As you may know, the United States has had an interesting history when it comes to the native American populations that once lived in the country, prior to the country’s meteoric economic rise and growth.
But despite the country’s plethora of historic tourism attractions, the history of Indian tribes and culture are often overlooked. That’s no longer the case with the multi-million dollar opening of the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, near Durango, Colorado.
This beautiful museum is getting a lot of press – partly due to the $38 million dollar price tag. The tribe can certainly afford it, given their abundant natural resources, but I find it nice that the funds have been spent on educating both tourists as well as their own neighbours and children about the culture and history of the Southern Ute.
The museum’s displays include both multi-media exhibits as well as a number of wonderful examples of the Ute’s best skill, beads weaving. But perhaps the most priceless items in the museum? Family photographs, which bring alive some of the Southern Ute traditions – such as the bear dance – in such a poignant way. I also love the building itself – tribe children participated in the planning process, sharing their ideas for what would be important in the design, and the architecture contains many veiled references to sacred images. It’s a small facility, but it packs a powerful punch.
Visiting the Sky Ute Museum was very interesting because you are on Indian reservation, however it looked pretty normal to me! It’s hard to believe that this is an area wholly run by a separate, independent government. They have their own laws and regulations, but in their own interests they’re fairly similar to those of the states they are in.
The Ute Indians are the oldest continuous residents of Colorado. Their language is called Shoshonean, a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language which dates back to over 2000 years.
The Utes were at one point a unified tribe, but their land was broken up over the decades due to governments taking over their lands; today, the Utes are spread out over a couple of areas, with this area in southwest Colorado being home to the Southern Utes.
To Learn More, visit succm.org
The museum is located in Ignacio, which is a relatively small town not far from Durango. That’s ok, though, because there is lots to do in the area. Firstly, the museum is located right next to the Sky Ute Casino and Resort. The resort was built in 2008 so it’s very fresh and modern. I love their pool and workout area, and they also have a small on-site salon where you can get massages inspired by traditional Southern Ute culture.
Ignacio is also near the Four Corners, which is the spot where four American states come together: Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The monument on the site is kind of cheesy, but who can resist grabbing a photo while standing in four states?
While you’re out here in the wilds of the American desert, why not explore some of the area’s outdoor wonders? Mesa Verde National Park is probably the most well known, as it is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world, the former homes of the Anasazi, built sometime around AD550. There are even ancient reservoirs, as well as some wonderful picturesque views.
No matter where you go in the area, you’re all but guaranteed to find culture, history, and great views!
Photo by Andy Hayes
Posted : Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 10:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.