Hundreds attend Bears Ears gathering

More than 800 people attended the the fifth annual Bears Ears Summer Gathering, which was held July 19-21 at the Kigalia Guard Station in Bears Ears National Monument.

Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB) sponsors the annual event, designed to celebrate the Indigenous cultures of the Bears Ears region.

In 2019, the event focused on Pueblo culture. Many Pueblo people lived in what is now Utah for thousands of years and continue renewing spiritual connections to their ancestors and the land.

The recent celebration honored the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, and the Ysleta del Sur in Texas – whose ties to Bears Ears stretch back into the last Ice Age.

Even though the focus was on Pueblo culture, the event also celebrated the Diné, Ute and other Indigenous cultures during the Bears Ears Summer Gathering.

Friday, July 19 was Diné Day, beginning with a sunrise ceremony. The day included visits by San Juan County Commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes, in addition to presentations by Diné poets, weavers, and storytellers and a plant walk by TJ Redhouse.

Bears Ears updates were presented by UDB Board Member Mark Maryboy, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

Saturday, July 20 was Pueblo Day. Elders from San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM led a workshop on Pueblo pottery and Red Willow Farm, of Taos Pueblo, NM, led a workshop on Food Sovereignty.

Women from Tewa Women United discussed environmental health and reproductive justice.

Flute player Marlon Magdalena offered lessons in the afternoon. Kevin Madalena led an Indigenous Science/Dino talk and walk.

Traditional Indigenous Games kicked-off the evening program, along with Pueblo Dancing by the Oak Canyon Dancers.

An organizer said, “Indigenous games area really a good way to have our Native youth learn about our culture, languages, as well as inspiring us to maintain good physical health by having a strong body.”

A Pueblo Feast Dance and Pueblo Throw, as well as a Plant Walk by the Three Sisters Collective, and story by Waya, of Acoma Pueblo, concluded Pueblo Day.

Sunday, July 21 was Ute/Inter-Tribal Day. Malcolm Lehi led the morning prayer followed by the Bears Ears Summer Gathering Fun Run 10K/5K.

The impacts and legacy of uranium in the Bears Ears region were discussed, along with a light lunch by the Indigenous Healing Kitchen and a closing ceremony by the Oljato Veterans.

On each day, the Indigenous Healing Kitchen served pre-contact dishes prepared by Indigenous Food Activists. This year, the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes donated a bison for the Summer Gathering.

Davis Filfred (Diné), UDB board chairman, says that the annual Bears Ears Summer Gathering is a time for the Indigenous cultures of Bears Ears to connect with the living, cultural landscape.

Escaping the desert heat to the high country of Bears Ears is a seasonal tradition, Filfred says. “Way back, our people used to migrate into Bears Ears for the summer.

To keep that tradition alive, let us all move to the Bears Ears Summer Gathering for the weekend to celebrate our physical and spiritual connections to the land that we all come from.”

Organizers state that the Bears Ears Summer Gathering was “an incredible ceremony of healing, food, kinship, indigenous games, running, and tons of cultural exchange among Indigenous Peoples of the Bears Ears region and beyond!”

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