Governor honors Ute architecture

Ute Mountain Utes among the groups honored by historic preservation award

A comprehensive archaeological documentation of traditional wooden Ute tribal dwellings, the Colorado Wickiup Project, recently received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia presented the Colorado Wickiup Project with the 12th annual Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation at a ceremony in Denver on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

“The Colorado Wickiup Project sheds a fascinating light on how ancestors of the Ute people lived and what their traditional dwellings represented to their community,” said History Colorado President and CEO Ed Nichols.

The gubernatorial honor was bestowed to the Dominguez Archaeological Research Group, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

In his seventh year as executive director of the Colorado Commission for Indian Affairs, Ernest House said the Governor’s Award recognizes and highlights the collaborative nature of the project between tribal members, archaeologists and the multiple agencies involved.

“As a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, I’m proud we were asked to consult with the project,” said House. “That tribal involvement helps to strengthen the project even more, and I want to congratulate all of the Ute tribes for their hard work and time to make this project possible.”

The Colorado Wickiup Project set out to identify areas and sites of cultural and religious importance to the Ute people, to preserve and protect Ute cultural heritage values that are embedded in public lands and to encourage and support the Utes’ traditional use of those lands. The Utes are the only indigenous people to reside within Colorado from prehistory to the present.

Launched in 2004 by the Dominquez Archaeological Research Group (DARG), the project documented the state’s wooden archaeological features before they disappeared from natural and human causes. The project identified nearly 400 sites with more than 1,000 aboriginal wooden features, including: wickiups, teepees, tripods, tree platforms, ramadas, hunting blinds, brush fences and corrals.

“Most, if not virtually all, of these archaeological features are thought to be of Ute origin,” the DARG report states. “These ephemeral cultural resources are regarded as among Colorado’s rarest and most fragile Native American sites.”

House said the wooden archaeological sites serve as historical records, helping to identify former Ute trading and hunting routes. A majority of today’s state roadways are based on those ancient Ute trails, he added.

“The wickiup project provides a link to how the Ute tribal bands survived, and it will provide information for generations to come,” House said.

The Colorado Wickiup Project was funded from the Colorado State Historical Fund and the Bureau of Land Management.