Live Our Story… Now You Can!
The Permanent Gallery Brings History Vividly to Life
Free to Roam
Although sometimes a harsh environment, the Southern Ute lands were nonetheless a magnificent backdrop to a pure and simple existence derived entirely from natural resources. Experience the sights – and smells – of this innocent and authentic lifestyle.
Step Back in Time
Children from Ignacio Academy were among the first to test out the teepee that forms a centerpiece of the Permanent Gallery. Local children were consulted on everything they would like to see in the museum, so many features are a direct result of their requests.
A life size horse and rider forms the center of an area of the Permanent Exhibition designed to show that the Southern Ute were among the first tribes in America to own horses, which helped them trade and travel farther – and sooner – than most.
Home from Home
In a recreation of the first reservation houses, explore the early domestication of the Southern Ute Tribe, as they made the move from itinerant living to home life in a permanent structure.
Back to School
Very different to their own modern classrooms, Ignacio Academy students nevertheless get to feel how their ancestors felt when they were sent to schools far away from the reservation, during times which have since revealed themselves to be harsh and inhumane.
An All-round Experience
An awe-inspiring 360 degree cinematic experience awaits you in the Circle of Life Theater in a 9 minute film that uses spectacular photography, vocal recollections and evocative Ute song to immerse visitors in the cultural heritage of this fascinating Tribe.
Tell Me a Story
Immediately inside the Permanent Gallery, adjacent to the Circle of Life movie theater, space is set aside for storytelling, the traditional way for Southern Ute elders to pass on generations of knowledge. A permanent storytelling room is also located in the museum.
Early Ute artists displayed their talents on rocks all over the Tribal reservation. This exhibit not only explores the fascinating subject of petroglyphs and pictographs, but also allows the younger visitor to create their own!
Treasures on Loan
Many institutions, including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC have made unprecedented loans of artifacts to the Permanent Gallery, so that the rich cultural heritage of the Southern Ute is displayed as completely as possible.
Living on and from the Land
Southern Ute tribal members were successful cowboys and farmers, and this exhibit shows us how good they were. Adept with horses, and sensitive to the climate and natural growing conditions required, succession to an agrarian life was swift and sure.
This heartrending exhibit tells the sorry tale of how Native Americans like the Southern Ute Tribe were often misunderstood, misrepresented, and mistreated by settlers who were culturally unprepared for a pre-existing population whose codes were different from their own.
In the Schoolroom, we learn a difficult lesson about the enforced boarding school educations that Native Americans like the Southern Ute were subjected to, designed to remove entire cultural heritages, and assimilate Tribal populations to the European way.
Mounted firmly in the driving seat of this pre-motor age mode of transport, experience what it was like to bring a lively horse to your command, and be photographed doing it too!
Music and Movement
Southern Ute Ceremonial dress is magnificently shown in this exhibit along with the beautiful musical instruments that accompanied traditional song and dance. Continuing today with ancestral songs and treasured artifacts, modern ceremony is witnessed via video.
A Bright Future
There is a chance to write your thoughts down, and leave a note summarizing your experiences in the Permanent Gallery, in this final exhibit illustrating the achievements, the individuality, and the tenacious endurance of the fascinating tribe that are the Southern Ute.
The Permanent Gallery tells the story of the Southern Ute Tribe from the earliest times to the present day. Arranged as a circulating, self-guided tour, visitors start at the Circle of Life Theater for an introductory 360 degree experience, journey past Rock Art and a full-size teepee, past glorious ceremonial dress, through a replica house and schoolroom, and out via a rodeo experience to an exhibit that shows how the Southern Ute live today.
CLICK THE ARROWS beneath the image to view a gallery of pictures of the spectacular Permanent Gallery.
The Eagle Takes Flight in Ignacio
It's an Architectural Masterpiece!
Come and See for Yourself
Green in All Ways
Now clad in new Summer planting the museum is finding its place in the cultural landscape of the Southern Ute Tribe in Ignacio, Colorado. Circular themes abound throughout the sustainable building and grounds.
