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Utes help celebrate end of season

Heather Hicks
The Northern Ute Indians of Ft. Duchesne, Utah, will once again celebrate the end of the ski season by performing a closing ceremony at the base of the gondola on Saturday.
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Aspen may be known for its glitzy boutiques and luxurious accommodations, but the Roaring Fork Valley also attracts people with a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of the local environment. This is perhaps one thing current residents have in common with the area’s ancestors.So this weekend, the first human inhabitants of this region – Ute Indians – will help celebrate the end of the ski season.For the fourth straight year, the Northern Ute Indians of FT Duchesne, Utah, will perform a closing ceremony at the base of the gondola. In exchange for sharing their culture, the Aspen Skiing Co. has donated lift tickets to the visiting Utes.

“They were here long before we were and before any skiing, and it’s good to have them back and [to have] a tie to the natural world,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.For the Utes, the visit is a chance to learn to ski and snowboard. It is also an opportunity for them to connect with the land of their ancestors.”The dances are the dance of our ancestors and are sacred. The dances teach our children to be proud of who they are,” said Loya Arrum, a tribe elder and member of the dance group.

The dancers have performed across Colorado for the past six years, wearing regalia that has been handed down from generation to generation. Taking a special interest in the ceremony will be Aspen Community School first- and second-graders and their teachers, Missy Prudden and Chris Faison. The kids, with the help of craftsman Jon St. Andre, built a drum from scratch. It was constructed from a log that was struck by lightning, and was picked for its uniqueness. “It became a spiritual project for the kids. They connected with the drum and to something from nature,” said Faison.

Not only did the students string the drum, they wrote stories about it and, of course, put it to use on the playground.”Although I have not communicated with them directly, the Utes have been very receptive to us and the project,” said Faison.The drum will be presented to the Utes at the closing ceremony, Saturday at 4 p.m. at the base of the gondola.


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