Fri Jun 23rd, 2017
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
“It’s important to learn who we are,” Ute Mountain Ute elder Betty Howe said in her opening remarks. Addressing students gathered together from across all three Ute tribes for the 4th annul Tri-Ute Leadership Conference in Durango, Colo. The educational conference was held on the Fort Lewis College (FLC) Campus from June 11-14.
Held every other year, the 2017 Tri-Ute Leadership Conference championed the theme: Proud to be Ute.
Sponsored by all three Ute tribes, each year one tribe takes the lead. This year the Southern Ute Tribe hosted the conference in Southwest Colorado, returning it to FLC, where it first started in 2011. Since that time, venues have included Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
Tuesday’s Keynote Speaker, Tanaya Winder, who is Shoshone and Southern Ute, encouraged the students with words of advice. Winder is also the Director of the Upward Bound Program for the University of Colorado Boulder.
“It’s important to celebrate where we are at the moment,” Winder said. “Ask yourself what makes you happy, ask yourself what your good at — know that each of you have a gift.”
Winder, who is an accomplished poet and presenter, shared her own poetry with the students. Delivering her poetry in the form of spoken word, her message reflected the hardships one must overcome on the path to adulthood, and the importance of friendship and community as Native people. “Home is always with you,” she said.
“I got to where I am in life by taking advantage of every opportunity that was handed to me,” Winder said.
Throughout the week, the Ute students worked together in group settings, while also participating in cultural activities such as a traditional hand game tournament and a cultural Bear Dance presentation.
Family trees and genealogy were emphasized. “We are a combination [of ancestry] — find out who you are,” Betty Howe said, “Our culture has to continue, it’s who you are and they can’t take that from you.”
The Ute Mountin Ute elder sounded off the names of animals in the Ute Language, one after another — eagle, horse, turtle, wolf and fish. The students repeated those names out loud — porcupine, buffalo, and elk.
“Lots of stories about the wolf and the coyote,” Howe said. These animals have a special significance in Ute culture.
Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Prisllena Lopez asked, “When do you become a leader? My Grandfather used to say, when you take that first breath.”
“Leadership is about inspiring, leading people,” Lopez said. “To be a leader is to be honest, humble.”
“Dream big,” she said.
The students busied themselves with numerous projects, including the task of creating ‘zines’ under the guidance of Martha McComber, an Education Specialist for University of Utah. McComber works with the Ute Tribe on a regular basis and provided Fujifilm instax cameras to each group to help create materials for their zines. The zines are self-publications, usually motivated by a desire for self-expression, each one taking anywhere from an afternoon to a number of weeks to create and publish.