Hundreds compete at Tri Ute Games

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Clifton Whyte, 15, from the Ute Mountain Ute team, takes aim at a downward target during Thursday’s archery competition in Towaoc during The Tri Ute Games. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Clifton Whyte, 15, from the Ute Mountain Ute team, takes aim at a downward target during Thursday’s archery competition in Towaoc during The 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.

bobbya@cortezjournal.com.

Devan Richards, 10, of Ignacio, competes in The Tri Ute Games triathlon competition Thursday in Towaoc. He represented the Southern Ute team. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Devan Richards, 10, of Ignacio, competes in The Tri Ute Games triathlon competition Thursday in Towaoc. He represented the Southern Ute team.

Tasha Small, 15, of the Northern Ute team, zeros in on a target Thursday during the archery competition of The Tri Ute Games. The competition simulated hunting scenarios with game targets. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Tasha Small, 15, of the Northern Ute team, zeros in on a target Thursday during the archery competition of The Tri Ute Games. The competition simulated hunting scenarios with game targets.

Mannie Wall, 13, putts Thursday afternoon at Conquistador Golf Course in The Tri Ute Games golf tournament. Wall played on a Ute Mountain Ute team with Arvin Wall, Ulysses and Cedric Lang, and Ernest House Jr. Enlargephoto

Journal/Bobby Abplanalp

Mannie Wall, 13, putts Thursday afternoon at Conquistador Golf Course in The Tri Ute Games golf tournament. Wall played on a Ute Mountain Ute team with Arvin Wall, Ulysses and Cedric Lang, and Ernest House Jr.

Ulysses Lang, 40, drives toward the green Thursday afternoon at Conquistador Golf Course in The Tri Ute Games golf tournament. Lang played on a Ute Mountain Ute team with Cedric Lang, Mannie and Arvin Wall, and Ernest House Jr. Enlargephoto

Journal/Bobby Abplanalp

Ulysses Lang, 40, drives toward the green Thursday afternoon at Conquistador Golf Course in The Tri Ute Games golf tournament. Lang played on a Ute Mountain Ute team with Cedric Lang, Mannie and Arvin Wall, and Ernest House Jr.

Representing the Ute Mountain Ute archery team, Joseph Miles, 16, prepares to shoot at a target Thursday. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Representing the Ute Mountain Ute archery team, Joseph Miles, 16, prepares to shoot at a target Thursday.

John Knight, 17, of the Northern Ute team, competes at The Tri Ute Games in Towaoc on Thursday. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

John Knight, 17, of the Northern Ute team, competes at The Tri Ute Games in Towaoc on Thursday.

Miles Gardner, 17, practices before the archery competition on Thursday in Towaoc. Gardner said he’s been competing since he was 12. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Miles Gardner, 17, practices before the archery competition on Thursday in Towaoc. Gardner said he’s been competing since he was 12.

Fifteen-year-old Tanisha Coyote, of the Southern Ute team, practices before the competition begins on Thursday in Towaoc during The Tri Ute Games. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Fifteen-year-old Tanisha Coyote, of the Southern Ute team, practices before the competition begins on Thursday in Towaoc during The Tri Ute Games.

A competitor aims at a target in the brush during The Tri Ute Games on Thursday. The competition simulated hunting scenarios with game targets. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

A competitor aims at a target in the brush during The Tri Ute Games on Thursday. The competition simulated hunting scenarios with game targets.

Archers shot at a variety of targets during the competition. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Archers shot at a variety of targets during the competition.

Tasha Small, 15, of the Northern Ute team, takes aim at a target Thursday in Towaoc. More photos from the archery competition online. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Tasha Small, 15, of the Northern Ute team, takes aim at a target Thursday in Towaoc. More photos from the archery competition online.

Michael Mills, 16, competes in the bike portion of the triathlon competition in The Tri Ute Games in Towaoc on Thursday. Mills competed for the Ute Mountain Ute team. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Michael Mills, 16, competes in the bike portion of the triathlon competition in The Tri Ute Games in Towaoc on Thursday. Mills competed for the Ute Mountain Ute team.

Competing for the Ute Mountain Ute team in the triathlon competition, 16-year-old Michael Mills rides his bike on the course in Towaoc on Thursday. Enlargephoto

Journal/Dale Shrull

Competing for the Ute Mountain Ute team in the triathlon competition, 16-year-old Michael Mills rides his bike on the course in Towaoc on Thursday.