Utah, state in the western United States, partly in the Rocky Mountains. Its great variety of landscapes includes high wooded mountains, lakes, valley oases, barren salt flats, deserts, and a wild plateau country with strange rock formations and rainbow-colored canyons.
Habitation by nomadic desert peoples of the area that was to become Utah began several thousand years ago. The Anasazi Culture, which established intricately built settlements, reached their peak at about ad 1300. Native American tribes, including the Gosiute, Paiute, and Ute, were present when Spanish explorers made their earliest visits to the region.
This area, which was claimed by Mexico, was chosen in 1847 by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, as a refuge from persecution. Here they founded a theocratic commonwealth aloof from the rest of the nation and planned on the basis of a group of small, self-sufficient agricultural communities. Their isolation was short-lived, however, because Utah became part of the United States in 1848 by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War. In addition, the Mormon community was on the main route westward to the new gold-rush camps of California.
The federal government tried to force the Mormons to give up some of their practices, especially polygyny (simultaneous marriage to more than one wife). The Mormons officially abandoned this practice in 1890, and Utah was admitted into the Union as the 45th state on January 4, 1896.
The name Utah is derived from a Native American word meaning those who dwell high up or mountaintop dwellers. Arriving Europeans mistakenly believed the name referred to the Ute people, later applying the word to the state. The state’s original name was Deseret, from a word in the Book of Mormon that means land of the honey bee. It in turn gave rise to Utah’s nickname, the Beehive State, connoting hard work and industry. From the time of its early settlement until the mid-20th century, Utah was known primarily for its agricultural and mining industries. By the late 20th century, however, the state had developed a diversified economy, with a wide range of manufactured products. Tourism has also become a major element of the economy, and increasing numbers of visitors are attracted by the state’s many natural landmarks. Salt Lake City is Utah’s capital and largest city. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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