Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Colorado


The Southern Ute Tribe celebrated spring with its annual Bear Dance, a tradition that for centuries has brought Utes together to share stories and catch up with old friends. It was a time for young people of marriageable age to meet. This year, the Southern Ute Cultural Center honors the Bear Dance with an exhibit May 24 through Aug. 18. It includes mannequins in dancing clothes dancing in front of a mural of the Bear Dance. There are also pictures of former Bear Dances, a video of the event, and a diorama representing dancers inside the Bear Dance corral. Cheryl Frost, the center's acting director, said the Bear Dance represents the spring, when plants come back to life and baby animals are born after the winter. Liz Kent, center curator and collections manager, created the diorama with help from her aunt, Effie Monte, the center tour guide. Ute legend says two brothers were hunting, and one of them saw a bear dancing and making a noise by clawing a tree. The bear taught the young hunter the dance and the song, and told him to teach it to his people. The legend says that the songs show respect for the spirit of the bear, which makes one strong.