“The People of
the Shining Mountains” aptly reflects the enduring
spirit of the Ute people and their reverence for the
Earth. The Utes were divided into three general groups:
Northern Ute, Southern Ute and Mountain Ute. Within
those groups were 11 distinct bands, including the Moache,
part of the Southern Utes.
wandering Moache Utes made their journey to northern
New Mexico, resting high on a mountainside nestled in
the tranquil embrace of the Moreno Valley. They settled
in the fertile land that rests between the Sangre de
Cristo Mountains on the west and the Cimarron Mountain
range to the east. From this time forth, their ancient
encampment has been honored as the “Valley of
Native American mountain-dwellers roamed on foot, guided
by the change of seasons and the movement of the sun.
Long ago, this fertile valley was a hallowed home to
the Ute people and their vibrantly painted tepee villages.
During spring and summer, they fished and hunted wild
game, harvested corn, wild onions and gathered berries.
The mild climate provided plentiful food to nourish
their large families throughout the winter.
the centuries, the original Ute language and rich Native
American traditions have endured. Today, many of their
ceremonies are still performed much as their ancestors
practiced. One legend that arose from ancient times
bore a tradition in Ute culture - the sacred Bear Dance.
The Utes hold themselves as keepers of the great spirit
of the grizzly bear, the king of all beasts. As one
Ute story goes, a man fell asleep and dreamed of a bear.
Over the course of his dream, he was told that if he
went to a high place in the mountains, a bear would
provide him with something of great strength.
After he awoke, he traveled to the mountain where he
witnessed a bear swaying back and forth. The bear then
spoke words of wisdom to the man who listened carefully.
The man returned to his village to teach the Bear Dance
and song to his people.
Bear Dance is a social dance performed annually each
spring to celebrate the emergence of new life. The rumble
of the “morache,” a rasp instrument, emulates
the sounds of the first thunder announcing spring and
the awakening of the bear from his winter slumber.
of the Utes is a magical place. Still today, her sacred
spirit and those who came before are engraved upon untouched
mountain chasms, hidden deep within Mother Earth, and
echo in the mists of whispering brooks.