Sister tribes gather for Bear Dance

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Adorned with brightly colored shawls, women lined the Bear Dance corral in a circular fashion — dancing for an Honor Song in recognition of Father’s Day.
The Southern Ute Bear Dance was held in Ignacio, Friday, June 18 — Monday, June 21. 
Health and safety remain a top priority for the Tribe, while still upholding culturally important Ute ceremonies such as the Bear Dance and upcoming Sundance.
The Tribe screened visitors upon entry, checking temperatures and vaccination cards of participants and spectators throughout the long weekend.
Young dancers filled the Bear Dance corral throughout the weekend; socializing is a key aspect of the Ute Bear Dance.
Ute Indian Tribe’s Bear Dance singers, Raffel and Antonio “A.J.” Kanip, joined by Daniel Cesspooch — the Utah singers made their way down from the U&O Reservation in Fort Duchesne.
Lexy Young and Terry Knight Jr. partner up for a song; at the discretion of Southern Ute Bear Dance Chief, Matthew Box, cutting was only allowed by dancers on the final day of the Southern Ute Bear Dance.
Fathers of all ages and backgrounds stepped in unison during a special honor song, sung by the Ute Indian Tribe’s Bear Dance singers, Antonio “A.J.” and Raffel Kanip in recognition of Father’s Day.
Bear Dance singers from Towaoc — Terry Knight Jr., singing alongside his father, Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance Chief Terry Knight Sr. and Lyndreth Wall. 
Young women step forward, eager to pick a new partner. The women wait for the sound of growlers to resonate on metal, at which time they can select a partner for the next dance.
Record heat did not deter dancers from participating in the four-day spring ceremony, which was closed to the public in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic.
Southern Ute tribal members, Hunter Frost (far left) and Jonas Naneato (center) partner up for the line dance.
Catman — Nathan Strong Elk, keep a sharp eye on dancers, making sure that lines are straight and cultural protocols are adhered to throughout the weekend.
Southern Ute tribal member, Hunter Frost, dressed to impress for the final day of Bear Dance.
Catman, Marvin Pinnecoose, helped to keep the Bear Dance lines straight during the long, hot weekend in Ignacio.
The Bear Dance took place in June this year, and drew Ute relatives from sister tribes in Utah and Colorado for the four day ceremony.
The Catman make a deep cut in the earth, setting men and women up for line dancing.
Singers bring Bear Dance songs back to life each spring, upholding the longstanding Ute tradition of passing cultural knowledge on to the younger generations.
Romeo Bravo takes his place at the growler box; younger singers will sit in on songs, learning to sing from their elders and relatives in the process.
Newborn, Adonis Maez, sleeps to the sound of bear dance songs in his cradleboard, parents Belicia Posey-Maez (pictured) and Alyas Maez, spent the weekend at the Southern Ute Bear Dance with their families.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
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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.

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