A quiet blessing ceremony took place on Wednesday, March 21 at the Southern Ute Museum to properly welcome home a time worn Southern Ute Indian headdress.
Southern Ute Cultural Education Coordinator, Hanley Frost Sr. was the conductor of the welcoming blessing and ceremony. There was a drum group in attendance which consisted of three tribal members, Councilmen Alex Cloud, Singers Rodney Red and Kyle Thompson who sang the blessing song for the headdress.
The Southern Ute Museum is treating this as a culturally sensitive object, meaning only men will handle the headdress. For this reason, Tribal member and former Southern Ute Museum employee Daniel Rohde accepted the headdress on behalf of the Southern Ute Tribe.
Representatives of the Southern Ute Police Department (SUPD) were in attendance as well, they showed their respects by wearing Class A police uniforms and helped with bringing the headdress into the museum.
The headdress became shared knowledge when an anonymous community member returned the Southern Ute headdress to the Southern Ute Police Department where an undisclosed officer accepted the headdress.
After the headdress was accepted, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) sent Special Agent, John Fryer to take the headdress into protection. Fryer helped develop the Amnesty Program and worked with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation (NAGPR) in 2004.
The headdress has remained with BIA law enforcement until recently. On March 21, the headdress returned to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, which is where the headdress originated from.
The headdress was returned to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe through the Amnesty Program. The Amnesty Program was created by BIA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2004. It is a program that was started to allow individuals to return cultural items without prosecution. The program proved to be very successful in four states: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona — with many cultural objects returning to the originating tribes.
The headdress had been kept in Albuquerque, N.M. with the BIA until last week. Because the headdress was returned under the Amnesty Program, no charges and no prosecutions were enforced for the homecoming of the cultural object.
After the blessing ceremony, the appropriate paperwork was signed and filed for the transfer of ownership by the SUPD, the Southern Ute Museum and the BIA.
The headdress will be housed at the Southern Ute museum, where a condition report will be completed. “A condition report consists of a thorough description and it will determine the state of health the object is in,” Southern Ute Museum Director Linda Baker said.
After the condition report is completed, the headdress will be put in a freeze rotation. “The freeze rotation will eliminate any spiders, eggs and bugs that may have been on the object…it will also protect the rest of the items in the [permanent] collection,” explains Southern Ute Museum Curator, Cheyenne Caraway.
A home for the headdress will be made at the Southern Ute Museum, in the permanent collection for the public to view in the future.