Jeeping in Ouray, Colorado

Bailey here –

I promised to show you Ouray, Colorado, so here goes. I loved Ouray! What a gorgeous little town that seemed to me to be a caldera (volcano) surrounded by steep mountains on all sides. Why else would there be a hot springs and a hot river flowing through it?

Centuries before white men arrived, the Tabeguache Utes, a nomadic Indian tribe, traveled to Ouray in the summer months to hunt game and soak in the “sacred miracle waters”. They knew the springs that simmer beneath much of Ouray were therapeutic. The town’s original name was “Uncompahgre,” the Ute word for “hot water springs” and the hot river running through town is called the Uncompaghre River.

The Utes served as guides for expeditions crossing the southern Rockies in the 1700s. Spanish explorers named the rugged mountain range the San Juan Mountains, but the Spaniards weren’t interested in settling such a harsh and unforgiving environment. It was the miners, flooding the region in the late 1800’s in search of silver and gold, who’d forever change the face of the San Juans. In fact, many of the roads we jeeped on were access routes that miners made over a hundred years ago.

In 1873, the famous Ute Chief, Ouray, reluctantly signed a government treaty releasing the Ute’s treasured San Juan Mountains to encroaching settlers. The town, officially incorporated in 1876, was named in Ouray’s honor. Although the locals say it ‘you-ray’ not ‘ew-ray’ and they’ll correct you. In its first year, 400 struggling inhabitants forged their way through the long frozen winter and eagerly greeted spring with its blooming alpine flowers, rushing brooks and gentle mountain rains.

By 1880 with the frenzy for precious metals, Ouray had grown into a booming mining town with over 2,600 inhabitants. The town included a school, several churches, a hospital, restaurants, saloons and brothels, hardware, clothing and supply stores for the miners, hotels and boarding houses. By 1888, the town would celebrate the arrival of the Denver Rio Grande Railroad. Less than five years later, the value of silver fell drastically challenging the resolve of Ouray’s residents.

As you can see, the jeeping was beautiful and amazing. And the guys had lots of fun. I love to watch guys in their Jeeps try to conquer an insurmountable pass. Sometimes they even make it! And it sure makes for some great pics.

We made it to several summits, saw glacier lakes, awesome storms, and lots of marmots (big rodents). The wildflowers this year were incredible. It’s not like this every year and I felt very special to be able to see them in their glory. It was definitely an epic summer vacation!

Oh, and don’t forget you can click on any picture to see a bigger version of it.

Southern Ute Cultural Information

Bailey here – 

I got a little busy last week because of some tough classes and lots of homework, but I’m back. I promised to tell you about the Ute Cultural Center, the Casino – and the Southern Ute Drum, and I always keep my promises. 

Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum 

The Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum is a culmination of more than 24 years of planning and development by the Southern Ute people – many of whom participated by sharing their stories, Ute artifacts, photos, clothing and beading. This beautiful architectural masterpiece will be a focus for Southern Ute cultural preservation, education and community activities for people of all ages. 

As you can see in the photo, the Museum’s central Welcome Gallery represents the shape and texture of the traditional wickiup. Each panel in the Gallery is unique – with its own shape and curve – so that only with computer aided design was this structure made possible. The two wings of the building look raised and ready for flight – symbolizing of the wings of the sacred eagle. 

Seen from within the Welcome Gallery – at the top of the wickuip – is the Circle of Life Window. It represents the four sacred directions, and the four stages of human life. East is infancy, South is youth, West is adult, and North is the elderly stage of life. 

This amazing Museum is not yet open, but is almost ready to take flight. 

The Circle of Life Worldwide Welcome at the Museum takes place on May 21-22, 2011. The Museum is scheduled to be open to the public in June 2011. 

Check out the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum at http://www.succm.org/ 

Sky Ute Casino 

The Sky Ute Casino – next door to the Cultural Center and Museum – is a luxury hotel and casino. Slot machines, craps, roulette, bingo, blackjack and poker await those who are ‘of age.’ Of course I can’t gamble yet – not old enough – but they have an indoor swimming pool with a sun deck, a bowling alley, miniature golf and a state-of-the-art arcade. And the casino boasts five different restaurants. Yum! 

Check out the Sky Ute Casino at http://www.skyutecasino.com

Southern Ute Drum  – Tribal Newspaper 

The Southern Ute Drum newspaper – which won four 2010 Native American Journalist Association Awards – is the Tribe’s bi-weekly newspaper. Within its pages you can find cultural news, coverage of cultural events, and pictures of the beautiful Ute people. There are also sections on hunting, sports, education, the Tribal government, business and health. 

Check out the Southern Ute Drum at http://www.southern-ute.nsn.us/DRUM/Default.htm.

Southern Ute Tribe

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

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/

The Southern Ute Indians

Bailey here – 

So you know I live in Durango, Colorado, but I bet you didn’t know that the Southern Ute Indians are the oldest continuous residents of Colorado and the Durango area. Long ago, the Southern Utes were hunter/gatherers and exceptional artists.

They made gorgeous pipe bags and horse bags beaded with beautiful sacred symbols. And they shaved amazing pictures into animal hides to decorate personal and ceremonial dwellings. The Southern Ute headquarters is now located in Ignacio, Colorado – about 25 miles from Durango – on the Southern Ute Reservation. 

One of the things I love about the Southern Ute Tribe is that they still hold traditional ceremonies and festivals – like the Bear Dance, the Sun Dance, and the Pow Wow. And I hope they always do. I love watching the Native dancers, and hearing the drums and the singers. I love the old ways, the old language and the traditions. They’re so beautiful. 

The thing I love about different cultures is, well, they’re different. I don’t want everybody to be the same. How boring. For instance, I for one would love it if all Native guys still wore their hair the traditional way – long. Come on, girls love that. So, Native guys, grow your hair! Wear it flowing over your shoulders, back in a band, or in traditional braids – I’m not picky. I just love long, dark hair. 

For me, Durango wouldn’t be the same without the Native influences. Nor would it have its rich and colorful history. Next time I’ll talk about the Southern Ute Bear Dance, Sun Dance and the Pow Wow.

In the mean time, feel free to check out the outstanding Southern Ute website at: http://www.southern-ute.nsn.us/