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133rd annual Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance starts Friday

Musicians play and sing for the Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance. (Journal file photo)
Annual dance celebrates renewal of life, spirit of the bear

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will hold its 133rd annual Bear Dance Friday through Monday in Towaoc.

The Bear Dance kicks off an eventful weekend at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

The dance is a yearly tradition of the tribe that dates to the 15th century. Held in spring, the dance shows respect for the spirit, celebrates the renewal of live, and relieves tension after the cold of winter.

Traditionally, when the first thunder of spring was heard, it was time for the Bear Dance to commence.

The event was closed to nontribal members last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but parts of the dance will be open to the public this year. Observers are asked to adhere to the tribe’s COVID guidelines. A vaccination card or negative COVID test is required for entrance. Masks are optional.

While nontribal members are invited to join the festivities, photography and videos are prohibited unless there is permission from the chief.

Bear Dance chiefs are Terry Knight Sr., Mark Wing, Austin Jacket, Farley Ketchum Sr., and Terry Knight Jr.

Bear Dance Chief Terry Knight leads a processional before the 125th annual dance. (Journal file photo)

In addition to the Bear Dance Friday morning, the tribe plans an open hand game tournament and a co-ed softball tournament. A powwow wraps up the day’s activities at 7 p.m. Registration for the softball tournament has closed.

Saturday, the co-ed softball tournament starts at 8 a.m. The Bear Dance and powwow takes place all day.

A Bear Dance walk is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday; and a parade, for 10 a.m. Registration for the walk is at 8 a.m. in front of the recreation center in Towaoc.

Registration for the hand game tournament is noon to 2 p.m. at the Bear Dance grounds, about 11½ miles south of Cortez off U.S. Highway 160/491. The tournament begins at 2:30 p.m. sharp.

Sunday and Monday, the Bear Dance again takes place all day. A feast at 6 p.m. Monday concludes the events.