Ute dance performance returns culture, tradition to Steamboat, Yampa Valley

A dancer performs at last year’s Ute Indian Powwow Dance Performance and Presentation, which was held at the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium. This year’s powwow will offer performances at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, in the high school auditorium, and it’s free.
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The colors, traditions and culture of the Ute Indians will come to life on stage at the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium next week in an event that is becoming an annual tradition.

“We want to create engaging exhibits, programs and events that provide opportunities for local residents and visitors to learn about the history first-hand through the Ute people themselves,” said Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs.

“A lot of the time when we are teaching history, we are talking about things of the past,” Bannister explained. “I can’t bring James Crawford back to talk to you about his story, although we have it recorded in a lot of places. In the case of the Utes, they are a vibrant, modern community, and their ancestors live on, and their traditions and culture are very much alive. So, bringing that here is, I think, one of the museum’s greatest privileges.”

The Ute Indian Powwow Dance Performance and Presentation will include two performances at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium. Students from the Uintah River High School’s Nah-Na-Mah Culture Club will perform the dances.

“A part of why we do this is to show people that we still participate in our cultural traditions,” said Kea Tarness, a Ute Indian Tribe tutor and mentor who travels with the group. “A powwow is not only a Ute tradition. It bands out to the other tribes, as well. We just go out and show our part of the tradition.”

Tarness said the group will include between 10 and 12 dancers. They will not only perform the powwow dances next Thursday night but will visit Soda Creek Elementary School the next morning.

“The demonstrations are purposed for the educational purposes of other people,” Tarness said. “A powwow is considered a celebration of us still being here. We sing, we dance and do little games.”

If you go

What: Ute Indian Powwow Dance and Presentation
When: 5 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16. 
Where: Steamboat Springs High School auditorium, 45 E. Maple St.
Cost: Free

Bannister said the event started at the library several years ago, but she quickly realized the powwow needed a larger space.

“That is why we moved it to the high school, so everybody can see and have a great seat,” Bannister said. “Between the two performances, I don’t think anybody should have a hard time finding a seat. It’s full, but there are usually seats, and that’s why we hold it there.”

“This event allows us to come together to experience a part of our culture in powwow dancing,” Tarness said. “The students love to dance, and they love to go to different places to perform … and to help keep our traditions alive.”

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

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