Community

Urban Indian Center

Promoting Well-being, Spirituality and Culture

Christie Giles | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Mar 12, 2018

Every other week, rain or shine, heated stones are carefully placed in a rounded, covered structure at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake to conduct a sweat lodge ceremony. For many inside and outside the Native American community, the lodge — that combines heat with an intense spiritual focus — is an opportunity to give thanks, heal, seek wisdom and purify the mind, body and soul.

“This traditional path to healing is just one way American Indians are lending their strength and wisdom to the Salt Lake community,” says Anthony Guzman, the center’s executive director. 

Promoting Well-being

More than 19,000 American Indians live along the Wasatch Front. The Urban Indian Center’s dedicated staff of 22 employees provides a surprising number of services to members of these federally recognized tribes, including:

  • health referrals
  • health and disease prevention education
  • substance abuse prevention education
  • behavioral health treatment
  • substance abuse and mental health counseling

Cultural celebrations, including powwows and community blessings by tribal elders, are open to the public. As the center grows, employees are excited about the prospect of providing more services to the wider community.

“We do a lot with a little,” Guzman says. “But it’s our approach that really sets us apart. All care is provided with a sensitivity to American Indian spirituality and culture.”

Preserving Heritage and Strengthening the Future

For more than 40 years, the power of that American Indian spirituality and culture have been symbolized by towering murals of traditional dancers on the center’s walls. “At the north end of the hall, the dancers are youths,” Guzman says. “From there, the murals progress in age until the last are elders. It’s a metaphor for how our heritage guides us, allowing us to grow culturally and spiritually and maintain wellness throughout our lives.”

Recently, three new murals were added, representing contemporary American Indians. “They symbolize the new spirit of this organization that is carrying us beyond the romanticized idea of what American Indians are and recognizing our diversity and unlimited potential,” Guzman says.

Moving into the future, balancing spirituality and traditional culture with the demands of modern life is more important than ever, especially for young people. The center’s Sacred Paths youth program helps young people achieve this delicate balance through evening culture classes, summer programs, school outreach and special events.

Building Community Partnerships

Through the years, the Urban Indian Center has forged strong community relationships. Community partners who support the mission of the organization by faithfully devoting their time and resources are honored with the Fire Keeper award. “Recent recipients include Zions Bank, which was honored for supporting the growth and prosperity of the center and respecting the self-determination of indigenous people of Utah,” Guzman says.

With strong community partnerships and a clear focus of its mission, Guzman predicts a long and bright future for the center. “As long as we hold up the spiritual and cultural component of our facility as a leading light, we will be successful for many years to come.”

The Urban Indian Center is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a one-hour closure for lunch from noon-1 p.m. It is located at 120 W. 1300 South.

Man in jeans and t-shirt standing in front of mural
Anthony Guzman at a local skate park. He loves to stay connected to his youth to remind himself and others that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.
Looking at a building with a sculpture in the foreground
The Urban Indian Center located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Man wearing a hat sitting on a chair in an office.
Anthony Guzman in his office at the Urban Indian Center.

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