2019 Southern Ute Bear Dance
Join the Southern Ute Bear Dance celebration on May 24-27, 2019 at the Bear Dance Grounds in Ignacio, Colorado. The event starts Friday night and goes through Monday. The traditional Southern Ute Bear Dance, once held in March, welcomes spring and celebrates connections to the Earth each Memorial Day Weekend. The Annual Ute Bear Dance is a social dance everyone enjoys. Origin of the Bear Dance can be traced back to the fifteenth century when the Spanish first came upon the Ute’s in the spring time. When the first thunder in the spring was heard, it was time for the Bear Dance.
Southern Ute Bear Dance
Two Separate Events
Don’t confuse this traditional four day Southern Ute Bear Dance at the Bear Dance Grounds with two day Southern Ute Bear Dance Powwow at the Sky Ute Fairgrounds that happens at the same time about three miles away. The traditional Bear Dance is held on the Memorial Day Weekend at the same time as the “powwow”. Many dancers and visitors will go back and forth between these two events, depending on the schedule.
The Bear Dance opens at 10 a.m., with blessing of the corral at 10:30 and a kickoff lunch at noon. Bear dancing on Saturday and Sunday starts at 10 a.m. and continues through the evening. On Monday the dancing starts at 10a.m. and ends at sunset. The Bear Dance feast is Monday noon just south of the Bear Dance corral.
Please Observe these Rules
- No short dresses or baggy pants while dancing
- Photography, video and audio recording is prohibited except by members of the Ute Tribes.
- The Pine River is restricted
For Bear Dance information call 970-563-0100 x 2301.
About the Bear Dance
The Bear Dance originally was held around the middle of March, usually after the first thunder in the spring was heard and when the Bear came out of hibernation. All the various Ute bands would come together and prepare for the dances, which were held throughout Ute territories. For the Southern Utes, the hosting date has been changed to the Memorial Day weekend to cater to the youth who would be out of school for the summer.
The Bear Dance 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 last day of Bear Dance features a feast for all in attendance. Traditionally, a stew is prepared with meat and vegetables mixed in a large, round pot atop an open fire.
This information about the Southern Ute Bear Dance is from articles on the Bear Dance, by the Southern Ute Drum.
Mark your calendar today so you don’t miss the next Southern Ute Bear Dance celebration on Memorial Day Weekend at the Bear Dance Grounds in Ignacio, Colorado.
Tags: Southern Ute Bear Dance, Colorado Powwow, Colorado Pow Wow