Blessings and gratitude were given in the Southern Ute Tribal Council chambers on Monday, Nov. 5., and again on Tuesday, Nov. 13 as the annual cultural hunts began. Tribal Council hosted the Pueblos of Laguna and Tesuque to come and hunt on the reservation to harvest deer. “This started years and years ago [when] we authorized our neighbors from New Mexico to come up and hunt on our land,” Councilwoman Pearl Casias shared. “It’s a good way of showing what we have in abundance to share with our people, because we are all one people.”
In many tribes across the Southwest, the deer are used in ceremonies for their cultural importance and are often butchered to get the most use out of the different parts.
Since the early 2000’s the Tribe has hosted varying Pueblos to hunt on the Southern Ute lands for cultural hunting purposes. This opportunity is made available because these tribes are either lacking the land or do not have an excess of wildlife.
“This year we brought our youth to experience the harvest and we have brought some religious leaders, so they can pass on some knowledge to the youth,” Pueblo of Laguna Governor, Virgil A. Siow said. “For some of the children here today, this will be their first time participating in the harvest of an animal and we come in a good way with our tobacco and offerings to hopefully instill in them the importance mother nature is blessing us with.” The Laguna hunters were given ten hunting permits in total, five of which need to be female deer and five could be of either sex. On day three of their hunting trip, the hunters filled nine of their tags with a total of five bucks and four does.
In the same spirit of sharing, the pueblos of Laguna and Tesuque have opened their traditional hunting lands to Southern Ute tribal members in years past. Tribal members were given hunting permits that gave them permission to harvest: elk, pronghorn and Barbary sheep. “I know we have been doing this hunt for a long time and we’re all just very grateful,” Natural Resource Manager for the Pueblo of Laguna, Raymond Lucero stated. “We do always welcome your hunters when they come down—I hope we can keep this relationship going for years to come.”
For the cultural hunts on the Southern Ute Reservation, all hunters are held to high standards and are required to follow certain gun, permit and time regulations. The gun requirements include legal weapons only, that are a .23 caliber or higher. The hunters are given permits that are only valid on Tribal Trust Land within the Sandoval hunting unit, they are not allowed to hunt on United States Forest Service land. At all times, they must wear blaze orange or hot pink identifying hats and vests. The permits were specific to hunters and the proper tagging measures needed to be taken. All shooting must have started half an hour before sunrise and stopped half an hour after sunset.
When the hunters from the Pueblo of Tesuque arrived, they were invited to speak with the Southern Ute Tribal Council before their hunt officiated. “Always be safe out there, be smart and watch out for one another out there,” said Councilman Adam Red, who welcomed the Pueblo of Tesuque hunters. Speaking on their behalf, Former Lieutenant Governor for the Tesuque Pueblo, Travis Vigil introduced each member of their hunting party and shared gratitude for the six hunting tags given to them. They were given four days to fill the tags and by day two of their outing, the hunters left the reservation with six bucks.
The visiting hunters, families and youth of the Laguna and Tesuque Pueblos presented the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council with offerings of traditional oven bread, boxes of food and other delicacies in recognition of the Tribe’s generosity for the hunts.
“I really appreciate those of you coming, and I give you safe traveling prayers and wish you all a good hunt,” said Councilwoman Casias.