Utes take Bear Dance to Washington, D.C.

Southern Ute women visit the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C. Thursday, July 13 as part of a cultural presentation. (left to right) Bertha Box, Aislinn Ryder, Jazmin Carmenoros, and Jr. Miss Southern Ute Alexandria Roubideaux.
Southern Ute Bear Dance singers perform traditional Bear Dance songs for the 8th annual Living Earth Festival in Washington, D.C. Thursday, July 13.
Members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe invite participants to join in on the Bear Dance during their presentation at the Living Earth Festival. Dances and cultural performances were held inside the National Museum of the American Indian July.
Southern Ute Little Brave, Dominik Goodtracks introduces himself at the Living Earth Festival.
Representatives from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe take in the sights along the National Mall in Washington D.C. Saturday, July 15 during their attendance of the 8th annual Living Earth Festival.
Aislinn Ryder dances with her partner during the Bear Dance demonstrations held as part of a cultural exchange in Washington, D.C.
Kree Lopez | Southern Ute Cultural Dept.
Kree Lopez | Southern Ute Cultural Dept.
Kree Lopez | Southern Ute Cultural Dept.
Kree Lopez | Southern Ute Cultural Dept.
Kree Lopez | Southern Ute Cultural Dept.
Richard Jefferson | Special to the Drum

Delegations of Utes have traveled to this nation’s capital for decades. The Utes’ purpose on this trip is different, not to walk the halls of congress, but to share. The 8th Annual Living Earth Festival at The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. was held July 13 – 16. The Utes performed the social event of the spring, the dance of the bear, for the visitors. As summer has it on the east coast it was a hot and humid day in the nation’s capital, fortunately the performances were inside, as the heat outside was unbearable. The cooperation of the Southern Ute Cultural Department, the Museum of the American Indian and the Festival Foundation brought the Southern Ute Heritage Dancers to Washington.

Standing in the center of the Potomac Atrium, the Bear Dance Chief Matthew Box informed the enthusiastic gathering of visitors about the history, origin and etiquette associated with this annual cultural event. In addition, Southern Ute Royalty was present, Little Brave, Dominick Goodtracks and Jr. Miss Southern Ute, Alexandria Roubideaux, along with them were the singers, dancers and family. Twenty-five brave travelers represented the Tribe perfectly, along with Southern Ute Cultural Department Event Coordinator, Tara Vigil.

This delegation made up of youth and elders, shared proudly the history and culture of the Utes. At the halfway point of the demonstration, the crowd was invited to participate. Now the Cat Man, Hanley Frost, had his hands full, trying to keep the line straight. The dancers of all ages enjoyed themselves. The Heritage Dancers are great ambassadors, through all the stress of travel to end up in a place you have never experienced the food, sites, language, culture, and then putting on performances two times a day for three days.

The entrance of the museum faces east. Potomac Atrium was the stage, it opens up with a dome that has allows the natural light in, as the day passes the sun projects rainbows on the walls and floor. Underneath the dome is the Circle of Life or Medicine Wheel, which is cardinal direction positioned. The entire building is remarkable and has a wonderful curvilinear structure, emphasizing curves and lines. Inspired by wind blown sandstone, surrounded by trees, flowers, edible plants, wetlands and flowing water, the site is full of history.

For over one hundred and fifty years, Utes have been going to Washington. The first Utes went in 1864, during the Ouray delegation. Now, the Southern Ute Heritage Dancers travel around the World, promoting Ute culture.

 

If you would like to be a Heritage Dancer or need more information, contact: Tara Vigil, Cultural Preservation Events Coordinator at 970-563-2984 or visit www.southernute-nsn.gov/culture-department/

For more information on the Museum of the American Indian: http://nmai.si.edu/visit/washington/ or http://nmai.si.edu/visit/newyork/

 

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