In 1995 a small group of Hopis traveled from their homes at Second Mesa, Ariz., to Chimney Rock. A loosely formed group in Pagosa Springs offered to provide a few tents and meals for the Hopis while they were here. With the support of Glenn Raby and the USFS Pagosa Ranger District, on Sept. 16, 1995, Eldon Kenyamawa and 18 other Hopi singers and dancers presented the Rainbow Dance to an audience of several hundred people. Those who were there possibly witnessed the first time puebloan songs had been heard and puebloan dances had been seen at Chimney Rock in over 900 years. Since then, close to 1,000 native peoples have returned to Chimney Rock to share their traditions with the public.
A volunteer group, Friends of Native Cultures, was formed to organize and support what came to be known as the Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering. Today, not only Hopi singers, dancers, storytellers and artists participate, but also groups from Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, Ohkay Oweingeh, Picuris, San Felipe, Santa Clara, Santa Domingo and Taos pueblos. There have been Maya elders and Yaqui and Azteca dancers at the gatherings. The Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Jicarilla Apache, Lakota and Navajo tribes have been represented. No where else in the Four Corners do so many indigenous people gather with the public at an ancestral site.
Traditionally, the pueblo culture considers the number four to be a complete cycle. The 2010 Chimney Rock event will be the 16th consecutive gathering; four cycles of four, a complete and absolute cycle and the perfect time to make a change. After this year’s event on July 24 and 25, Friends of Native Cultures will bow out and another volunteer group will take over the sponsorship and organization of the Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering. Jaime Carpio from Laguna Pueblo and Terry Sloan who is of Hopi and Navajo descent will manage the new volunteer group with the continued support of the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association and the USFS Pagosa Ranger District. This special one of a kind event will continue. The only change will be the sponsoring volunteer group. They have yet to decide on a name, but there is no doubt that by next year’s gathering, the new group will be ready to carry on the Native American Chimney Rock event.
In the meantime, come out this weekend and be a part of the annual Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering. Groups from Hopi and Zuni will be there, as well as singers and dancers from Acoma, Laguna, and Ohkay Oweingeh Pueblos. The Azteca dancers from Grupo Tlaloc will once again join the gathering.
Programs are at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Admission is $10 and 100 percent of the gate proceeds is divided among the singers and dancers.
Bring a blanket or camp chair to sit on, and be at the gate at least thirty minutes prior to the program. Since parking is limited, you may have to walk up to a quarter of a mile in order to get to the great kiva where the traditional dances will be held. No advanced tickets will be sold. Be prepared for rain. Pueblo people include a prayer for moisture in all of their songs, and it has seldom failed to rain during or immediately after their dances at Chimney Rock.
Call 731-4248 or 883-5359 if you have questions.