NatGeo Puts Four Corners on the Map.

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.
All the sites can be explored in detail online at http://www.fourcornersgeoturism.com. Here locals can also make recommendations to add to the map over time.
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.
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Chimney Rock Cultural Gathering.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

15th Annual Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering
Text and Photographs: Jeremy Wade Shockley
Southern Ute Drum Vol.XLI No.15

Dark thunderclouds moved in from the northwest as dancers from Denver began to don their regalia in preparation for dance. A strong breeze ruffled the feathers of the elaborate headdresses, which had been moved under the porch awning and out of the weather. The leader and teacher of this dance group watched the sky, his name is Carlos Castaneda. Carlos is the head dancer for the Aztec Mexica Dancers, pronounced me-she-ka. These dancers have made the journey from Denver to Chimney Rock Archaeological Area for the last twelve years.

Their traditional dance is part of the annual Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering, now in it’s 15th year. Carlos feels the practice of traditional dance builds and maintains a strong connection with his past, an ancestry going back to the traditional cultures of Mexico and Central America. “ My parents and grandparents did not pass this down, these dances were forbidden to them, we are reclaiming our culture through ceremonies that were almost lost,” said Carlos. We spoke of the weather, as Carlos finished lacing up his regalia, “It will rain, you’ll see.”

The Aztec dance group consisted of men and women, two drummers and few young children dressed in full regalia. The ceremony began with an offering of incense and prayer to the four directions. The fervent dancing began almost immediately to the sound of fast paced, rhythmic drumming. Each dancer taking the lead in turn, as large drops of rain began to fall. Carlos beckoned the spectators to join them in the arena for the final dance as the heavens rained down. The heavy downpour did not dampen spirits as the dance continued in a fast circular fashion, perhaps drawing an unexpected energy from the sudden shift in weather, embracing the warm summer rains.


Chimney Rock Archaeological Area is located just west of Pagosa Springs and the Southern Ute recreation area known as Lake Capote. Following the rainstorm, a second dance arena had been designated along the ridge line, where the dark clouds made way for clear skies and sunshine. Performing traditional dances, there were a number of Hopi dance groups as well as singers and dancers from Acoma Pueblo. The arena was set in a traditional kiva, allowing these dances a more traditional setting. A Hopi Dance group held the first dance from Second Mesa, performing the “Buffalo Dance”. This group’s village of origin is Sipaulovi, meaning “Village of Mosquitoes.”

“The Acoma Pueblo dancers return to the cultural gathering annually” said Albert Alno of the Acoma Pueblo Traditional Dancers and Singers. Proud of his young dancers, Albert spoke favorably of the setting and environment that the Cultural gathering had to offer. Aside from a historical and picturesque dance arena, concessions were also provided. Various artisans also traveled to this event, setting up ceramics and jewelery under the shelter of tarps.

Tewa Dancers from the North also performed in the Kiva, with group leader Andrew Garcia drumming with relatives. Andrew hails from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and has been involved with positive mentoring since 1974. His program started as a means to keep youth off of drugs and alcohol, to teach them the values of traditional life ways throughout Native American culture. His dance group has since traveled the world and continues to bring a positive impact to the youth involved. His “Eagle Dancers” performed beautifully.

With the last rays of golden sunlight splashing the earthen floor, two dancers entered the Kiva. Moving to the drums, Philbert Polingyouma and his partner danced gracefully as the light began to fade into evening. This dance concluded the 15th annual Chimney rock Native American Cultural Gathering, a two-day event held in the mountains of Colorado, come rain or shine. Photographs Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Visit the SOUTHERN UTE DRUM website to see the full article and photographs.

Cheers, Jeremy