|Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/The Southern Ute Drum
By Rachel Shockley
Special to the Drum
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Cultural Dancers joined the National Geographic Society and partners from the Four Corners on Saturday, June 2 to invite tourists to experience the local history, culture and wilderness.
National Geographic has named the Four Corners area a “geotourism destination” and launched an interactive website and map to promote its many natural attractions. The launch of the Four Corners Region Geotourism MapGuide at Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, N.M., drew dignitaries and visitors from all over to tour the ruins and enjoy cultural dancing with help from Ignacio-based drum group 12 Gauge.
Approximately 65 million “geotourists” from around the world are looking for experiential vacations where they can rub shoulders with the locals, according to National Geographic. The new map provides more than 800 suggestions, recommended by locals.
Geotourism MapGuides Coordinator Jim Dion said he hopes the map will answer the question: “What can people do here in this place that they can do no place else?”
“Travelers are risk averse,” he said. “By indexing sites and introducing people to these sites before they commit, we can inspire people to go to places they wouldn’t normally go.”
By attending local events, visiting local places and patronizing local businesses, geotourists will get a glimpse of what life is like here in the Four Corners — and National Geographic is betting they’re going to like it. The locals might, too: Statistically geotourists spend more money, stay longer, and care more about the culture and environment of the places they visit.
Members of the Southern Ute Royalty led the procession of Cultural Dancers during a grand entry exhibition at the ruins. Women, followed by the men, showcased several styles of dancing and regalia for the crowd. The Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum also manned a booth to answer questions and promote Ute culture and heritage.
Aztec Fiesta Days
The Cultural Dancers also performed at Minium Park for the annual Aztec Fiesta Days later that day. Crowds of locals and visitors cheered on the 18 dancers as they exhibited the beauty and athleticism of traditional Native American dance. They finished the events with a round dance, inviting spectators to experience a little Ute culture for themselves by joining in.
“I love dancing,” said Cultural Dancer and Southern Ute tribal member Greg Bison after the round dance. “It’s my tradition. I dance for my family and my people, and for people who aren’t able to dance.”
Regarding how many people he has taught to dance, he said simply, “I’ve lost count.”
Making of the map
The Four Corners Region Geotourism MapGuide is a culmination of two years of collaboration between tribes, governments, businesses and locals. All 800-plus sights were recommended by locals and reviewed by National Geographic Maps and the Four Corners Region Geotourism Stewardship Council.
Print maps can be purchased for $11.95 and show 100 of the total sites, broken into four categories: archeology; outdoor recreation; water and geology; and art, music, and culture. Captions and information on select sites make it easy to find events or places that are interesting to visit.
Places and events on the map include the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum, the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area, the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo, and Ute Mountain Tribal Park.