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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Historical Tidbit: Origin of Pioneer Day

Did you know...that today is a holiday?

So today is July 24th! For anyone living outside of Utah, it's just another Wednesday at work. But, for those of us in the Beehive state, today is Pioneer Day! It's the anniversary of when the Mormon pioneers arrived and began the settlement of our great state! 

Members of the early LDS church were brutally persecuted in the Eastern United States. Eventually, they packed up everything they had into the backs of covered wagons and handcarts and headed west. Back then, very little of the land between the Mississippi River and California had been settled. Of course American Indian tribes dotted the land, but, especially in Utah which is an arid desert, even they were few and far between.

The people we now refer to as the Pioneers trekked hundreds of miles across the plains on foot, enduring hunger, thirst, fatigue, horrible weather, broken wagons, and loss of loved ones. They were amazingly strong people and they kept going because they believed in what they were doing. 

On July 24, 1847 they came into the Salt Lake Valley. Their leader, President Brigham Young, was ill--as were many of them by that time--but he got out of the covered wagon he was riding in and declared, "This is the place." There was only one tree in the entire valley, and they had relatively little time--only a few months--to set up shelter winter, and plant crops for the following season.

Their first winter was full of heartache and tragedy, but in the years that followed, they flourished. I was born and raised in Utah and have many honorable ancestors among those revered pioneers. When the world refused to allow them true freedom, they took their fate in their own hands and found a way to live peaceful, productive lives. 

Today in Utah there will be parades, barbecues, fireworks, and plenty of other celebratory, family togetherness-types of activities. We celebrate their courage and endurance because it directly shaped life as we know it today.

Happy Birthday, Utah! Despite the desert conditions and, you know, perpetual road construction, I'll always love you!

I'd like to end with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite films:
"I will call to the past, far back to the beginning of time, and beg [my ancestors] to come and help me at the judgment. I will reach back and draw them into me, and they must come, for at this moment, I am the whole reason they have existed at all." --Joseph Cinque, Amistad

Do you know the origins of your state's settlement?

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