Mesa Verde Country to celebrate culture

Event has been tagged in best-selling book as ‘must-attend festival’

A Pueblo Eagle dancer celebrates during the 2011 Mesa Verde Country Indian Arts and Culture Festival. Dances are scheduled nightly this week at the Cortez Cultural Center as the 12th annual festival will continue through Sunday. Enlarge photo

Sandy Feutz/Mesa Verde National Park

A Pueblo Eagle dancer celebrates during the 2011 Mesa Verde Country Indian Arts and Culture Festival. Dances are scheduled nightly this week at the Cortez Cultural Center as the 12th annual festival will continue through Sunday.

The 12th annual Indian Arts and Culture Festival has a new feather in its cap this year.

Tagged as a “must-attend festival” in Patricia Schultz’s best-seller, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the weeklong celebration should be the biggest yet. The festival, which coincides with Archaeology Month in Colorado, includes special events in Mesa Verde National Park, A juried Native American art market, and a Navajo rug seminar and auction.

Native American dancers and cultural programs are daily and nightly features, as well as special “festival only” archaeological tours. The Anasazi Heritage Center will offer behind-the-scenes collection tours, and the “Pieces of the Puzzle: New Perspectives on the Hohokam” exhibit. The center serves as the visitor center and research center for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Mesa Verde National Park will have tours of cliff dwellings throughout the festival, as well as glass-blowing demonstrations by award-winning Hopi glass artist Ramson Lomatewama.

Guides from Ute Mountain Tribal Park are offering archaeological tours featuring pictographs and petrographs during the festival. Ute Mountain Tribal Park is an area set aside by the Ute Mountain Utes – one of the seven original Ute bands that inhabited Colorado – to preserve ancestral Puebloan architecture. Ute tour guides interpret Ute Indian history, pictographs, geological land formations, and ancestral Pueblo petroglyphs, artifacts and dwellings.

The 2012 festival’s featured artists are jewelry designers Joe and Le Jeune Chavez from Santo Domingo Pueblo. Joe Chavez’s works involve hand-polishing sterling silver to a mirror-like surface, blending cut-out designs, overlay technique and texture-on-overlay. Finished pieces combine traditional Pueblo culture with contemporary innovation.

Le Jeune Chavez designs intricate beadwork with glass beads, Swarovski crystals and rare antique beads. The Chavezes’ works have appeared at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the Red Earth Native American Art Show in Oklahoma City and the Santa Fe Indian Market.

The festival’s theme, “Celebrating Our Song,” highlights the deeper understanding of the archaeology and Native American culture that have made our area a trading center and merging point for many cultures over the last 2,000 years.

The Indian Arts and Culture Festival is supported in part by a “Preserve America” grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

ted@durangoherald.com