A Cultural Asset
In addition to the museum's being an important new tribal enterprise and tourist attraction, the building is intended as a focus for cultural preservation, education and community activities for all ages.
Eagle in flight
Seen from the second floor over the turf roof, the arms of the building are symbolic of the wings of an eagle posed for flight. The eagle and the circle of life are both key influences on the building's design and layout.
From within the Welcome Courtyard, a strong sense of the inclusive circular themes cannot be overlooked. The circular breezeway takes its inspiration from traditional Southern Ute shade covers.
A Social Space
Designed to be accessible 24 hours a day, the Multi-Purpose Room housed at the end of the south wing of the museum offers a large, dividable interior space and extensive patio area. This spectacular space can be rented for parties and celebrations.
Ancient and Modern
Though modern in construction and design, traditional elements like these pitch pine pillars are cleverly incorporated to make strong links from the past to the present by Jones & Jones Architects.
A New Landmark
The new Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum now joins its neighbor Sky Ute Casino Resort as an icon of progress for the Southern Ute Tribe. Together they create a wholly modern gateway to Ignacio.
A New Dawn
Seen here at dawn, the museum's central Welcome Gallery is both entry point and visual focus. This iconic space will serve as the central reception area and the hub of all museum activities.
A Warm Welcome
Walk across a babbling stream, under the pergola breezeway, and enter the circular world of the Southern Ute. The presence of water in the building's design was requested by a young Tribal member.
A Growing Attraction
One feature that will become an original and evolving part of the life of the museum is the semi-circular turf roof that shelters the first floor. Planted with special grasses, it insulates in winter and summer, while passive solar gain in winter provides natural interior warmth.
Built to Last
The very highest standards of construction have been employed to produce a building of ambitious quality and finish. The intention from the start was to produce an iconic building worthy of being the repository of Southern Ute culture for seven generations.
Since the groundbreaking on August 22, 2008, there has been a tremendous push to make sure that Southern Ute culture and tradition is personified with integrity through a modern yet timeless sacred symbol of the eagle. See the eagle in its subtle form within the museum.
CLICK THE ARROWS beneath the image to view a gallery of pictures of the latest progress in the museum's construction.
Power Behind the Design
Traditional References are Everywhere
Here's what's here
There are many things for you to look at and interact with here, so be on the lookout for sights, sounds and even smells that you won’t want to miss. Learning about the history of a people who have lived in one place for many centuries can help us understand who we are ourselves.
The Circle of Life Window
Looking upwards from the first floor of the Welcome Gallery you will see the stunning window that is the point from which all areas of the building radiate. Supported by massive pitch pine columns, colored light is spectacularly cast by overhead sun.
The Permanent Gallery
In this space the amazing story of the Southern Ute people is vividly told through interactive exhibits, stunning artifacts, still and moving images, video testimonies and comtemplative spaces. There is so much to see and learn!
The Library & Archives
The MacLab here offers an interactive media resource for everyone – even the computer novice. Oral records form the backbone of the archives, but historical documents, books and other materials offer researchers, students and the plain curious a rich harvest.
The Temporary Gallery
An airy, vaulted space is dedicated to Temporary Exhibitions of particular relevance and interest to the Southern Ute Tribe. Our next exhibition here will be on basketry, with an emphasis on the influence that Ute basket makers have had on design.
The Welcome Gallery
As you enter through the front entrance the iconic Welcome Gallery sits between the north and south wings, housing Museum Reception and Museum Store. Galleries and Museum Offices are housed in the north wing.
The Museum Store
In the Museum Store, managed and run by Mel Silva of Waci'ci Trading Co. in downtown Ignacio, you will find a wealth of Native American art, jewelry, books and many other items unique to the area. Take home a special souvenir of your visit!
The Upper Welcome Gallery
On the second floor of the Welcome Gallery is a circular balcony space which will be used for smaller exhibitions. The first exhibit planned for this space is one honoring the Southern Ute Tribal Veterans who served their country in three world conflicts.
