There have been a few historical fiction books written about the Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers in which their language is portrayed as being simple and unrefined.
However, if one takes the time to read the journals and autobiographies of these people, one realizes nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite the fact they generally lacked opportunity for extensive formal education, their vocabulary is extensive and articulate, their written words precise. Certainly their writing would reflect their speech, even as it also reflected their values.
Similarly, the priorities were manifest by the early construction of primary grade schools. There is no doubt that the first settlers of San Juan County cared about providing a solid education for children.
No sooner had they laid out the plans for their new townships than they started construction on a combination church/school/community meeting place.
Historically, each settlement sought out gifted educators, their qualifications now evident in the strong leaders they produced over the years.
This commitment to education is also evidenced by the fact that the citizens of Grayson were willing to trade their birthright name in exchange for the new name of Blanding and a promised library. Though that decision remains controversial to this day, the community’s desire to gain culture through book learning has never been questioned.
When the call to San Juan was issued by leaders of the LDS Church, their injunction to the families that answered the call included a strong directive to help educate their “Lamanite brethren”.
The first settlers quickly realized that this would be a long term project.
1)- they had to get themselves established. 2)- they needed to gain the trust of the people. 3)- they had to offer a way of life that is to the native’s advantage. 4)- they had to develop resources to help support their goals. 5)- they needed to transfer the responsibility for learning.
Five steps and five generations later, the educational opportunities on the Ute and Navajo reservations in San Juan are equal to those provided anywhere in the county.
More importantly, the Native American population has fully embraced available resources and generated their own services. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Education Center at White Mesa, funded by the Ute Tribe.
The San Juan Record will run a series of articles on libraries in the county, beginning with the newest and perhaps most unique of all: the library located in White Mesa.