Grand County Historical Association presents a new exhibit, Winds of Change: Utes of the High Country at Cozens Ranch Museum in Fraser. The multi-media exhibit explores factors — from environmental to historical and cultural — that effected change for Native Peoples of Middle Park, from their earliest roots dating to 12,000 B.C. to the present. Sponsors include Fraser Valley Lions Club, the Town of Winter Park, and the Grand Foundation. The exhibit kicks off with a mini Pow-Wow at noon on Saturday, June 28, celebrated at Cozens’ new teepee. Everyone is welcome to join in the spirit of The Medicine Heart Dancers and Drummers of Denver. Families are especially encouraged to attend this free and culturally-rich event.
For thousands of years, the First People — ancestors of the Utes— lived in Middle Park feasting on the bounty of nature in plentiful game, fish and plant resources. Archaeologists have documented more than 75 important and ancient sites, including some with astronomical alignments that mark the seasons. A warmer climate allowed the First People of Middle Park to live year-round in the High Country. As climactic shifts brought icier temperatures, the First People migrated to lower altitudes to survive. Unlike many other Native peoples in the Americas, the Utes do not have a migration story — they are from the Rocky Mountains. As the Ute Creator said, “I’m going to place the Utes here on these mountains so they can be closer to me. And they will be courageous people.”
Dramatic historic photographs illustrate that America’s Westword Ho! movement beginning in the 1850s was unkind to Native peoples, and especially to the Utes. Winds of Change presents the impact that battles at Sandcreek (1864) and Little Big Horn (1876) had on the Utes, even isolated as they were in the Rocky Mountains. The rush for gold and land led to the infamous call in the Denver newspaper in 1876, “The Utes Must Go!” In Middle Park, Ute leaders of Ouray, Chipeta, Tabernash, Yarmony, Colorow and others sought to reach accord with well-intentioned Indian Agents, but the Winds of Change blew against the Utes. Following the Meeker Massacre of 1879, the Utes of the High Country were permanently ousted from the fruitful and lush High Country onto desolate, arid reservations of Utah.
The exhibit explores how despite the harsh Winds of Change — the arts endure among the Ute people, helping to preserve their culture. Ute artistic expressions on display include imagery of their painted and carved rock art, exquisite examples of their beadwork on loan from History Colorado, historic tales told in ledger art, and a look at their unique Bear Dance.
The Bear Dance — performed from ancient times to the present — is dedicated to the bear, the Utes’ most sacred animal. Grand County Historical Association is pleased to present a series of black and white photographs of Ute dancers at Fort Duchesne, Utah, by photographer Brandon Allen. These stunning contemporary portraits of Ute Bear Dancers are juxtaposed with early depictions of the Bear Dance ceremony.
The Historical Association invites everyone to learn about the Utes of the High Country and how, despite the Winds of Change, they endure as a people, ensconced now on reservations in Utah and Southern Colorado. As the Utes say: “We were always here... and we’re still here.”