The Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum will honor Southern Ute elder Bennett Thompson for his dedication to preserving Ute culture.
The museum will be presenting Thompson with a plaque commemorating all he has done for the museum, Shirley Cloud-Lane, acting executive director of the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum, said.
“On behalf of the museum we are honoring him for his commitment to the building of the cultural center and his donation of personal items, as well as his cultural outreach to the surrounding communities,” Cloud-Lane said.
Thompson, who has sat on the museum board for over 22 years, has donated over 20 of his personal items to the museum, Cloud-Lane said.
Cloud-Lane and Thompson first met in 2004 while she was working at the Smithsonian’s Institutions National Museum of American Indians in Washington, D.C.
“That’s when I noticed his passion for getting the Ute story out,” she said. “Everyone was really impressed with his passion with the Ute culture.”
Robert Burch, museum board chairman, said Thompson has had the vision of a state-of-the-art museum for years.
“It was Bennett’s idea to get this museum started,” Burch said. “Bennett told me, ‘we should just have someone build us a museum, so our kids and everyone will remember us.”
Burch remembers himself and Thompson taking numerous trips across the country to visit museums as part of the planning process. Thompson was also involved in picking the architect that designed the museum.
“He was a driving force,” Burch said.
Bennett was inspired by the National Museum of American Indians and aspired the Southern Ute’s to have a quality museum, Cloud-Lane said.
“He brought his vision of the Southern Ute Museum to a realization,” she said.
The Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum was opened in 2011, and according to Cloud-Lane the museum is, “NMAI quality.”
Thompson will be honored at the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum later this month.