Ute Nations Day honors Bear Dance Chiefs

Matthew Box and his father Eddie Box Jr. share a laugh before they sing Bear Dance songs at the Ute Nations Day event.
Special guest speaker and tribal elder, Eddie Box Jr. shares a story with the Ute Nation Days audience.
Jr. Miss Southern Ute Autumn Sage and Miss Southern Ute Lorraine Watts present Bear Dance Chief, Matthew Box with a certificate and gift on Ute Nations Day
To close the Ute Nations Day event, all Bear Dance Chiefs were asked to sing together.
Bear Dance Chief, Matthew Box sings a couple rounds of Bear Dance songs with individuals from the Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

“As Ute tribes get ready for the Bear Dance, remember that this is a tradition and a culture we teach our young children that they will pass on, may your day be blessed with happy memories…Tog’oiak’,” Southern Ute Chairman Christine Sage stated during her welcoming address to all in attendance at Ute Nations Day.

True to tradition, the annual Ute Nations Day brought the three sister tribes; Ute Indian, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute together to honor past and present Bear Dance Chiefs.

After being reestablished by the Southern Ute Cultural Department in 2011, Ute Nations Day has honored: tribal elders, veterans, law enforcment, royalty and councilwomen. All past Ute Nation Days have honored individuals who have contributed to the three Ute tribes in aspects of Ute life, culture, government and service.

At this year’s celebration, each tribe’s Bear Dance Chiefs and their families were the center of attention. The event was hosted on Thursday, May 24 in the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility.

Guest speaker and Southern Ute tribal elder, Eddie Box Jr. shares a story of his earliest memory of the Bear Dance in the early 1950’s. “My dad would go through a lot of preparations before everybody came; all the prayers and all the things that had to be taken care of were done,” Box said. He remembers being a young kid and before going down to the Bear Dance grounds his mother would cook potatoes and spam to give them energy through the day. He spoke of the excitement that would take over everyone, as they begin to dress in their Bear Dance regalia.

The Chiefs from the Ute Indian Tribe included: Albert Cornpeach, Paul LaRose, Henry Cesspooch, Skylar Lomahaftewa, Lloyd Arrive, Antonio J (AJ) Kanip, Reffel Kanip, Serenus Kanip and Rudy Myore. The families or representatives of Wallace Tabbee, Milton Arrats, Pete Mountainsheep, Lorrain Post, Milton Jenkins, Billy Chapoose, Jim Wash Accawanna, Leroy Toponotes Sr., Ray Taveapont, Henry Cesspooch, Jensen Jack, Albert Arrats, Franklin McCook, Hank LaRose, Alloin Myore, Cotonuts, Julius Sireech, Amos Perank, Wallace Jack, Guy Pinnecoose Sr., smitty Chimburas, Paul Cornpeach and Sidney Atwine were honored with certificates and gifts as well.

Current Southern Ute Bear Dance Chief, Matthew Box was honored with a certificate and bag of goodies by members of the Southern Ute royalty. Rudley Weaver, and the sub-chiefs Jake Ryder and Jon Chavarillo were presented with gifts as well as the families of Eddie Box Sr., Gerald Howe, Julius Cloud, Ralph Cloud, Bird Red, Ernest Burch, Harry Richards, Bonnie Kent and Graves Kent.

From the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; Terry Knight Sr., Farley Ketchum Sr., Mark Wing, Austin Jacket, Carl Cuthair Jr., Terry Knight Jr., Scott Jacket III and Boyd Lopez each received a certificate and gift from the Southern Ute Culture Department.

Honorary Bear Dance Chiefs, Ira Cuthair and Thomas House Sr. were presented with gifts as well on Ute Nations Day.

Honorees from White Mesa were given certificates and gifts, their chiefs consisted of Jack Cantsee Sr., Jack Cantsee Jr., Harry Lang, David Wells, Edward Dutchie and Myers Cantsee.

The families of Homer Tom, Gerald Ketchum, Carl Cuthair Sr., Gilbert Dutchie, Arthur Dutchie, John Wing, Vernon Dutchie, John Miller, Mr. Coyote, Jack House, Nathan Wing, Bill Gunn, Charlie Knight, Scott Jacket Sr., Louie Hamlin, Hall Taylor, Henry Jacket Sr. and Jacob Lopez were all honored at the Ute Nations celebration.

“I’m in this for the people and it’s a really tough job, but I feel good about it because it helps us rejuvenate.” Bear Dance Chief Matthew Box stated while reminiscing about the times his grandfather would talk with him about the importance of being Ute and keeping those traditions alive.

As Ute Nations Day came to a close, all the Bear Dance Chiefs in attendance made their way over to the growling boxes set up in a half circle in the corner of the Multi-Purpose Facility to sing one song. As they began to sing, the audience members all quiet down and it seemed as though everyone started to move to the rhythm.

One song turns into many — making it harder and harder to keep from dancing, the singers start to pick up the pace and sing round after round of bear dance songs. When the last song is sung, the groans of protest can be heard, but the excitement of opening day for the Southern Ute Bear Dance can be felt in the air as people pack up and head outside, bringing this year’s Ute Nations Day event to a close.


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