Two Utahns find power in their personal history

by BRYNN TOLMAN

“History empowers people!” says Forrest S. Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

Cuch, a Ute, is one of the many people who has used his history to find power and strength. He says, “What I’ve learned from my own history is my own humanity; my good side along with my bad side.”

As Cuch attended public and private school in Utah, he was taught that Indians were savage. He says the lessons he learned each day were very different than the ones that his parents taught him at home. It wasn’t until after college that he was able to really learn the truth about the history of his people; the Utes.

Discovering the truth about Native Americans has empowered Cuch. It has given him the motivation and the desire to teach others about his own history. He recognizes the misconceptions many people have about American Indians as ignorance. His goal is to change the way people view the natives of Utah, his ancestors.

According to his Web site, “He sees his present job as a major challenge with primary emphasis on educating Utah leaders and the general public, not only calling [others’] attention to the ancient presence of American Indian people in Utah, but also their present and enduring plight as citizens with very unique contributions yet to be made to modern day society.”

Some of those contributions are featured in “A History of Utah’s American Indians,” a book he edited that was published in 2000 by Utah State University Press.

Learning the truth through research and study has given Cuch a power to stand as a symbol for the American Indian people.

Jeanne Ludlow, a resident of Sandy, Utah, is another individual who has learned how history empowers people.             

Ludlow is a family history expert and has found a similar empowerment from discovering her history. In a recent e-mail interview she was asked how discovering her family history has empowered her, “It has changed my outlook on life because I don’t have to stumble through life alone. When you research someone, you become very close to him/her. I can endure because they endured. Not only that, I believe they’re pulling for me – cheering me on – maybe even guardian angels in this and other aspects of my life.”

Ludlow grew up with two grandfathers who were very diligent in the research of their family history. They taught her at a young age to appreciate this skill and to desire to learn and discover the world and people that came before her.    

She recognizes that as she has researched her personal history, she has developed skills that she can use in the world to help herself and others succeed. “I have learned how to read early handwriting. I have become familiar with Scandinavian, and German resources, and [am] familiar with words on research documents. Computer skills have changed my life. I could make an income with [these] skills. I have had people offer to pay me. Or, like others, I could compile my work and sell it in a book, or write a biography.” She continues, “I have the means of being of great service to others. I could teach or research for other people. I guess the empowerment is the perspective I get about my place in the community and the world, today; an interest in all people, and a desire to learn their history.”

Ludlow mentions the simple things she now appreciates because of the lessons she has learned from her ancestors. “I’m grateful for electric lights, bathrooms, refrigerators, pick-up trucks…there are so many relatives, who have gone before me, it makes me want to make the most of my life.”