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Mancos mural a reminder of importance bison played in Native American culture

Destruction of herds was an attempt to exterminate Indigenous people, artist says
Artist Chip Thomas created a mural on a building in Mancos visible south of U.S. Highway 160. (Courtesy)

A new mural in Mancos spruces up the view from U.S. Highway 160 and highlights the town’s mission to support artists.

The Mancos Creative District commissioned the large photo mural from nationally known artist Chip Thomas, and it was completed this week.

He took black-and-white photos of a bison herd of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and transformed them into an animated mural located on building south of the highway.

Thomas is a nationally recognized artist and activist who aims to share the rich history of Indigenous people. He began putting up murals in 2009, with installations across Navajo Nation lands, from Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon. His work also is featured on a building in Telluride.

In addition to being an artist, Thomas has worked as a physician at the Inscription House Health Center on the Navajo reservation in Arizona for more than 30 years.

“The mural is a wonderful addition for town – Thomas is known for his natural and cultural history pieces,” Chelsea Lunders, interim executive director for the Mancos Creative District, told The Journal. “Most of our creative businesses are downtown, so we wanted something that showed passersby our identity as an artistic community.”

The images of bison are from the Ute Mountain ranch located off Colorado Highway 184 north of Mancos.

The mural was installed on a building owned by Jury Krajak at U.S. Highway 160 and Monte Street. A QR code will be installed on the surrounding fence to allow visitors to learn more about the importance of bison to Colorado Utes.

The mural reminds viewers of the importance bison have for Native American Tribes and the impacts of their loss.

“The systematic destruction of bison herds was an attempt to exterminate Native people,” Thomas said in a news release.

A new mural of the bison of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s herd has been completed in Mancos. (Courtesy)

The disappearance of the free-range bison herds in the West reminds Thomas of a Spanish saying popular in the San Luis Valley: “Con alambre viene el hambre,” or “With barbed wire comes hunger.”

In the past year, the Mancos Creative District has expanded its commitment to support a broad range of public art, including working with the town of Mancos to assist in managing public art projects.

“Mancos is rich with culture and history, and we hope to see that reflected through many collaborations between our creative community and public and private property owners,” said T.J. Zark, president of the Mancos Creative District. “We hope each project creates a willingness for more people to make space available for public art.”

The bison mural is the organization’s second public art project to come to fruition this year, after the installation of artist Veryl Goodnight’s “Valley Mascots,” which hangs on the side of the Mancos Fire Department building on Main Street.

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