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Ute Mountain Ute students visit Mesa Verde

Seven middle-schoolers from the Ute Mountain Ute tribe traveled to Mesa Verde National Park on Friday.

The trip was arranged through Ancestral Lands, a Conservation Legacy program involving interns Carrie Billie and Alicia Olea. Part of the program involves taking kids to the park and familiarizing them with the archaeology and history of Mesa Verde, since it borders Ute Mountain Ute land.

The group toured Balcony House and the Far View sites, as well as exploring the park Visitor’s Center and the Chapin Mesa Museum. They also visited Park Point, the highest point in Mesa Verde.

“It was great to be able to give them that tour,” Billie said.

The goals for the trip were to introduce the students to the physical and cultural landscapes that border the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, and show them the connections between tribal perspectives and modern archaeology. At the Visitor’s Center, the students learned about careers with the park service.

The kids also learned about science, technology and engineering while in the park, learning how the park’s ancient inhabitants used those principles to build cliff dwellings and pit houses. They also talked about how archaeologists use tree-ring dating to determine the age of the structures in the park, Olea said.

“We wanted to get the kids familiar with the park,” Olea said.

Some of the kids had visited Mesa Verde before, but it was sixth-grader Arturo Badback’s first time in the park. He said he enjoyed climbing on the ladders during the Balcony House tour.

“We learned how old Mesa Verde was and how there were lots of Native Americans here,” Arturo said. “The most important things for them were water, fire, food and shelter.”

Seventh-grader Charity Casey said she liked seeing the old artifacts in the park and seeing the kivas where Native Americans held religious ceremonies.

“We got to see where there used to be water,” she said.

It’s the first year for the Ancestral Lands internship program, and it continues through November, Billie said. She hopes it will become a yearly event, and more kids will be able to visit the park in the future as part of the program.

Olea said she hopes the program will help more Native voices be heard.

“These were all once indigenous lands,” she said.

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