Southern Ute Tribal Seal

Culture Department


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

Ute bowl


Culture Presentations

The Culture Department provides an introduction to the culture and history of the Utes at Human Resource’s monthly new 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.

Presentation Request Form

Ute Language Classes

The department has three language classes, Reading and Writing Ute 101-103, Family and children Ute class and a Conversational Ute Class.

Reading & Writing Ute (101-103): This class is taught by Dr. Tom Givon using his new grammar book.  The class includes a practical session with Mary Inez Cloud.  There is an average of 8 students in this class.

Family and Children Ute Class: Crystal Ivey teaches this class on Sunday afternoons, and welcomes children and parents of all ages.  The class provides activities and games, both contemporary and traditional like the hand game, using words and commands in Ute.

Conversational Ute Class: Alden Naranjo heads this class, participants have the opportunity to ask questions and learn phrases based on their interest.  The class can focus on a variety of subjects.  It is fun and interactive, for fluent speakers as well as beginners.

Arts and Crafts Classes

The department provides classes to all the membership and supports the Elder services craft classes.  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.

Classes held in 2013

  • Plant Workshop
  • Capital Tree Ornaments
  • Elder Christmas Wreaths
  • Elder Tamale Class
  • Ginger Bread Teepees Star Quilts
  • Bustle Class
  • Breastplate Class
  • Vest Class
  • Growler Class
  • Ribbon Shirt Class
  • Shawls
  • Roach Class
  • Loom Beading
  • Breechcloth/Leggings
  • Sewing Class
  • Pillows (youth)
  • Lap Blanket (youth)

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 La Veta CO.

The dancers performed at the following events:

  • Ignacio School District for American Indian Heritage Month
  • Capital Christmas Tree Cutting in Meeker Colorado
  • Native Cuisine for the Southern Ute Museum
  • Growth Fund Retreat
  • Ignacio Centennial for the town of Ignacio
  • La Veta Museum in La Veta CO
  • Aztec Geo Tourism

Click Here to view a video of the performance at the International RIMS Conference in Denver CO. April, 2014.

Anyone interested in performing with the Heritage Dancers please contact Tara Vigil at (970) 563-4788 ext. 3624.

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 door 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.

Following the Dinner is the Academy student’s Christmas program.  The students performed a skit and sang for the audience.

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.  SUCAP’s Camp Venture and the Pueblo Dance Group that performs at the annual Chimney Rock celebration are regular users of the camp.  This was the first year the Culture Department held a Culture camp since the late 90’s.  Twenty eight (28) tribal members attended, thirteen (13) 6 -9 year olds, and fifteen (15),10-17 year olds.  The 6-9 age group participated on a daily basis, the 10-17 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, make fry bread and tortillas.  The youth enjoyed field trips to the Hot Springs, Lake Capote and Chimney Rock.  An Elder provided a Ute Puppet show which was very popular.  Craft classes, and nature walks were taken.

Ute Archives

Photo Courtesy Southern Ute Historical Archives

Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Program

The NAGPRA coordinator has begun pursuing a Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) status. The coordinator is very busy with consults within the State of Colorado and adjacent states. The program is developing policies and procedures in the best interest of the tribe.


Traditional Events and Committees

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

Ute Nation Day

The 2013 Ute Nation Day honored past councilman that the “people” deemed influential and who’s contributions were commendable to the tribe.  The Councilman recognized were, Bonny Kent – Southern Ute Indian Tribe; Henry Jacket Sr., Ute Mountain Ute; Andrew Frank, Northern Ute and Mr. Velarde, Jicarilla Apache Nation.