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Ute STEM Project

Southern Ute Reservation, La Plata County, Colorado

“The STEM Grant funded several trips for Ute youth to visit aboriginal homelands and learn about their Ancestors. By using these funds to develop educational materials and pay for travel expenses, Ute communities were able to work with Tribal Elders to perpetuate oral history and traditional ecological knowledge to Ute youth in a traditional setting. Hence, upholding the traditions of knowledge transmission in specific environments during certain seasons, as would our Ancestors during their seasonal rotations.”
“These opportunities were invaluable for Ute youth and our Tribal Elders. It allowed our youth to step away from their reservations and step into their traditional homelands to learn about their history, heritage, and traditions through oral history—the way our Ancestors intended.”
-Garrett Brigs, SUIT NAGPRA Office

1. Ute youth and Ute elders from the three Ute tribes, join staff from the Dominguez Archaeological Research Group (DARG), History Colorado and the Bureau of Land Management to visit historic Ute sites on the Uncompahgre Plateau in summer 2017. The collaborative fieldwork is at the center of the Ute STEM Project, funded by the National Science Foundation.

2. Eliot Hendren, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, works on beadwork during the summer 2018 Ute STEM trip to the San Luis Valley.

3. Cassandra Naranjo Atencio (Southern Ute Indian Tribe) creates the spiral start of a pine needle basket during summer 2018 field work in the San Luis Valley.

4. (L to R): Cassandra Naranjo Atencio (SUIT), Lisa Tsuchiya, Alden Naranjo (SUIT), discuss Ute basket-making traditions in summer 2018 in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.

5. Archaeologist Curtis Martin shares findings on Ute stick shelters with Ute youth, summer 2017.

6. Garrett Briggs(SUIT) and Alden Naranjo (SUIT), discuss Ute cultural uses of ponderosa pines at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, summer 2018.

In September of 2016 the National Science Foundation awarded a $2.2 million dollar grant to History Colorado to support efforts to integrate western science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with traditional Native knowledge. The Ute STEM project formalizes existing collaborations among History Colorado; the Southern Ute Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Uintah-Ouray Ute Tribe (of Utah); and scientists from xxx. “This project highlights” Ute peoples’ systematic knowledge of plant use, engineering of wood shelters, mathematical patterns in beadwork, and sound amplification for music and dance.”

One of the grant products, the standards-aligned Ute Fourth Grade Resource Guide, was produced by Colorado’s Ute Tribes, the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, the Colorado Department of Education, History Colorado, Denver Public Library, Denver Art Museum, and educators statewide.

It is available through the Colorado Lieutenant Governor’s website ( and the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

“I believe these experiences taught our youth that science was not created in the western world. But, instead, there are many ways of knowing and that their Ancestors were scientists before science existed. Instead, it was wrapped into their cosmology and way of life.”
-Garrett Brigs, SUIT NAGPRA Office


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