Spring ceremony open to Utes only
As a precaution during the pandemic, the traditional Ute Mountain Ute bear dance from June 4 to 7 will be open to members of the Ute tribes only.
Participation and audience will be limited to tribesmen of the Ute Mountain Ute, White Mesa, Southern Ute and Northern Ute tribes.
Tribal membership cards and proof of COVID vaccination are required to participate in the bear dance, tribal officials said at a tribal council meeting on May 26. Masks are optional.
Checkpoints and security gates in Towaoc will check tribal ID cards and proof of vaccination. Law enforcement will include officers from the Cortez Police Department.
Bear dancing will be reduced this year and is limited to dance and music events only, said Ute Mountain Ute president Manuel Heart. There will be no hand games, softball, powwow or parade.
The community party for Utes will be held at the end of the Bear Dance festival on Monday at 3 p.m.
Heart attributed the limited activities and access to the bear dance to the coronavirus pandemic and the tribe’s emergency status.
Before the pandemic, parts of the bear dance ceremony were open to the general public. In 2020, a shortened bear dance was reserved for Towaoc members.
The Bear Dance Festival is a historic Ute tradition that shows respect for the bear spirit, and is a release of tension and a renewal of life.