The Eagle Fund Donor Wall
The generous donations of major sponsors and benefactors will be recorded here for posterity on the wing and tail feathers of the glorious Eagle that sits at the center of this key display wall in the Welcome Gallery.
The Multi-Purpose Room
Designed to be accessible 24 hours a day, the Multi-purpose Room housed at the end of the south wing of the museum offers a large, dividable space, kitchen, audio-visual services and theater-style lighting for local events and gatherings for all ages.
The Multi-Purpose Room Kitchen
No Southern Ute celebration is complete without a lavish feast, and any gathering in the Multi-Purpose Room can follow this tradition easily, by the use of the world-class caterers' kitchen that adjoins it. Social inclusion was a principle aim in the design of this adaptable space.
The Board Room
The second floor Board Room is a flexible meeting space used for staff and Directors' meetings. Fully equipped for video conferencing, it continues the circular themes seen elsewhere in the building.
The Museum Administration Offices
The "engine room" of the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum, the administration offices occupy the second floor of the North wing. From here, all day to day functions are controlled, and ideas for future projects are originated.
The museum’s architect, Johnpaul Jones of Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects, Ltd., carried the circular form to the footprint of the museum. The conic Welcome Gallery, which holds the museum’s reception area with roaring oversize fireplace and museum store, sits at the center of north and south wings which arc forward as if forming the arms of a warm embrace. To the North, Permanent and Temporary Galleries, to the South, Library and Archives, and Multi-Purpose Room, Storytelling Room and classrooms.
CLICK THE ARROWS to view a gallery of pictures of the inside of our stunning building.
Worth the Wait
Over Ten Years of Planning to Ensure Success
Images like this one allow researchers and Southern Ute tribal members alike to find out details about their past and heritage. Many of the people recorded are direct ancestors of the men and women who will use the archive, forming a direct historical link with their past.
Precious artifacts protected
This detail of a traditional Southern Ute drum, so important in all major ceremonies and dances, shows the inherent beauty of artifacts cared for and preserved for generations. A precious heirloom's future is assured when it becomes part of the museum's loaned collections.
In contrast to the ultra-modern spaces of the new museum, images like this one record the living conditions of Southern Ute ancestors. Records of how people lived then can inform us about the way we live now.
Custom and tradition
Images from the past record many traditional activities still practised by the Southern Ute Tribe today. Bear Dance and Sun Dance gatherings are well documented, and give meaning to the same ceremonies that are still enjoyed today.
Cultural events perpetuated
The clearly evident delight of traditional dance is recorded in a striking image by the Southern Ute Drum's staff photographer Jeremy Wade Shockley. Contemporary images like this one help place the Southern Ute lifestyle in the context of a westernized world.
Intervention in context
A key part of the library and archive section of the new museum protects and preserves a wealth of early photography, documenting the daily lives of the Southern Ute Tribe, and the people from outside the tribe with whom they came into contact.
Traditions recorded for all time
Today, the younger generations of the Southern Ute Tribe find it difficult to place their lives in the context of their ancestors. Clear records, images, and sound recordings will help everyone come to terms with the importance of tradition in a changing world.
One of many superb bead work artifacts now in the museum's collections, this beaded belt features the characteristic colors and bead shapes offered by early European traders in Colorado. Southern Ute craft skills are celebrated in many exhibits in the Permanent Gallery.
The past protected for the future
It was the desire of many Southern Ute Tribal members to have a central reference source for their younger generations that led to the decision to create a brand new home for the museum. Images like this, of contemporary tribal members, will also be preserved in the archive.
For the Southern Ute people, breaking ground on their new cultural center and museum represents "coming home." It has been a culmination of more than 24 years in visioning and at least six years of planning and development. Many tribal members have participated in the planning process by sharing their stories, Ute artifacts, photos, clothing and beading.
CLICK THE ARROWS beneath the image to view a gallery of pictures that show just some of the archive images and artifacts that are playing a vital part in bringing Southern Ute history to life.