ST. GEORGE — Sunshine embraced a large crowd attending the Wreaths Across America Shivwits Band of Paiute Native American ceremony on Saturday. Songs from the Cedar Band of Paiutes members singing in a drum circle filled the air at the reservation cemetery in honor of fallen military members.
Members of the Color Country Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution at the Wreaths Across America Shivwits Band of Paiute Native American ceremony, Shivwits Native American Reservation, Utah, Dec. 16, 2023 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News
Organizer Valerie King of the Color Country Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution told St. George News she had never seen so many people attending the annual event.
King said many came to pay their respects this year to Shivwits tribal leader Glenn Rodgers, who passed in May. Rogers served as a leader of his Shivwits band of Paiutes for many years.
“I was super impressed with how many people came out just to pay tribute to Glenn Rogers, who we just dearly miss. He used to put these ceremonies on,” King said. “We came and he did it all, but he’s no longer with us. We wanted to carry on his legacy. So, I think we did it in fine fashion today. There was a lot of tribal songs going on. There were drums and lots of family members; it was just fabulous. We miss you, Glenn.”
Another Southern Utahan who spoke fondly of Rogers was Brent Sevy, co-owner of M & S Turquoise. Sevy told the crowd how Rogers was a silversmith for M & S Turquoise for over 20 years and always put others first.
“When Glenn served in the military, he learned how to serve others. And I’m sure he was that way as a young child before he even served there,” Sevy said. “That passion to serve followed him throughout his life. People were his passion. I think because he was passionate, he became very compassionate toward people or causes. As you know, that’s who he was. He didn’t care a lot for himself; he cared about others.”
Sevy said the war was rough on Rogers, but he never complained that he served. Rogers was a United States Army veteran affiliated with artillery unit #222 from 1980-1986. He was also a Cold War medal recipient.
“Glenn brought home the horrors of that war in his mind and he endured those till the day he passed away. I’d be on the road with him in a hotel room and in the middle of the night, he would say, ‘Brent, can I turn the light on?’” Sevy said. “And I’d say absolutely if I could do that to honor you and what you went through for all of us.”
An example service was Rogers’s idea to create the Annual Shivwits Toy Drive. M & S Turquoise co-sponsored it for the children on the Shivwits Reservation. For 25 years, they gathered donations from Southern Utah.
“We’ve gathered toys from a very generous community and distributed not only to the Shivwits families but with Glenn’s direction, we’ve been able to expand this to the other tribes throughout the southern Utah area,” Sevy said.
The toy drive expanded again two years ago when they heard about a little Navajo village by Mexican Hat, Utah, that is just outside of the jurisdiction of the Navajo tribe. Sevy said that it’s a bunch of grandparents raising their grandchildren. And Rogers decided to take care of those children, too.
Sevy added that Rogers was passionate about life and loved nature. He loved and appreciated his people and his culture and also shared traditional culture with others. Additionally, he fought for water rights for Native Americans in Washington, D.C.
A member of Glenn Rogers family places a wreath on his grave during the Wreaths Across America Shivwits Band of Paiute Native American ceremony, Shivwits Reservation, Utah, Dec. 16, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Valerie King, St. George News
“Glenn supported the tribe in every way he could. He would be the first to do these hikes to raise money for the toy drive. He’d tell stories and take people on tours,” Sevy said.
Another antidote Sevy shared about Rogers was that he wanted a memorial to Paiute Native American fallen warriors at the cemetery about 15 years ago. Sevey added that he had his son and some masons create the monument that still stands today.
“There was a little bird that would come and light on the on the area and he would never leave the construction site. He would always return each day as we continued to build this memorial,” Bret said. “Glenn said, ‘Don’t be surprised, these little animals, they know what’s going on here.’”
During the ceremony, wreaths were placed at each veteran’s headstone by tribe members and the public. Patriot Guard Riders were on-site bearing American flags. The Dixie High School Air Force JROTC cadets also participated in the event.
Later that afternoon, there was a tribal dinner and the Annual Shivwits Toy Drive for the children, with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Wreaths Across America is held at different cemeteries across the United States to honor those who have served in the armed forces and educate others on the meaning of the sacrifices made by American military members.
According to the Wreaths Across America website, their goals include:
Remember the fallen.
Honor those who have served.
Teach children the value of freedom.
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