Powwow packs house as Utes bring culture, history back to Yampa Valley

Community members p
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School auditorium was packed Thursday as banging drums and spinning dancers in colorful dress put the Ute Indian Tribe in the spotlight.

“We had three times the number of people we had last year,” said Candice Banister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, which hosted the powwow performance.  

This year’s presentation was moved from the library to a larger venue on the high school stage and included two different shows at 5 and 6 p.m.

The dancers were members of the Youth Leadership Coalition of the Ute Indian Tribe in Fort Duchesne, Utah. They came to Steamboat Springs to share Ute Indian customs, powwow dances, music and regalia in special performance and historical presentations with the community.

This corner of Northwestern Colorado was home to the Ute Tribe, which used to hunt in the area during the summer, until they were forced to leave in the late-1800s.

This is the second year the museum has hosted the powwow, and Bannister is hoping that it’s the beginning of a relationship that will continue into the future. Colorado Mountain College hosted a Bear Dance in 2003, and the museum has invited members of the Northern Ute Tribe to come to Steamboat Springs for storytelling, but the most recent events are the first time the community has hosted formal events since the 1990s.

“We are hoping to do this annually,” Bannister said. “We are hoping to grow it each year with more dancers, different types of dance and more schools from the reservation.”

Most of the dancers came from the Uintah River High School. 

In addition to the presentations at Steamboat Springs High School, the dancers also visited Soda Creek Elementary School and put on two more shows there.

Admission to the events on Thursday was free, but donations were taken for a Ute language preservation project. 

“It’s very important to me,” Bannister said of preserving the connection between Steamboat at the Ute Nation. “It has not only become a focus for me personally but also for the museum. If you think about the organization or the entity in our town that is going to do this, it’s the historical society. Once I realized that it really does fall within our responsibility, I’m really eager to keep that connection.

“I want the museum to be a conduit for Ute Indian culture appreciation in our community, but I also want to provide an opportunity for the Ute people, the students, the parents and the teachers to be able to connect with their ancestral land,” Bannister added.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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