“Every animal knows more than you do.”
Ancient Native American Proverb
Long, long ago
In the majestic mountains of Utah
Two young brothers went out hunting
And this is the tale of what one of them saw
They had decided to leave their village extremely early
It was a beautiful warm spring morning in their homeland
They had made a wager on who would be the greatest hunter
And to meet back at camp later in the evening was their plan
So one young brother traveled far to the west
While the other one trekked ever farther east
And after he had journeyed a very long distance
He finally came upon a gigantic mountain beast
As he silently crouched in the bushes with his bow
Waiting for the right opportunity and the best chance
To his utter amazement and his complete surprise
This great bear stood sang and with a tree began to dance
The young hunter watched in silent awe and admiration
When suddenly this great bear stopped and turned his head
“I know that you are watching me, my little human brother,
Come, I will teach you this dance, so you won’t kill me dead.”
So the very mystified young Ute hunter timidly left the thick bushes
And very nervously joined this great bear under the gigantic pine tree
Now this kind bear who had just emerged from his long winter hibernation
Patiently taught him how to sing and to dance this ancient Bear Dance with glee
That night this young Ute hunter returned to his small village
And taught all of his people this ancient Spring Bear Song and Dance
And even today it’s still a glorious ancient celebration of renewed spring life
Filled with wonderful folklore marvelous tradition and very ancient romance
©2005, Ed Kostro
The annual Ute Bear Dance has been held for centuries, and today it still honors the Great Bear, who was created by Sinawaf, The One-Above, to teach the Ute people strength, wisdom, and survival.
In the early days, it was held at the first sound of spring thunder in the mountains, and preparations for this annual festival were made all winter long. Around blazing winter campfires, the story tellers recited this ancient bear tale, and the Bear Dance singers practiced songs for the coming celebration which had come to them in visions and dreams.
As the time finally approached for the Bear Dance, the men meticulously prepared the Dance corral, while the women carefully fashioned their costumes made of soft buckskin. And after a long bitter winter, this glorious spring tradition finally began.
The men and women would solemnly enter the dance corral wearing feathered plumes that signified their current worries and woes. By the end of the four day dance celebration, these plumes would be hung on a cedar tree at the east entrance of the corral, signifying that these dancers had now joyously left their troubles behind as they had once again begun celebrating life’s annual spring renewal.
And during this gala four-day festival, the Ute women are given the opportunity to choose their dancing partners, which often leads to courtship and marriage.
The Ute people have resided in the Four Corners Area (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) for at least 10,000 years. They speak a Shoshonean language, which is part of the same language family as the Hopi, Bannock, Comanche, Chemehuevi, Goshute, Paiute, and of course, the Shoshones.
The state of Utah is named after them, and they taught many other native groups their ancient sacred Bear Dance.
And the Great Bear remains the Ute symbol of strength and unity today, still believing that Brother Bear possesses great healing powers, great knowledge, and the ability to communicate directly with the Spirit World.