Nat’l Science Foundation awards $2.2 million to History Colorado for collaborative project on Ute Indian traditional scientific knowledge


History Colorado has been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program. The project explores the integration of Native American knowledge with Western science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“Congratulations to History Colorado on receiving recognition from the National Science Foundation,”said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “History Colorado is really leading the way in innovative methods to collaborate with the tribes, and this grant offers a terrific opportunity for teachers, students and the tribes to collaborate.”

The five­year grant will engage 128,000 STEM learners, educators, and experts across Colorado and Utah in key activities: 1) cutting­edge archaeological and ethnobotanical field work, 2) interactive exhibits and videos, 3) public programs for families and adults, 4) statewide K­12 education outreach programs, digital badges, and teacher training, and 5) findings for museums, tribes, and scientists.

Ute STEM expands on established, successful collaborations between History Colorado, the three Ute Tribes, and scientist partners. Representatives of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Southern Ute Tribe, and the Ute Indian Tribe, Uintah and Ouray Reservation will participate in and advise on all aspects of the project. The Dominguez Archaeological Group and ethnobotanist Kelly Kindscher, of University of Kansas, bring extensive experience in collaborating with Traditional Ecological Knowledge experts.

Ute STEM programs are designed to provide rural residents with increased engagement with relevant STEM experiences and opportunities to develop 21st century skills. Key audiences include Ute youth and elders at the three Ute reservations, as well as K­12 students, families, and adults in over 20 Colorado and Utah counties. The project will foster partnerships with History Colorado community museums, tribal education departments, state agencies and local school districts, libraries, museums, and environmental education organizations.

“This project offers a unique approach to interpretation of Ute history by focusing on science and acknowledging Ute use of science in conjunction with traditional knowledge,” said Ernest House Jr., Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. “The field work may interest some Ute youth in pursuing careers in science and in learning more about their own culture.”

Ute STEM will highlight Ute peoples’ systematic knowledge of plant use, engineering of wood shelters, mathematical patterns in beadwork, and sound amplification for music and dance. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples, developed from experience and passed down over the centuries. Projects like Ute STEM are advancing these TEK and western STEM fields as complementary and valuable approaches to scientific understanding. History Colorado will provide an innovative collaboration model for history museums, tribes, and scientists.


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