Southern Ute Bear Dance, Sun Dance and Pow Wows

Bailey here again – 

I promised to write about the Southern Ute festivals, and I always honor my promises. 

The Bear Dance 

The Bear Dance, held in the spring, is the oldest and most historic of the Southern Ute dances. Legend has it that two brothers were hunting when one of them noticed a bear doing a dance while scratching a tree. The bear taught the hunter the dance, along with songs, to take back to his people. The songs showed respect to the bear spirit, and respect to the bear spirit makes one strong. 

The Bear Dance is still celebrated today with a dance corral, drums and singing, festive costumes and good food. The women wear colorful broom skirts and shawls, many of which are homemade especially for the dance. It’s women’s choice, so the women ask the men to dance by flicking their shawls toward the men they wish to dance with. It’s a no risk proposition, since it’s against the rules for a man in the dance corral to refuse an invitation. 

Another tradition is to wear plumes during the dance. The plumes represent troubles or hardships endured over the last year. The plumes are left at the entrance of the dance corral when the dance ends to signify leaving old troubles behind and starting life anew. 

The Sun Dance

The Sun Dance, held in the middle of the summer, is the most important and sacred spiritual ceremony in the Ute tradition. The Sun Dance has two major aspects to it, the personal and the communal.

Each dancer, traditionally male, receives a command through a dream that compels him to participate in the dance. At the visible level, he goes through a rigorous fast and dances inside the Sun Dance lodge. At the spiritual level, the dancer goes through purification and attempts communion with the Great Spirit. The dancer goes through the pains and rigors of the spiritual quest alone, but he is also part of a family. And his family is there, outside of the Sun Dance lodge, to support him by singing, drumming or praying for him. 

The Sun Dance brings spiritual rejuvenation to the entire Ute community and reinforces the common spiritual power which has traditionally bound them together.

The Pow Wow

The Southern Ute Pow Wows are gatherings held throughout the year where both Native and non-Native people gather to meet, dance, sing and honor Native American culture. They are a time for Southern Ute Tribal members, and members of other Tribes throughout the country, to get together and showcase their many talents.

The Pow Wows feature dance and drum contests, often with thousands of dollars in prize money.

Here is a list of the Durango Area Pow Wows:

  • March  – Hozhoni Days Pow Wow
  • June – Sky Ute Casino Pow wow
  • September – Southern Ute Fair Pow Wow

Next time I’ll you about the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, the Sky Ute Casino, and the Southern Ute Drum.

Southern Ute Tribe

http://www.southern-ute.nsn.us/

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alexis
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 00:57:20

    I want to watch the Bear Dance! Loved this post! 🙂

    Reply

  2. tanyaspencer
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 13:51:26

    It’s really cool, Alexis. The drums, the singing and all the beautiful people! Maybe you’ll get to come here and visit one day. The Bear Dance usually happens in May. :o)

    Reply

  3. janet
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 13:25:22

    I see sundance is scheduled for july 11, 2011. Where is it held? And for how long? I have been to sundances in Canada for almost a week, I would love to attend one here

    Reply

  4. Shimon de Valencia
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 05:48:21

    Love this. Thank you Alexis. It really inspired me.

    Reply

  5. tanyaspencer
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 13:05:57

    Very cool, Shimon! Glad you enjoyed it! All the way from Australia? Wow!

    Reply

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