After holding a small intimate ceremony in the spring of 2020, the Southern Ute Bear Dance came back to Ignacio in full swing this past weekend, Friday, June 18 — Monday, June 21. The Tribe screened visitors upon entry, fully vaccinated individuals received a light blue bracelet, while unvaccinated visitors were required to check in daily for temperature checks.
Singers from the Ute sister tribes, graced the growler box each day to keep the Bear Dance music going throughout the four day ceremony. Among those were Terry Knight Jr., singing alongside his father, Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance Chief Terry Knight Sr. and Lyndreth Wall. The American Southwest experienced an unprecedented heat wave in recent days, but the warm temps did not deter singers or dancers, eager to celebrate the Bear Dance.
Brightly colored regalia, time honored songs and a strong sense of community filled the Southern Ute Bear Dance corral over the weekend, where friends and family came together to welcome spring in this Ute celebration of yearly renewal. Southern Ute Bear Dance Chief Matthew Box asked dancers to line dance throughout the weekend, breaking into pairs only in the final hours of Monday afternoon.
Traditionally the Southern Ute Bear Dance is held on the last week of May each spring, due to the pandemic those dates were pushed back to June, the weekend of Father’s Day. Ute Indian Tribe Bear Dance Chief, Antonio “AJ” Kanip, from Fort Duchesne, Utah, called on all fathers to be recognized on the final day of the Bear Dance with a special honor song. Dancers of all ages graced the Bear Dance corral over the weekend, stirring up dust and bringing much needed laughter — in true Ute fashion.