Tales from the Tread: Ute Indian event returns

If you go

What: Ute Indian Pow Wow Dance Performance and History Presentation When: 5 and 6 p.m. May 3

Where: Steamboat Springs High School Auditorium, 45 Maple St.

Cost: Free

On May 3, the Tread of Pioneers Museum will proudly host the Ute Indian/Steamboat Springs Cultural Exchange Event. The Youth Leadership Coalition of the Ute Indian Tribe of Fort Duchesne, Utah, will perform powwow dances and music and share the history and meaning of their dances and regalia in four presentations — two for the public at 5 and 6 p.m. May 3 at the Steamboat Springs High School Auditorium and two for Strawberry Park Elementary students on May 4. All of the presentations are free to the public and students, courtesy of the Tread of Pioneers Museum and the Ute Indian Tribe.

Stoney Mills dances Monday during the Steamboat Springs/Ute Indian Cultural Exchange Event at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs in 2017. Mills, 15, is a student at Unitah River High School in Fort Duchesne, Utah and in the Nah-na-mah Culture Club. He was one of several students from the club to demonstrate powwow dances at the library.

“We are thrilled to host this event for the second year,” said Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum and event organizer. “The response from the Steamboat Springs and Ute communities was very positive last year, so we were eager to expand the event, with more dancers, a larger venue and four performance times this year.”

“The students from Nah-na-mah Culture Club are excited to share and present our powwow demonstrations,” said Kea Tarness, student mentor and advisor for the Ute Indian Tribe. “The students who attended last year’s event cannot wait to show the community their ongoing traditions.”

The museum strives to tell the story of local heritage through the voices and perspectives of the people who lived it. Through exhibits, events and programs, the Tread of Pioneers Museum creates unique opportunities for local residents and visitors to learn firsthand from the Ute people themselves.

“It is an honor to serve as a conduit for Ute Indian cultural appreciation in our community. We hope to increase awareness and appreciation of Ute Indian history and culture while also providing an opportunity for Ute Indian youth to connect with their ancestral lands and the town of Steamboat Springs,” said Bannister.

Before the students return to Fort Duchesne, the Tread of Pioneers Museum staff will offer guided museum tours to the students, and an opportunity for the students to provide feedback on the museum’s Ute exhibits. The students will also take time on their own to explore the town.

The event is free but all voluntary donations will support the Shoshonean-Numic Language Reunion XIX to help preserve native language.

“Our language is interspersed throughout our daily life utilizing recognized masters of traditional Shoshonean life ways,” said Tarness.  “The Shoshonean-Numic Language Gathering covers the many unique facets of our tribes that we have practiced from time immemorial.”

Local Ute Indian history

The Ute Indians, who call themselves “Nuche,” meaning “the people,” are Colorado’s oldest documented inhabitants. Written historical records indicate specific Ute presence in the Yampa Valley since the late 1500s, though linguistic evidence indicates the 1300s.

The Ute band of the Yampa Valley and Steamboat Springs was the Yampatika or Yamparica band. They spent the summers hunting, gathering food and soaking in the curative waters of the local mineral springs. They left the Yampa Valley in the winters to follow their food sources to lower elevations and milder climates.

Though contact with the earliest settlers in the Yampa Valley was considered peaceful, as more settlers arrived in the Yampa Valley and demands on the land increased, conflicts arose. The Ute tribes of Colorado were forcibly removed by the U.S government to reservations in the 1880s.

Today, there are three separate Ute reservations throughout Colorado and Utah: the Uintah-Ouray, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute reservations.

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