July 24 – Pioneer Day in Utah

Posted on July 24, 2017

If you go to Salt Lake City, Utah, today, you might see something like this:

You see, today is Pioneer Day, a statewide holiday that commemorates the first group of Mormon pioneers who came to and settled the Salt Lake region. 

Mormon is the word used for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After the death of Mormonism-founder Joseph Smith, in 1844, a group of Mormons followed their church president, Brigham Young, all the way from the Mississippi River to Utah Territory.

Even though this date commemorates the day in 1847 when Young and the other pioneers arrived in Salt Lake Valley, the holiday also honors all pioneers, of every faith or no faith, who "settled" the West. 

And by "the West," I mean the western portion of the 48 contiguous United States (Alaska and Hawaii are waaayyy farther west than what we call "the West").

And by "settle," I mean "white folks coming and grabbing land that indigenous / native folks had been using but didn't OWN in a legalistic, document-oriented way." The Salt Lake Valley had been the home for groups of Shoshone, Ute, and Paiute. At the time when Young and his followers founded Salt Lake City, the land was Shoshone land - but they only used it seasonally. There were no permanent buildings there...until the Mormons began to build.

Even if a particular group of settlers were not the first to see a patch of land, travel a particular route, or use a particular valley, they were still going into the relatively unknown - to them, at least - and they still faced a lot of dangers. So they had to be courageous, resourceful, and (to be perfectly honest) lucky to survive. So, yes, let's celebrate pioneers!!

Salt Lake City has a lot of cool statues. This one memorializes the pioneers:

Many of the 70,000 Mormon pioneers couldn't afford a wagon and a team of oxen to pull the wagon...so they went West with only the possessions they could fit into a handcart they themselves pulled:

Here's an amazing fact: Mormon pioneers planted crops alongside the 1,300-mile-long trail so that later travelers could have a supply of food!

In addition to a parade, Pioneer Day festivities include a rodeo and concerts:

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