Though undated, this picture taken in Ignacio is thought to be from around 1918. The Bear Dance is a Southern Ute ceremonial dance that can be traced as far back as the 15th century. It was traditionally a springtime event lasting up to 10 days. The Southern Ute tribe describes the origins of the dance in this way: “The songs, according to legends, show respect for the spirit of the bear and the respect to the bear spirit makes one strong. After a long winter, everyone was ready to be outside. The Bear Dance was one way (in) which people could release their tensions. The men and women, as they entered the corral, would wear some sort of plumes, which at the end of the fourth and final day, they would leave on a cedar tree at the east entrance of the corral. As the Utes say, leaving the plume on the tree was to leave your troubles behind and start your life anew.” The Bear Dance is still held annually on the Southern Ute Reservation.
Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, firstname.lastname@example.org