in 1847. But the Mormon pioneers aren’t the only pioneers who we remember on Pioneer Day.

Five native tribes of American Indians made Utah home before the first European explorers ever came here – the Goshutes, Utes, Navajo, Shoshone, and Paiutes pioneered life in this arid region (and before them, the Fremonts and Anasazi were carving civilization from our cliffs and mesas). And those first European-descent explorers weren’t Mormon, but they were Catholic priests, French explorers, Spanish trailblazers, and early American naturalists. Later, after the Mormons began to settle here, there were Chinese railroad builders, Greek miners, and Army soldiers from all over the Union. Over the last 163 years, Utah’s pioneers have included freed slaves, Japanese internees, Pacific Islanders, Scandinavian farmers, and Eastern European laborers. We’ve taken in Mormons, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Buddhists. We’ve welcomed refugees from probably every modern war and conflict, including Vietnam, the former Soviet countries, Bosnia and Serbia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Pioneers, all of them.

And our pioneers haven’t just represented different nationalities, religions, or races. Utah boasts pioneers of science, of art, of culture, of sport, and of technology. Our Utah residents had a hand in inventing television, the internet, the computer graphics industry, the artificial heart, and a million other innovations that make life more entertaining, interesting, safe, and healthy.

Today, there are pioneers all around us. Whether it is doctors studying the effectiveness of desensitization therapies on food allergies, or engineers studying various windmill structures to find a more efficient way to harness energy from the wind that spills through our canyons and across our valleys, Utah pioneers are changing our lives right this very minute.

So happy Pioneer Day, everyone. Support those among us who are continuing to find new ways to improve our lives, our health, our planet, and our relationships with others throughout the world. And keep nurturing that pioneering spirit in our kids. Who knows what innovations they’ll discover tomorrow?

No comments: