Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Cultural Preservation

Jeremy Wade Shockley | Southern Ute Drum

Culture Department

Cultural Preservation Director

Shelly Thompson


The mission of the Cultural Preservation Department is to revitalize, promote, sustain and document the culture, language, and history in a manner that honors the past generations, ensures a healthy and balanced tribal community, utilizes the advice and knowledge of the elders, and educates the general public in a manner that serves tribal interests.

The Cultural Preservation Department consists of Education, Ute Language, Special Events, Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Traditional Events, and Traditional Committees.


Culture Presentations

The Culture Department provides an introduction to the culture and history of the Utes at Human Resource’s monthly new-hire employee orientation.  Presentations are provided to departments and divisions to increase staff knowledge.  Presentations focus on the beliefs, practices, spirituality, herbs & medicines, children, history, and museum tours.  Several divisions and programs have participated in these presentations.

The Culture department collaborates with tribal divisions and departments to provide education to the staff and membership; these collaborations include the Lands Division, Social Services, Health Services, Police Department, Courts, Academy, Bison Program, Tribal Information Services, and the Growth Fund.

Ute Language Classes

The department has one language class being taught by Mr. Hanley Frost, Sr., Culture Education Coordinator.  He teaches every Tuesday evening from 5:30 p.m. till 7:00 p.m. in the Museum’s Welcome Gallery.

A Ute word is created and distributed every week to Tribal Staff.

Ute Vowels

Southern Ute Dictionary 101 – Part 1

Ute Sentence

I will give meat to my grandmother.

Arts and Crafts Classes

The department provides classes to all the Tribal Youth and supports the Elder Services craft classes through the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility.  The program provides the students with materials and patterns as well as instruction booklets (when appropriate).  The classes are very popular and fill quickly.  The classes are taught by the membership and staff.

Special Events

Southern Ute Heritage Dancers

The Heritage Dancers have welcomed visitors from all across Indian Country to join us in our celebrations and traditional feasts. The dancers and local drum groups and singers have represented the Southern Ute Tribe at various events throughout the Four Corners area at local events.  The Dancers performed the Bear Dance at National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.

The dancers performed at the following events:

  • Bear Smart Social – Durango, CO
  • Indian Motor Cycle Event – Bear Dance Train ride/Cascade, CO
  • Growth Fund Retreat
  • Living Earth Festival 2017 – Washington, DC
  • Ute Museum Grand Opening – Montrose, CO
  • Bow Hunters Event – Sky Ute Casino Resort
  • Cowboy Poetry Parade – Durango, CO

Anyone interested in performing with the Heritage Dancers please contact Tara Vigil at (970) 563-2985 or via email,

Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners

The Annual Tribal Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners are open to all Tribal members and their families.  Ute Mountain Ute and Northern Ute Tribal members are invited guests.   Hourly cash prize drawings are held at each dinner.

The Annual Christmas Dinner and Christmas program featured special guests Mr. & Mrs. Claus, who gave the children candy canes and gifts.  During the Christmas dinner, tribal member talents were featured.

Christmas Dinner

Following the Dinner is the Tribal Christmas program.  Along with the Montessori Academy students, all Tribal Membership is welcome to participate in future Christmas Programs.

Youth Camp

The Culture Department is responsible for the management of the tribe’s Youth camp.  The camp is rented out and utilized by the culture department.   Each year the Culture Department holds a Culture camp which began in the late 90s.  The 6-9 age group participated on a daily basis, the 10- to 17-year-olds camped in the cabins.  With the assistance of Construction Services staff and the wildlife division, the male participants learned to build a shade house and about the animals that live in the wild, the boys learned how to track a tagged animal and how to throw an atlatl, and learned about the Sun Dance.  Girls learned to raise and take down a teepee and to make fry bread and tortillas.  The youth enjoyed field trips to the Hot Springs, Lake Capote, and Chimney Rock.

Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Program

The NAGPRA program is very active and strives to protect the Cultural Resources of the Southern Ute Tribe. Cassandra Atencio and Garrett Briggs have attended various Government-to-Government and Tribal Consultation meetings with the following:

  • US Forest Service
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Colorado History
  • US Department of Interior – Parks Service
  • Ute Museum, Montrose CO
  • National Park Services
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Colorado State Fish & Wildlife
  • Garden of Gods
  • Pike Peaks – Summit House Development
  • Fort Lewis NAGPRA Committee
  • Great Sand Dunes NAGPRA Workgroup
  • Southeast Utah NAGPRA Workgroup
  • Colorado Lands for Reburial Workgroup
  • State of New Mexico Federal Agencies
  • National NAGPRA
  • National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Office – Member
  • Colorado Preservation Incorporated – Member
  • Federal Communication Commission

They also attend the NEPA/NHPA Compliance Cultural Resource meetings and continue to view the collections of Ute Artifacts, as well as reburial of Native American remains located at various sites within the United States.

Traditional Events and Committees

The Department serves as the budget-owner for these committees and traditional events: