As people sat on the grass or on benches eating Navajo tacos, Indian fry bread or other dishes offered, Michael Jimenez, Little Spirit Hawk, grandson of Bobby Jimenez of Olathe, danced the spirited Grass Dance, twirling and spinning to the delight of the crowd.
About 40 vendors came to the event, from gun and saddle makers to Native American crafts and jewelry. Vendors continued inside the museum, where a diorama of native animals was on display and artisans sold leather goods like Native American fine leather garments, hand-tooled leather saddles and chaps, and cowboy artifacts of the Old West.
Outside, several vendors had to hold down their wares at times because of the wind, but Lucretia Lee, who is from Navajoland, in Utah, had her tables in a shaded nook in the lee of the museum building.
Lee said she came to festival at the invitation of Ute Museum director C.J. Brafford, and she had last been here years before with her father.
Lee learned how to make intricate turquoise, stone and silver jewelry as well as pottery literally at her father’s knee she said, helping him work, learning his skills, and always begging to go to festivals herself and sell her own goods.
“He always said, ‘Your time will come,’” she said.
“Now my time has come,” she said with a sigh, “and he’s not here.”
Lee’s father died in February, but for four years before that she nursed him through his illness, sitting by his bedside, stringing necklaces that she now had for sale.
“I really miss him, and this brings back so many memories,” she said.
But even though returning to Montrose for the first time with him made her sad, the memories of times here with her father are sweet ones, she said, and she was glad she came back.
Although the museum grounds weren’t packed at any one time, over the afternoon hundreds of people came to the festival, strolled the grounds, visited the grave of Chipeta, wife of Chief Ouray, shopped in the museum gift shop and toured the museum itself, which was had free admission during the festival.
Other performances included a slow, graceful solo dance by Brafford, who later joined in a traditional dance with Roland McCook, a direct descendant of Ouray and Chipeta’s adopted son.
After the performances ended, Brafford called for a “circle of friendship,” and men in mountain men attired, cowboys, little kids, tourists, and Native Americans, held hands in a big circle and smiled, swaying slightly as a flute played spiritual music under the trees.
For more information on the Ute Indian Museum, go to www.friendsofutemuseum.org or call 970/249-3098.