Religion Of The Utes

    The Utes are a tribe that originated in Utah.  Before the Utes came in contact with the Europeans, they practiced the religion of Shamanism.  Named after Shamans, this religion was based on a belief in nature and healing.  The Utes were also polytheistic, believing in nature gods that controlled weather, rain, animals, people, and harvests.  A few of these gods were Senawahv, god of Utes themselves, land, animals, food, and plants.  Shamans are like gods on earth, they can heal people and have special powers connecting them to the gods.  One of the main ways the Utes worshiped their gods was through dance.  The main god of animals was Coyote.  One of the most important dances was the Bear Dance.  This dance is presented by The Shaman who would pray to the gods for a good year.   When the Ute tribe came into contact with the Europeans they were asked but not required to convert to become Mormons.  The Europeans were exploring and decided to settle in an area and create a colony.  The Europeans wanted religious uniformity throughout the area so they asked the Utes to become Mormons.  Most Utes were fine with the change but some kept with the original religion.  So there after, both religions were practiced throughout the tribe.  
Traditional clothing for the Bear Dance (http://home.comcast.net/~grand_uncle_mark/utedancr.jpg)
    There are two folktales that stuck with me when reading all of them.  Most of the folktales had common themes including sticking together, helping others, and nature and living in harmony with it.  The first folktale is Two Fawns And A Rabbit.  This story talks about a rabbit who was exhausted and weak from all of the traveling he had been doing over the past few days.  He sees two fawns and asks if they would get food for him.  At first the fawns were a little leery about the whole thing but then decided to help him in his time of need.  The second folktale is The Puma And A Bear.  This story involves a Puma and his wife.  Midway through the story, the wife of the Puma decides to elope with the bear.  The Puma becomes very mad at this.  After time passes he realizes she has done something very wrong; she hasn't stuck together.  The Utes tell this story because it involves sticking together, not only as animals but as a tribe.  In the early makings of the Ute tribe there were originally seven groups:  the Capote, the Mouache, the Parianucs, the Tabeguache, the Uintah, the Weeminuche, and the Yampa.  These tribes were in the process of migrating from Mexico.  When they all decided to settle in Utah they decided to conjoin tribes and make one large tribe today called the Utes.  The Utes have a specific way of telling their own creation story.  Their story goes like this:  One day the Utes' most powerful god, Senawahv, was going to take a trip to the north to explore more land.  In doing this he made a sac that he could carry over his back, he then filled it with sticks for fire wood.  His brother Coyote, who was very curious, heard laughing in the bag.  He used a knife to cut a hole in the side to peek in.  Once he looked in, he realized they were just sticks and he walked away.  Once Sebawahv began his journey, he noticed the bag was getting lighter and lighter.  The sticks rolled down the hill.  Once they hit the land below, they became what we know today as the Utes. 

Bibliography

The Utes, Allison Lassieur, 2002 Capstone Press

8 June 2004. 10 December 2008  http://www.indigenouspeople.net/twofawns.htm

Puma and a Bear. 8 June 2008. 10 December 2008 http://www.indigenouspeople.net/pumabear.htm.

Ute Religion and Expressive Culture. 1 January 2008. 9 December 2008, from everyculture.com/North-America/Ute-Religion-and-Expressive-Culture.html.

Ute Tribal History. (2001, December 13). Retrieved December 9, 2008, from  http://uteindian.com/ute_tribal.htm.

Ute (2006, March). Retrieved December 8, 2008, from http://utefans.net/home/ancient_ute/utetribe.html.

By:Brandon Gowisnock     
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