The Ute Indian Museum will hold its first-ever Indian and Cowboy Festival, a free all-day event on Saturday, July 3, from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., followed by a special screening of Running Brave, a documentary about Billy Mills, the Lakota-Sioux who in the 1964 Olympics as the first – and last – American to win the Gold Medal in the men’s 10,000 meter race.
As the day begins, visitors can buy gifts, artifacts, jewelry and other treasures at the Indian Market and Cowboy Collectibles, joining about 30 vendors in all offering a variety of wares, said museum director C.J. Brafford.
“At the Indian Market we’ll have everything from beadwork and jewelry to silver and pottery, representing Pueblo, Navajo, Apache and different tribes,” she said. “In the Cowboy Collectibles, we’ll have antiques, contemporary silverwork, anything with a Western theme.”
The museum will also have a diorama of indigenous animals, she said, and a silent auction to benefit the museum will include a wide range, from items made by American Indians to back massages.
“We’ll also have Old Tyme Photography in one of the teepees and pony rides for little kids,” Brafford said, and traditional fry bread will be prepared by Helen Herrera, who is Apache.
A highlight of the day, at 3:30 and 7 p.m., will be performances of the traditional Grass Dance by Little Spirit Hawk, Michael Jimenez of Pico Riviera Calif., who’s the grandson of Bobby Jimenez of Olathe.
Michael started going to powwows when he was a small boy, his grandfather said, and even at age 2 would grab a stick and run out and join the dancers.
“When I would go get him to bring him off, the elders would flag me to let him dance,” he said. “They could see he had spirit and heart, and wasn’t mocking or making fun.”
Michael Jimenez followed his heart and became an expert in dances of the northern Plains Indians, but only started doing the Grass Dance about a year ago.
“When a war party would come out, when the warriors would go out and fight, the grass dancers would stomp down the plains grass so other people could go through,” he said.
Michael said he often performs at powwows in California, and that he’ll spend a couple of weeks here after his performance, visiting with his grandfather in Olathe and doing some horseback riding.
The event will also feature Indian storytellers and cowboy poets performing throughout the day.
At the end of the day, a final event will the showing of Running Brave, the 1983 film starring Robby Benson and Pat Hingle that documents the story of Olympian Mills.
Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Mills is descended Lakota and Sioux, and was orphaned at 13. He was a virtual unknown when he ran the 10,000 meter race in 28:15.6, which was 50 seconds faster than he had ever run before, and what some sportswriters called “the most sensational race ever run in Olympic history.”
Mills remains active in Native American causes today, according to the website runningfast.com. “He uses his speaking skills as an advocate for and a role model to young Native Americans. He is the national spokesman for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a non-profit organization that help communities with self-sufficiency programs, youth activities and cultural identity projects. As the national spokesman for Christian Relief Services, he has helped raise more than $212 million in contributions,” the website states.
Brafford said she hopes the community will come out and enjoy all aspects of the Old West during the festival, which may become an annual event, and where all the cowboys and Indians get along.