Native Americans gathered in desert plains of White Mesa, Utah, on Labor Day weekend as singers and dancers celebrated the end of summer with bear dances and other time-held traditions.
Although the annual Bear Dance and powwow competitions are held on the satellite Ute Mountain Ute reservation, Navajos also participated, said to Boyd Lopez, coordinator of the event.
“The powwow is held at the beginning of the Bear Dance, so it is a contest powwow that we have,” Lopez said. Utes and Navajos participated along with other tribes as well, he said.
The tribe holds the celebration and ceremony on Labor Day weekend to signify the end of the summer season and the bear’s preparation for hibernation. Ute Mountain Utes also came from the main reservation in Towaoc.
“This is the time of the summer where we are getting ready to put a lot of things away,” Lopez said.
The event is an opportunity to socialize and spend time with friends and family.
“We get together ... with families and relatives,” Lopez said. “They travel from different areas to come over and be social with their family and friends like that.”
Out of respect for the Ute Mountain Ute tradition and sacred dances and songs, only the Gourd Dance was photographed. Dancers and participants were photographed with expressed permission.
A Ute Mountain Ute and media liaison, Angelo Baca, explained the ritual of the Gourd Dance.
“They traded songs and traditions. It is a communal offering – everyone brings and gives it away,” Baca said.
“Whatever you have, you give and share your resources,” he said. “We want representation of a community tradition of pride.”