Utes come back home this weekend

Descendants of Meeker-area tribe planning Smoking River Pow Wow

The Utes are expected to return to northwestern Colorado in substantial numbers this weekend — to dance, feast, share their culture and food with visitors who attend the Smoking River Pow

Wow, and to remember their ancestors, who for so long called this part of Colorado home.

Residents of Meeker and Rio Blanco County have worked with the Utes to put on the powwow and to ensure they are welcome in their ancestral homeland. The Ute Indian Tribe from northeastern Utah is reciprocating this year by providing buffalo meat for a ceremonial feast Saturday evening.

“It’s a show of respect from both sides,” said Dave Steinman of the Rio Blanco Historical Society.

The powwow is Friday and Saturday, just days before the 130th anniversary of events that led to the White River and Uncompahgre Utes being forcibly moved from Colorado and placed on a reservation in northeastern Utah. The battle between Utes and the U.S. Army at Milk Creek began on Sept. 29, 1879, and the killings of Nathan Meeker and employees of the White River Indian Agency occurred on the same day.

In 2008, the first Smoking River Pow Wow was put together by people from the Rio Blanco Historical Society, the White River National Forest and members of the Ute Indian Tribe in northeastern Utah. The powwow, and events leading up to it, marked the first official invitation by people now living in the Meeker area to the descendants of those who once lived there — to return and spend time in their ancestral homeland.

Members of the Ute Tribe have been even more involved in arranging this year’s Smoking River Pow Wow, participating in the organizational meetings for the event. More dancers are expected this year, not just from the three Ute tribes, but from other American Indian tribes in the Rocky Mountains. The Ute Tribe has donated buffalo meat, which they will share in a community feast at 4 p.m. Saturday. Additionally, the Ute Tribe will sponsor a traditional Ute hand-game contest during the powwow.

There will be American Indian food and craft vendors Friday and Saturday at Ute Park, on the west side of Meeker. Dance and drum contests are scheduled beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, again at 1 p.m. Saturday and at 7 p.m. Saturday. An original painting by Ute Kessley La Rose of Fort Duchesne, Utah, which is used in the poster promoting the powwow, is to be auctioned off during the ceremonies.

The Smoking River Pow Wow operates through the Rio Blanco Historical Society. Partners include the Ute tribe, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and numerous area businesses.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. No pets are allowed.


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