© 2022 KSUT Public Radio
NPR News and Music Discovery for the Four Corners
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Native peoples from across the U.S. and Canada attend the 100th annual Southern Ute Fair

Clark Adomaitis
One of 13 drum circles at the powwow at the Sky Ute Fairgrounds leading the dancers.

The 100th annual Southern Ute Fair featured native tribes from all over the country participating in more than 35 events, including a parade, a powwow, a jalapeño eating contest, and a heavy metal concert.

At the Art Market and Juried Fair, a large tent full of indigenous artists shared their beaded jewelry, tall wooden sculptures, and intricate pottery. But in the corner of the tent, Rod Velarde from the Jicarilla Apache nation offered his Indigenously-adorned Stormtrooper and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Clark Adomaitis
Rod Velarde's indigenous pop art at the Art Market and Juried Fair.

We take iconic images like aliens, Batman, Superman, the new predator prey, dinosaurs, cars, contemporary designs and we add tribal designs to it,” Rod explained.

A few blocks away from the art market, hundreds of Native people, their families, and community members filled the Sky Ute Fairgrounds for a powwow. Drum groups from different tribes took turns singing powerfully and drumming energetically.

Native people from all over the country are dressed in colorful traditional jingling dresses adorned with long feathers. They danced in the round together to the rhythm of the drum groups. Bart Powaukee from the Nez Perce tribe was emceeing the 3-day long powwow.

Clark Adomaitis
Native people from all over North America danced at the powwow at the Sky Ute Fairgrounds.

“We have groups from Alberta, Canada, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. It's a long ways away. People drove over 18 hours to get here,” Bart said.

The celebration of the Southern Ute Fair has been going on for a century now. One hundred years ago, the fair only focused around a rodeo. The powwow has only been included with the fair for the past 60 years.

Marvin Pinnecoose, Events Coordinator for the Southern Ute Culture Department, says that one of the event’s goals is to celebrate the start of harvest.

“Getting ready to go into winter and you always need something to kind of look forward to. Being based in agriculture, it’s a way to celebrate the harvest,” Marvin said.

One thing that definitely wasn’t happening 100 years ago at the fair was a heavy metal concert. The 12th annual Rez-ilience showcase featured 5 heavy metal bands with only indigenous lineups.

Around the corner from the powwow, screamo vocals, double bass pedals, and drop-D-tuned guitars blared throughout the field.

Alliance, a group from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona, traveled seven hours to be a part of the event. Alliance plays on bills with other indigenous bands on a regular basis.

Clark Adomaitis
Heart Museum, an indigenous hardcore quintet from New Mexico, performs at the 12th Annual REZ-olution heavy metal showcase.

“You get to meet other natives. And sometimes they'll talk to you about their cultures and everything,” said Isaiah Patterson, lead guitarist of Alliance.

Robert Ortiz, editor at the Southern Ute Drum, has hosted this concert for twelve years with the goal of inspiring the youth to be creative and stay away from the influence of drugs and alcohol.

“We all need inspiration in life. We need our brothers and sisters out there that are doing it to show our younger generation that they can do it as well,” Robert said to the crowd.

The Southern Ute Fair will continue this weekend from Friday, September 16 to Sunday September 18, and will include handgame tournaments and a rodeo.

Kate Redmond
The parade at the Southern Ute Fair lasted two hours in Ignacio.

Clark Adomaitis is a Durango transplant from New York City. He is a recent graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, where he focused on reporting and producing for radio and podcasts. He reported sound-rich stories on the state of recycling and compost in NYC.
Related Stories