The Aspen Times
Aspen Welcomes Home Ute Indians...
temperatures couldn't damper the people of Roaring Fork Valley
in officially welcoming home members of the Ute Nation, "The Blue
Sky People," at an historical healing ceremony at Aspen's Gondola
Plaza April 15th. It was the Utes' ancestral home for 30,000 years.
Following a day of skiing, young, proud, bare chested Zuni Deer
Dancers opened the ceremony honoring "The People of the Deer"
(the Utes), plus Coyote,
Jingle, Traditional, Hoop and Fancy Shawl. After his splendid
eagle plumed Fancy Dance, Ute Mountain's Gerald Ketchum led a
prayer in his native tongue honoring the ancestral Ute Spirits,
Nature Spirits, and Aspen's Mountains. The event was organized
by skiing legend, Suzy "Chapstick" Chaffee, co-chairman of Native American Olympic Team Foundation,
a partnership of Tribal and Ski Resort leaders across America,
whose mission is, "in joyful unity through sports healing Mother
Earth for our children."
Rachel Richards honored the Ute Nation for keeping the Rocky Mountains
pristine for thousands of years. In the circle, the Mayor and
the community shook their hands and personally welcomed each of
the Utes, including: Kerwin and Durand Tom, Gerald, Sonya and
Bob Ketchum, Theresa Chase, Elias Lehi, Eddy Morell and Nathan
Wing. Mayor Richards then thanked all Native Americans, including
the 10 Lakota, Pima, and Zuni dancers, and a surprising number
of locals with Native blood, for the gifts of Democracy and Ecology.
"Where would we be without them?" she asked. One in 5 Americans
have Native blood, one being Vice Mayor, Terry Paulson, who led
the Council in supporting this historical event. During the final
Friendship Dance most of the 125 onlookers encircled the Plaza's
inlaid 4 Directions Compass as they danced, drummed, and sang
the valley into a new millennial spirit.
on the Mayor's suggestion that "this is a opportune time to heal,"
Chaffee invited NVF Board member, Faril Meistrell, a local ordained
minister to lead a prayer. We are "The 7th Generation." This is
the time to celebrate our similarities, to listen to native voices
for they are the ones who show us how to see each other as brother
and sister and how to walk gently on the Earth." Native Americans
believe that the 7th Generation will determine the fate of mankind.
It is this generation's enthusiasm that insures these cultural
exchanges/events occur. Fernando Cellcion magnificent flute playing
helped dissolve the memories of the history of exploitation, genocide,
and abuse and
instilled a renewed sense of Oneness among the spectators and
participants. Local Grafton Smith said, "Realizing that every
race has been womped at least once in history, I was really moved
by this ceremony. "
the White Buffalo Dancers, Alden Nastacio and Radean Johnson,
Jake Sounding Side, an Aspen Lakota, spoke of Black Elk's White
Buffalo Prophesy: The five Colors of Man will come together as
One around the Turn of the Millennium.' Black Elk's 13 yr. old
descendent, Strong Heart, was one of the dancers. For those gathered
at Aspen's Gondola Plaza Saturday, it felt as if the Prophesy
was coming true. "May our song of brotherhood be heard around
the world, a song of unity in harmony, in peace, and in love,
" said Rev Meistrell.
marked the first time that Aspen Skiing Company has shared a weekend
of skiing with the Utes on the same mountains their ancestors
joyfully hunted game. "Six of us skied from the very top of Snowmass
down Ute Shute' to the Snowboard Park, where we did 360's and
got big air. It was awesome!" declared Ute Mountain Jr. Recreation
Leader, Kerwin Tom. Tom is a descendent of the last traditional
Ute Mountain Chief, Jack House, and nephew of Ute Mountain Chairman,
Ernest House, a skier. In appreciation, he gave the Mayor, Terry
Paulson, Aspen Skiing Company, Aspen Museum's Jonas Weil, and
Incline and Pomeroy Sports a gift of their famed Ute Mountain
skier Patrick Kennedy, (son of Ted) and co-founder of the US House
of Representatives 60 person "Native American Caucus,"
sent a note to congratulate Native Voices and the people of Aspen
on this event: "I share your commitment to ensuring that our Nations
First Americans can enjoy the same opportunities that their fellow
citizens do, with the help of my like-minded colleagues in the
Congress. It's heartening to know that there are groups like yours
across the country that are working to better the lives of their
Indian friends and neighbors. Please keep up the good work and
know that I'll be working in Washington to ensure that our nation's
First Americans see justice and equality as a reality in their
lives." --Sincerely Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy NVF
along with four prestigious Colorado ski areas--Vail, Telluride,
Steamboat and Purgatory-- have honored the Utes with this Millennial
Gesture. Over 1,000 Native Americans to date have been given a
chance to fly like eagles on skis, with tickets, lessons and equipment
donations. Telluride Ski Company owner, Ron Allred, stated, "Our
intention is to honor and heal the past and start a new beginning.'"
Snowmass' top ski instructors: Sergio, Cary, Shannon, Michael,
and Aspen Mountain Ambassador, Faril
Meistrell, enjoyed teaching the Indians. Also assisting were Olympian
Chaffee and Sarah Pletts, who was one of the valley's pioneers
along with Aspen Skiing Co's Buzz Bainbridge, Connie Marlow and
John Denver, in creating a bridge between the cultures with Ute
Medicine man Alden Naranjo, NVF's co-chairman. Thanks to Aspen
Central Reservation's Chief Bill Tomcich, some of their finest
hotels offered lodging to the Indians.
the Plaza ceremony, the Ute and other Native American "MVP's of
(so say NVF Chief Advisors Billy Kidd, British Olympic Skier Martin
Bell, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, Bill Koch, and French Princess
Carolina Murat), were treated to a reception at the St Regis.
Some of the Natives spontaneously shared their culture to the
surprised delight of hotel guests by doing an impromptu Flute,
Buffalo and Fancy Dance encore. A Ute Buffalo dinner at Chaffee-Meistrell's
home in Old Snowmass was a big hit thanks to French Chef, Andrea
Francecot. Chip Comins and Harvey Brancomb of American Spirit
Productions, which is part of a documentary set for international
overwhelming response by Aspen's community and press, together
with the other
trendsetting ski areas we hope inspires every ski area in America
to celebrate their Tribes with the joy of skiing," said Chaffee.
which was caught for posterity by Chip Comins and Harvey Brancomb
for NVF's documentary,
"Return to the Shining Mountains." (Check nativevoices.org for
our promo, "Flying like Eagles on Skis". It can be seen on NVF's
web site courtesy of Jim Selby of MacAspen Web Solutions (our
webmaster 970-948-9998) and Vance Feast of Aspen Adventure, including
stills by Aspen's Grafton Smith. (970-925-7120)