Dozens of Ute Mountain Ute tribe members gathered Friday in Towaoc for the annual Bear Dance ceremony.
Spectators watched around the circular gathering space as men and women lined up to dance with each other.
Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart thanked everyone for coming to the dance and helping to preserve the tradition.
“This is our Bear Dance,” Heart said. “Let’s keep it going.”
Several Colorado government officials were in Towaoc for the quarterly meeting of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA), including Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, CCIA Executive Director Ernest House, Jr. and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.
Lynne, who was sworn into office just three weeks ago, said she had been in Towaoc for two days and learned much about the tribe. She was given a tour of the tribal complex in Towaoc and she was invited to dance with Heart during Friday’s ceremony.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Lynne said. “Getting the first-hand appreciation is something you don’t get in an office in Denver.”
Lynne said she was thrilled to be working with the CCIA and House, Jr., who is a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. Lynne, who participated in several rounds of the dance, thanked the young men who “danced with an old lady.”
Southern Ute Chairman Clement Frost also visited Towaoc for the day’s festivities. He was grateful to all who attended and helped teach younger people about the tradition of the dance. Preserving the Ute way of life for future generations is important, he said.
“This is our culture,” Frost said.