Southern Utah News Articles
Pikyavit - We've been here forever
Benn Pikyavit has experienced a full abundance of life in his years, but according to the elders of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, “we’ve been here forever.”
Pikyavit is an area icon. He was born in Filmore and raised in Delta, Utah. His mom and uncles had worked there for employment. In the late 50’s, they came to Kanab, eventually moving to the Kaibab Paiute Reservation. He was schooled in Moccasin, a Phoenix boarding school, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He graduated from Fredonia.
“When I was old enough, I ended up in the military,” said the soft-spoken Pikyavit. “I ended up in Vietnam. When I came back, I worked with the Forest Service on the Kaibab.”
He then pursued higher education and a new career. Pikyavit went to Sevier Valley Tech and Dixie College. He wanted to be a surgical assistant, but due to a hearing problem, that was a bad match.
Prior to the eventual job with the Park Service, he was an oral historian who interviewed native people. In that capacity, Pikyavit would interview people and have them speak about their culture and traditions, from Paiute to English, documenting all that was spoken to him. Pikyavit was then in the Forest Service’s Data Entry, then he moved on to the Park Service.
At Pipe Spring, Pikyavit became the interpretive Park Ranger. He was instrumental in former Park Superintendent John Hiscock and the Tribe setting up the museum, with a focus on the Native Americans who were there long before the rest of us. Benn Pikyavit was so valuable in his role at Pipe Spring! He would take visitors on hikes (including Mu’uputs Canyon), tell them about native seeds, customs, and share native beliefs and stories from long ago.
Pikyavit is also the librarian at Pipe Spring. Right now he is on a temporary furlough. He is helping to edit a volume of Mormon history of the area. It is still around 800 pages in length, but they do not want to leave anything important out of the book.
The Kaibab Band of Paiute Indian Reservation has approximately 121,000 acres along the northernmost Arizona-Utah border (within both Coconino and Mohave counties of Arizona). It’s located on the Arizona Strip, for reference about 80 miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The reservation hosts five tribal villages. The non-Indian community of Moccasin and Pipe Spring National Monument are also located within the reservation’s boundary. A seven-person council governs the reservation.
Pikyavit is considered a spiritual advisor for the tribe. In that capacity, he’s very humble. “I want to say a prophet is not a prophet in his own land,” explained Pikavit. “I ended up as a spiritual advisor. I do marriages, last rites and other things.”
Tribal members travel down the Colorado River two times a year. “We don’t talk about it much,” said Pikyavit. “We see sights, pictographs, and we’re trying to acquaint the smaller children about it.”
“All of this land is sacred. Everything is considered that way depending on what ceremonies are being done,” he said.
Pikavit is working and involved in the Old Spanish Trail, along with his former boss John Hiscock, trying to find a common ground. He said the Spaniards didn’t consider the Native Americans, they only said derogatory terms for them. “That was regression, at the time,” said Pikyavit. “Regression and progression are two things that we are taught. We have been here forever. And, we’re barely hanging on to what we have. We need a better understanding of one another. We’re all in this together.”
Pikavit is also a sweat lodge keeper. In that capacity, he does purification ceremonies. He has never been married.
Pikavit told a story that when a mom takes the umbilical cord off her baby boy, she beats the cord, wraps it and weaves it into a cradleboard. It’s put away until the young man enters puberty. He then gets the cradleboard from his mom, so he can make his way all over the world, but still have his connection to home.