The second annual Culture Ranger Camp kicked off this year at the Southern Ute Youth Camp near Lake Capote. Southern Ute children spent three days together cultivating and learning new ways to practice and preserve aspects of their Ute culture. The first ranger camp was held in 2018 and plans have been made to hold the camp year after year by the Southern Ute Education and Culture departments, working with the Applied Archaeology International group, all in an effort to keep culture alive. The camp encouraged all youth participants to learn more about cultural respect and Ute heritage.
“This camp has been beneficial for the kids, not only are they learning about the land, they’re finding out more about who they are,” Southern Ute Education Director, LaTitia Taylor stated about the camp being in its second year of operation. The ranger camp spanned from Friday, Oct. 4 through Sunday, Oct. 6 and was open to all enrolled Southern Ute tribal members and descendants ages 13-18 years old.
The camp took six young tribal members out to the Chimney Rock Area to join a group of archaeologists from the ‘Applied Archaeology International’ (AAI) program. The AAI group spent the first evening getting to know the campers and sharing project ideas and activities that were planned. They also shared cross cultural stories. The AAI managing director, David Guilfoyle is from Australia and shared that he is, “committed to applying collaborative approaches, that benefit in proper heritage management — that engages different projects from around the world focused in partnerships.”
The following days of the ranger camp were filled with flint knapping projects that the boys participated in with Southern Ute elder, Ernest “Muz” Pinnecoose that were eventually leading up to the construction of their very own arrows. Campers that opted out of the flint knapping were able to paint and design parfleche pieces that would then be made into medallions with the help of Southern Ute Education Youth Employment Aide, Alicia “AJ” Nequatewa.
Campers were instructed to rest up and pack up camp to make the drive back home on Sunday. Of course, the camp wouldn’t be complete without the exploration of Lake Capote’s famous Chimney Rock National Monument, the kids along with Education department staff and the AAI hiked three miles up the monument on the final day of camp. To end the already adventure filled weekend, the campers discovered an unexcavated archaeological site that was full of pottery shards and ancient artifacts.
The camp is made possible through funding of the AAI group and is expected to continue next year. “The ultimate goal is to get these kids excited about protecting cultural sites—by giving the youth an opportunity to be involved, ensures future conservation leaders who will make historical and cultural connections to their lands,” Guilfoyle expressed.
All the activities the campers participated in had a mixture of hands-on learning, cultural lessons, and archaeological teachings. “The camp was nothing like I expected—it was fascinating and the activities helped us make discoveries alongside archeologists,” Culture Ranger Camper, Marcus Archuleta stated. “The camp even helped me learn more about my family—it was also a good time getting away from the city and getting to connect to nature.”
All the campers were encouraged to ask questions and push their learning abilities as students; because ultimately this camp is meant to help them discover tangible and social skills that will lead to the preservation of their Ute heritage.