Many kids grow up in the Four Corners area without ever learning much in school about the American Indian tribes that have called this region home for centuries.
That wasn’t the case for Kylee Shipp’s elementary class, which paid a visit to the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
The class of young learners came from Silverton Elementary School to expand their knowledge about the Ute people and American Indian culture.
“All of our literacy is taught through science and social studies,” Shipp said as her students wandered through the museum. “We go deeper into case studies, our first being about the indigenous era.”
Shipp explained how getting knowledge from primary sources benefits students.
“We’ve been studying Ute history through sources of art, text, and quotes,” she said. “[Coming to the museum], the students are able to talk to people of the Ute culture and get some imagery regarding the topics.”
The group was greeted with a traditional song performed by Nathan Strong Elk, acting executive director of the museum. The students’ primary focus dealt with how natives identify themselves in the modern world.
“Identity is the key term for this visit,” Shipp said. “We want the students to learn how people are preserving history and tradition with a modern lifestyle. We analyzed paintings of the Bear Dance and Sun Dance and pulled meanings from it. [Additionally], we read some first-person articles and analyzed quotes from elders.”
Shirley Cloud Lane, the museum’s education coordinator, addressed the students about how American Indians view the Earth as a connected circle of life.
“We’re all a part of one circle,” Lane said. “There is life connected in everything, and we respect that.”
Cloud Lane showed examples of beadwork, native attire and photographs to the bunch.
Anthony Porambo, marketing intern with the museum, discussed with the students being part of the Shawnee tribe from Oklahoma and the similarities with the Utes.
“There are ceremonies we partake in to show appreciation of life,” he said. “The Utes have the Bear Dance and Sun Dance. In the spring, the Shawnee have the Bread Dance. It’s our way of being honorable.”
Porambo discussed his experience being a part of the Ute community.
“The Ute people are like family to me,” he said. “I may not be a tribal member, but I am treated as if I am one.”
Seamus Garvin, a Silverton Elementary student, expressed what he learned most during the visit.
“I learned more about how [the Ute people] think of themselves and how they identify with the things around them,” he said. “They see life as a circle and focus on connecting with each other.”
Garvin went on to compliment the museum and staff.
“I really loved the architecture of the museum as well as the greeting song,” he said. “It was very welcoming and made me happy to be here. … I would certainly visit again. I like the story behind [the tribe] and its meaning. Their decisions and ideas as a whole are good, and I like how they have a good relationship with everyone.”