Museum welcomes new year with sunrise ceremony

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The sun rises through the bristles of a pine on the south side of the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum on Saturday, Jan. 4.
Larry Tucker (right) tells a story from his past as fellow storyteller and Southern Ute elder Jim Jefferson listens following the sunrise ceremony at the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum on Saturday, Jan. 4.
Ace Stryker | Southern Ute Drum
Ace Stryker | Southern Ute Drum
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The Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum welcomed the new year with traditional drum songs and a blessing as the sun rose over the ridge to the east on Saturday, Jan. 4.

About 40 people braved the cold for the 7 a.m. ceremony, which took place on the plaza on the museum’s south side. Nathan Strong Elk, the museum’s acting executive director, said it was a powerful ceremony “signifying a fresh start, new year, with the support of the tribe.”

“It was awesome and very spiritual,” he said.

This was the second year the museum hosted such an event, but the first year the public was invited to attend. Last year, Strong Elk said he and Hanley Frost conducted a private blessing.

Strong Elk said the ceremony has cultural significance going back generations.

“Traditionally, we’re supposed to get up early every morning and greet the sun,” he said. “Now, because people have their jobs and these different things … it’s kind of harder to do that every day.”

Following the ceremony, the museum hosted a storytelling event featuring Larry Tucker and Southern Ute elder Jim Jefferson. Each talked about their past and lessons learned over a lifetime of experience.

“Traditionally we tell stories in the wintertime,” Strong Elk said. “That’s something we want to focus on more in the years to come in the winter.”

The museum hopes to make the sunrise ceremony an annual event, Strong Elk said.

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