Silverton students get firsthand lesson in Ute culture

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The class of students visited the museum to talk about “identity” and how the Utes and other Native American cultures adapted to the shifting world as history moved forward.
Silverton students give their full attention as they are treated with traditional songs and stories that welcomed their visit.
Nathan Strong Elk, executive director of the Southern Ute Indian Cultural Center and Museum, discusses with the Silverton Elementary School the traditions and history surrounding the Ute culture.
Shirley Cloud Lane, education coordinator of the cultural center, gives a description regarding Ute history, crafts, and how most Native American cultures view the Earth as an associated circle of life.
Seamus Garvin, Silverton Elementary student, listens closely to the topics of Ute culture being told. These topics included the importance of oral tradition – talking with family, telling stories, and being connected with each other through voice.
Tallas Cantsee of the Southern Ute Indian Culture Center and Museum opens up to the students about Native American history, his experience growing up as a native, and how the culture is preserved through the traditions of hunting, powwows, and special ceremonies including the Bear Dance.
The Silverton students express great interest in the topics by continually asking questions and giving their personal perception.
Keith Thompson of the cultural center discusses the relationships between the various bands of Ute, where they reside, and how they are related with one another.
A Silverton student studies a book of written notes. Gathering information from primary sources, including vivid imagery is the key intent of the visit.
Silverton students look over each other’s summaries after a lecture.
After a brief outing inside the museum, the students gather themselves as they prepare for their departure home, but not after obtaining newly developed knowledge regarding Ute culture and history.
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
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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.”

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