Tales from the Tread: Cultural exchange returns to Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com
Tread of Pioneers Museum/For Steamboat Today

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Tales from the Tread: Cultural exchange returns to Steamboat

Members of the Ute tribe demonstrate a pow wow dance during a Meeting of the Nations in New Mexico.

What: Ute Indian pow wow dance performance and history presentation

When: 5:30 p.m. May 15

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: Free

The Ute Indians, who call themselves "Nuche," meaning "the people," are Colorado's oldest documented inhabitants. Written historical records indicate specific Ute presence in the Yampa Valley since the late 1500s, though linguistic evidence indicates the 1300s.

The Ute band of the Yampa Valley and Steamboat Springs was the "Yampatika" or "Yamparica" band. They spent summers hunting game, gathering food and soaking in the curative waters of the local mineral springs. They left the Yampa Valley in the winters to follow their food sources to lower elevations and milder climates.

Though contact with the earliest settlers in the Yampa Valley was considered peaceful, as more settlers arrived and demands on the land increased, conflicts arose. The Ute tribes of Colorado were forcibly removed by the U.S government to reservations in the early 1880s. Today, there are three separate Ute reservations in Colorado and Utah: the Uintah-Ouray, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute reservations.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum collects, preserves and shares the rich heritage and history of the Steamboat Springs area. Museum staff strives to tell the story of our local heritage through the voices and perspectives of the people who lived it. It is an honor to serve as a conduit for Ute Indian cultural appreciation in our community.

In this effort, the Tread of Pioneers Museum creates opportunities for local residents and visitors to hear from and learn first-hand from the Ute people themselves — their story, in their words. Furthermore, Tread of Pioneers Museum exhibit and program public surveys indicate patrons are most interested in Native American history. As a result, the Tread of Pioneers Museum seeks opportunities to bring meaningful Native American programming and exhibits to Steamboat Springs.

On May 15, the Tread of Pioneers Museum will proudly host the Steamboat Springs/Ute Indian Cultural Exchange Event. Students from the Nah-na-mah Culture Club at the Uintah River High School of Fort Duchesne, Utah, will perform pow wow dances and music and explain the history and meaning of the dances in three presentations, two at Soda Creek Elementary and one for the public at 5:30 p.m. in Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

In addition, Tread of Pioneers Museum staff will offer guided museum tours to the students, and an opportunity for the students to review and provide feedback on the museum's Ute exhibits. The students will also participate in a lunch discussion with Steamboat Springs High School students, before taking time on their own to explore the town and soak in the local hot springs, a Native American tradition.

"Through this event, we hope to increase awareness and appreciation of Ute Indian history and culture and to connect Ute Indian youth with their ancestral lands and history in Steamboat Springs," said Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. "A deeper understanding of our rich heritage and culture, for both Steamboat residents and Ute students, is a valuable opportunity for all. When we better understand our past, are inclusive and welcoming and share our strengths and talents, both communities involved can benefit."

The project was envisioned by Bannister as part of her Change Leader Certification project through Colorado Creative Industries. The certification program aims to develop skills and support for cultural and civic leaders across the state to become catalysts for positive change in their communities. Colorado Creative Industries supports native arts and culture programs that increase awareness of our local history, create a sense of place, and support local economic development and creative district endeavors.

"I wanted to create a project that would provide benefit beyond the Steamboat Springs community," Bannister said. "I considered, what could the Ute students gain from this experience? How can we provide opportunities for Ute youth to take pride in and share their native arts and culture, have a travel experience, learn about their native ancestral lands, while providing a beneficial educational and cultural presentation for the local Steamboat Springs community? I am hopeful that this event can provide these opportunities for both communities."