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Arizona Native American Community Named World's First 'Dark Sky Nation'

The IDA, a nonprofit organization fighting to preserve the night sky, has named the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation the first 'Dark Sky Nation.'
Picture Courtesy of Kaibab Paiute Nation

For nearly fifteen years, the International Dark-Sky Association has recognized efforts to preserve dark night skies for the benefit of future generations around the world, but never before has an entire group of ethnically and linguistically related people come together to collectively embrace dark-skies principles.

As a result of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians' work to protect the pristine night skies over its northern Arizona territory, IDA is pleased to announce the designation of the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation as an International Dark Sky Community. The IDA status makes the Kaibab Paiute truly the world's first 'dark sky nation.'

Roland Maldonado, Tribal Chairperson, sees the announcement as a reflection of the values of the tribe. "The Kaibab Paiute reservation is meant to be preserved as our cultural homeland for its natural resources and untouched qualities," he said. "We acknowledge the immense value dark skies bring to our traditions, conservation of wildlife, and to future generations."

The Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation is a community of approximately 250 residents located on the Arizona-Utah border about 50 miles north of the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab Paiute are one of ten member bands of the Southern Paiute tribe of Native Americans who live along the southern Great Basin and the San Juan and Colorado River watershed.

Despite their small population, the Kaibab Paiute have made a clear and concerted effort to improve the quality of outdoor lighting on the reservation, adopt and implement a quality lighting plan, and raise awareness of the issue both on and beyond the reservation.

 The Kaibab Paiute have long held sacred the natural environment of their northern Arizona home including the dark skies over Thunder Mountain, a landform that dominates the reservation landscape and features prominently in Kaibab Paiute folklore. The new Dark Sky Community will be officially known as "Thunder Mountain Pootsee Nightsky." The name recognizes the status of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians as a sovereign nation, the importance of Thunder Mountain and the night sky in Kaibab Paiute culture, and the unique language spoken by Southern Paiutes.

Already, their successful bid for IDA recognition has generated interest among other Native American tribes in applying for the same recognition. The Kaibab Paiute hope this will inspire other nations around the world to follow its lead, protect their night skies, and realize the cultural, social, and economic resource they represent.

"We need to smile when we look up to the sky at night, not squint and frown and look down," said a Kaibab Paiute tribal elder.

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May 24, 2018, 4:38 am PDT

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