From Chaco Culture Historic Park, we return to the NM 550 northbound toward the Colorado border. For the next three nights we will be staying in the RV park at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio, just outside Durango Colorado.
Adjacent the Casino is the Southern Ute museum. It has well designed and thought out displays, and tells the story of the area’s Native peoples, specifically the Southern Utes, past, present and future in a “matter of fact” method. It also has a thought provoking display about the north american wolf population and a study done in Yellowstone. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, not unlike all the other Native American people, were much maligned and thought to be “savages” for their way of life. Contrary to the “European” view of land ownership, the Ute believed that the land “owned them”, and lived in a symbiotic relationship with the land. As a people they pride themselves in being skilled horsemen (having early on “lifted” a few from the “visiting” Spainards). The introduction of the horse was a game changer for the Utes, allowing them to become superior big game hunters and to better provide for their people. The Southern Ute, like much of the Native Americans, were “moved” onto reservations in the late 1800’s. These parcels of land were involved in lengthy and vitrol land disputes with the “Europeans”. Often, the land “given” to the Native Americans was thought to be “surplus” land, considered by the “whiteman” as “useless” to them. In this case, the joke was on them, as underneath this “useless” land was a wealth of minerals, oil, and natural gas. It wasn’t till after WWII, when many of the Southern Utes who had returned from overseas (having fought valiently for the US), that they we able to capitalize on their “buried treasure”. From there, they have rebuilt their nation and are working on recapturing and restoring their native language (Shoshonean) and culture. The dividens from the tribe’s financial holdings (which includes the Sky Ute Casino Resort) are paid out to those having documented 25% Ute ancestory. Unlike some Indian Casinos we have been through, the Southern Ute’s, Sky Ute Casino Resort is remarkably modern and meticulously maintained, evidence of their personal pride as a people and nation. I do not mean this as slight to other tribes or nations, it is just an outward observation in this particular case. The RV park we are staying in has 20 full hook-up sites located immediately adjacent to the Casino. When camped at the RV park, you have full access to the Casino, to include the pool, it’s shower/locker room and laundry facilities. The first order of business once we have checked in and completed our hook-up, is a SHOWER!
Once all cleaned up, we plan out our stay. Seeing that the weather is holding nicely we decide to head to Mesa Verde National Park, and the examination of some serious cliff dwellings, the following morning, an hour drive or so.