Tales from the Tread: Museum opens new Ute exhibit

Photo Credit: Colorado History

The Tread of Pioneers Museum and History Colorado have partnered to present a new Ute heritage exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. 

The “Ute Knowledge: Colorado’s Original Science Technology, Engineering, and Math” exhibit opened June 20 and tells the story of how the Ute Indians have used science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to survive and thrive in the Rocky Mountains. The Ute people are Colorado’s longest continuous residents, and prospered here through their deep understanding of, and connection to, the Colorado landscape and environment. 

The exhibit, on loan from History Colorado, includes maps of Ute homelands, historic and contemporary photos, and a video monitor with nine short films highlighting collaborative field work to study Ute shelters, ethnobotany, and rock art in 2017 and 2018. In the videos, Ute elders, Ute youth, and scientists discuss the connections between Ute knowledge and STEM. The project includes field work, programs, exhibits, and films, and builds on over 20 years of collaboration between the three Ute Indian tribes, scientists, and History Colorado museums, and was funded by the National Science Foundation. 

“History Colorado is thrilled that the Tread of Pioneers Museum is leading conversations in the Yampa Valley about the Ute peoples’ traditional ecological knowledge,” said Shannon Voirol of History Colorado.  “By sharing the Ute Knowledge exhibition that History Colorado co-created with the three Ute tribes, the Tread of Pioneers Museum is showing their audiences how Ute elders and Ute youth continue to use engineering and botany, for example, in their everyday lives. We’re thankful for this partnership with Tread of Pioneers Museum and look forward to more collaborations in the future.” 

The exhibit will be greatly enjoyed by families and kids, where they can explore hands-on activities, such as engineering a stick shelter, creating a beadwork pattern, testing woven materials, and matching plants with their uses. These interactive elements allow visitors to experience how Ute people might have solved problems in the past and still do today. 

The exhibit will be on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum through May 2025. The museum also uses Ute STEM educational kits, developed and distributed by History Colorado, to teach local youth about Ute heritage. The kits are just one area of Ute heritage education offered by the museum to local students, campers, and summer programs, and features artifacts, photos, and other materials to engage students in hands-on interactive learning. 

“We are continually seeking ways to engage and educate our local community and visitors about Ute heritage and culture, as the Utes are the Yampa Valley’s original inhabitants,” said Candice Bannister, Executive Director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “Through this exhibit, we can rely on History Colorado’s expertise and collaborations with the Ute tribes to share what is meaningful to the Ute people. This exhibit is a wonderful addition to all of the museum’s permanent exhibits, programs, and events that focus on Ute and Indigenous history and culture.” 

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