Hundreds compete at Tri Ute Games
In what started out as a few sports in 2007, has now grown into a gathering of games.
On the eve of the opening ceremony to the Summer Olympic Games, the fourth Tri Ute Games closed Thursday evening in Towaoc.
Around 270 Native American kids from the Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and Northern (Utah) Ute tribes competed against each other in friendly sports.
“Historically, our Ute people in Colorado are the longest continued residents of the state of Colorado. We’ve always been engaged in sports. Whether it’s modern or tradition,” said Ute Mountain Ute member Ernest House Jr., Executive Secretary for the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.
Towaoc hosted the first games is 2007. This year’s games included, boys and girls basketball, girls volleyball, golf, bowling, swimming, hand games, a triathlon and archery. At least 40 archers participated on both Wednesday and Thursday.
“We started off here with only two sports and some demonstrations back in 2007. We’re up to quite a few different ones now,” said Ute Mountain Recreation Center Director Robert Roybal. “You play hard and you play to win. But that’s not the main thing we’re concerned about. We get together, we play together. It’s respect for the sport.”
Kids didn’t compete for prizes. Teams and individuals would win and lose, but competition was friendly amongst the three tribes.
“We’re all one family,” said Southern Ute Tribal Councilman Howard Richards. “We try to hone in on some sports and activities that are somewhat traditional, like archery and cross-country racing. We try to bring that camaraderie back as a family unit. Even though society has separated seven bands of Ute people to where they’re at today.”
A total of 130 Northern Ute kids from Utah’s Uintah Basin, where the Northern Ute Reservation is headquartered in Fort Duchesne, made the trek to Towaoc. The Northern Ute Reservation is the second largest Indian reservation in the United States to the Navajo Reservation. Northern Ute Rec. Director, Lonnie Favel, feels good about the progression of The Tri Ute Games. But he wants to see the games continue to grow.
“We had a pretty good turnout this year for our kids. That goes to show that the games are worth it. The kids are getting better at the sports that they are competing in,” Favel said. “I see the games getting bigger and bigger, and better and better. I’d like to see more and more kids.”
Other sports Favel would like to see added is youth tackle football, noting that the Ute Mountain and Northern Ute Rec. Centers have football programs.
In addition to hand games and archery, some of the other traditional events will be teepee raising and atlatl throw (similar to javelin).
Basketball saw the most activity. In the boys 15 to 18-year-old class, the Ute Mountain Utes from White Mesa, Utah, were the best. White Mesa Rec. Director, Malcolm Lehi, brought 18 kids to Towaoc. They represented their tribe well, as the 15-18 girls basketball team also took second.
“It seems like we’re always left out. Some of the parents of the kids that played on the teams said, ‘Hey. Why aren’t you mentioning White Mesa?’” said Lehi about hosting The Tri Ute Games with Towaoc. “That was a good thing about motivating these boys to come out and play with hard work. I was proud of them kids giving it their all.”
Besides unity, a major purpose of The Tri Ute Games is health. High activity can help reduce Type 1 and 2 diabetes within each Ute tribe.
“It’s just a way to get kids engaged, get them in sports and also it brings awareness on an issue of keeping young people active,” said House Jr. “The diabetes rate for our Native American population for a lot of communities, it’s sometimes 50 percent. This new generation is going to have to get engaged to change that. If we can instill that at a young age with these kids, to get them more active, we can overcome that obesity challenge.”
All in all, people came together for fun, successful games.
The 2013 Tri Utes Games will be hosted by the Southern Ute Tribe in Ignacio.
Each tribe will take 2014 off to participate in the North American Indigenous Games at Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.