‘Pino Nuche’ honor the bear through dance

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Students of the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy have the honor of dancing the first dance, a tradition at the Southern Ute Bear Dance and an integral part of the cultural component emphasized through the Montessori program. The young students spend weeks, if not months in preparation, often sewing their own moccasins and decorating their Bear Dance regalia together in the classroom.
Young boys take their place at the growler box, where they learn to sing the traditional Bear Dance songs at an early age.
In the Bear Dance, even the youngest of dancers often pair up or ‘break’ with their dance partners during the final days of the spring celebration.
Southern Ute elder and Air Force Veteran, Austin Box (far right) never misses a chance to Bear Dance in Ignacio, alongside family and friends.
Southern Ute Bear Dance Chief Matthew Box keeps a watchful eye on the Bear Dance, as partners break out and fill the corral on Monday afternoon.
Ornate designs, vibrant colors and delicate fringe give each shawl a unique character, women traditionally pick their partners with a flick of their shawl. Women face west, facing their partners in the line dance.
Southern Ute elder, Ula Gregory dances against the growler box for a special honor song.
Feeling the rhythm of the Bear Dance songs, a young boy sits amongst his elders on the first day of the dance.
Southern Ute elder Eddie Box Jr. (far right) and Sam Maez teach the younger boys the ways of the Bear dance through song.
Jake Ryder give his son Reggie a chance to sit against the growler box as the first songs of the season are shared at the Bear Dance on Friday morning.
Bear Dancers find the music and enjoy the cool dancing weather at the Southern Ute Bear Dance.
Gerald Howe and partner kick up the dust with their fancy Bear Dance moves.
Lexy Young and her partner navigate through the dancers at the Southern Ute Bear Dance.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Trennie Collins | The Southern Ute Drum
Trennie Collins | The Southern Ute Drum
Trennie Collins | The Southern Ute Drum
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Memorial Day weekend marks the annual Bear Dance on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, a spring celebration that brings the Ute tribes together in this four-day ceremony, Friday, May 24 — Monday, May 27, honoring the bear. Held against the backdrop of the Pine River, under the shade of cottonwood trees, the Bear Dance kicks off Friday morning with a prayer and opening dance by the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy students. The celebrations culminate on Monday evening when the signers sing the ending song, and dancers take part in the endurance dance to close the Bear Dance until next spring.

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