Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Culture & Traditions

Arts

The Ute enjoy singing, and most songs revolve around the Bear dance and Sun dance. They also enjoy dancing for entertainment. Rock art was another form of expression. Many of their works have been documented and can even be seen today.

Bear Dance

The Bear Dance is a social dance that is held usually is late March to welcome spring. The origin of the Bear Dance can be traced all the way back to the 15th century. The men usually prepare the Bear Dance corral and it is the women's job to prepare the clothing worn by the family during the Bear Dance.

Sun Dance

The Sun Dance takes place in midsummer and is the most important ceremony in the Ute traditions. This has two major aspects to it, spiritual and communal. The sundancer goes on a spiritual journey to receive "medicine power" from the Great Spirit.

Religion

Religion was a very important part of Ute daily life and was practiced at the level of the individual, rather than through a group activity. Senawahv is named the Ute creator of land, animals, food, plants, and even the Ute themselves. Animals, such as the wolf and coyote, were often depicted in myths and usually had human like traits and mystical powers.

Death and Afterlife

Years ago, when a member of the Ute tribe died, morning lasted up to a year. Care was taken to ensure the ghost of the deceased did not return, although the Ute believed the ghost hung around the body for several days after death. All souls went on into an afterlife similar to this world. Burial and funeral customs included burning the house in which the death occurred and destruction of all personal property of the deceased. Bodies were washed, dressed, wrapped and buried in a grave in the mountains.