1 INTERVIEW WITH MARIAH CUCH, EDITOR, UTE BULLETIN NANCY GREEN: As a Ute, youʼve participated in the Bear Dance, youʼve danced. What is the Bear Dance? MARIAH CUCH: Well, the basis of the Bear Dance is a bear. On one part. And the Bear Dance itself, and its origins, and its rules, its practice, its relationship back to survival-- its function as a way of meeting, of courting. And there's different levels of Bear Dance's functions. And the most important being the component that brings people together. That during the times of a long time ago, that the wintertime was very difficult. You can imagine spending a winter with your family, and having no food, or very little to eat, and on the edge of survival. Throughout the whole time, things were that way. And so when the time came that there was more, that the people started to gather those things and come together, that there would begin to pull out of winter. Because by then you know how it is when winter is just agonizing on you. That it's drawn out to its exhaustion. And that in that way, we can, again, set in our minds, deep in winter, put our minds into the springtime. Into those things, setting that time ahead of us. Thatʼs the one part of it. The other part of it, that belongs to the bear, is more like the part that the bear itself has a hibernating. That he sleeps in the wintertime. And that the bear itself is that way. And the bear gave us that gift of survival through the winter. Of endurance. And that in celebrating that springtime, in coming together out of winter, that you shed those things. That you shed your agonies. You shed your pains. You become new again. Like that springtime. The way that we'd say, as it is New Year. That let us not take this suffering into the future with us. Let's leave it here. And that's why I enjoy the dirt so much, because it's a way of really trampling it up, to wake the earth, to set those things down. That when the dust settles, you do come out of it. leave it there. And then we can step out of it, into the summer, into where we need to take care of other things. And that's how I feel about it. That's the place. And that anybody involved with that, anybody in there -- anybody that can feel that vibration is blessed by that, because the earth has a way of pulling those things from you. And then you feel better. And then that's just a natural way of being. That it's gone from you. And you can become your day-to-day self, your functioning as caretakers, as mothers, as people that have responsibilities to one another, can continue in a good way. NANCY GREEN: Is there a parallel there with the Ute people? The seasons, surviving winter the notion of survival? MARIAH CUCH: Yeah. I think all things are that way. Whether they're cycles of life, whether they're -- I'm talking about all of the people. And that's a natural order of things. When I say that I set my life to a way, that that's not just because that that way is this way. It's that all things are that way. And the cycles of our life are expressed in the Bear Dance. They're expressed in the Sun Dance. They're expressed in the functions of
2 childhood. That all of those things have that motion about them. I can't say what that is. That's life. And when we're able to find a way to express those things, whether it's kicking up the dust, and laughing, and really feeling life, that that is, indeed, life itself. And so when I look at the people, or when I look at history, when I feel those things buried in some deep inside of all of us, the hurt, they're a way to take care of that, that we've been given, that the bear gave us. There's ways that our ancestors believe, that sustain our lives today. I don't have to go and pray to the Creator for something my grandfather already prayed for. He set those prayers in his time. I just need to tend what he's given me. I need to tend what she's given me. I need to tend those things as a woman. And in tending those things, my life blooms. In tending those things, my life becomes whole. And in reality, maybe that's how those things become better for all of us, from home to home, family to family. And in that way, we can be as we are, by what our grandfathers gave us to tend. His parents were there. Her parents are there. They came together in a time that was so suffering. Just to pray for life, to pray for blood, to pray that we continue. And then that's the blessing of today. So I can feel good. I can say, It's all good. It's the way it is. I want to enjoy you. I want to enjoy the people. I want to take care of what they gave to us. I can't want more than that. That's just the way it is. NANCY GREEN: How did you come to be a Bear Dancer, is it something you learned when you were a young girl? MARIAH CUCH: Well, when -- when we were growing up, it was difficult, because we were really poor, and we didn't have transportation. And during the whole year, we would have to look forward to something. And my grandma, she lived here in this house, and we lived down the road a little ways. And so we would get together, and get ready for Bear Dance. And it was her that would take us there, as well as my mother. We would find a ride down to the Randlett Bear Dance. And it was a time where we could look forward to something. It was the first time of the year, where we could get away from school, and from the long, drawn-out time between the last Bear Dance. And so we would come up here, and we would get with the old lady, and pick out shawls and stuff. So that's kind of how it started. And that was when we were really young. NANCY GREEN: As you became a teenager, was it difficult to keep going to the dance, to continue the tradition? MARIAH CUCH: I remember going to Randlett, and it was hard. You know, being a teenager is just a hard thing in general, and you're looking for different reasons for things, and different things. And we would go to the Bear Dance, my sisters and I, and it would be hot -- it would be hot in the afternoon. And we'd have to sit with the old lady. Most of the time we would be in there, and it's dusty and hot in there, the first part of the Bear Dance. And we get there, and slowly, towards the afternoon time, the -- the young girls would start showing up, after school or at different times that their families could be there. And I remember watching my friends roaming around outside the corral, watching
3 them. And I remember looking at the old lady, and the dust, and the heat. And she would tell me, Go dance. Go dance. As long as the singers are singing, you're dancing, was the rule. And so it was hard. I'd see my friends. And sometimes I would want to be out there with them. I would want to run around, and play, and, you know, be with them. And well, we wouldn't. We would sit with her. And laugh. And she'd tell us crazy stories, and who we were related to, and who we weren't related to. And I remember sitting there with her, and looking at my friends. And, oh, it would be nice to go out there and do that. But then, you know, it came to your mind that we were here to dance. That we were with her. And we couldn't leave her. What if she had some kind of need? Or who -- who would do that for her? Would get her up, or get her something to eat, or walk with her? And those hours seemed so long back then. The dirt, and the dust. And the constant dancing, the constant dancing. But what I remember most is just her laughter. And telling me who my relatives are, and hounding me. And the old men were that way too. You know, I'm a woman dancer, and so what I remember of them, when they would sit and visit, between breaks, because we were that way. As long as they were singing, we were dancing, and that's the way that things were supposed to be. And so they would give us breaks once in a while to catch up, and the old timers, they would tell the young girls who to pick--tending us as young dancers. And that's the things that I remember about Bear Dance. And, as I grew older, it became something where I wasn't looking outside the corral. It became a -- just a way of life. And that it helped me personally pass the seasons. To help me put my mind towards preparing for it. For getting ready for that time that we would dance. And now, I see my friends in there dancing with us, and they bring their children there. And it's good. NANCY GREEN: What is the importance of the bear dance? MARIAH CUCH: Oh, you know, with that -- with that memory of how it was as a young person, and what the Rose taught us. She was married to the Bear Dance chief, and he was also the Sun Dance chief. And so when she taught us about those ways of life, there was simplicity to -- to that. You know, there's a lot of different things that belong to us. But the true simplicity and joy of what I understand from my belief is about the people. And that what we are, and what brings all of the -- the rules and the formulas for our way of life are for the people. That it's a matter of of healing, of being together. And that, in fact, the most important thing about all of those things we do in -- is for each other. In that way that we live our lives. NANCY GREEN: You know, most of us don't live in the land that our grandparents, and our great grandparents, and our ancestors lived on. What's that experience like for you, living here? MARIAH CUCH: I guess that, to answer that, I'd have to explain that maybe in a bigger context of land and homes, or more real estate. Real estate in itself is a word thatʼs not necessarily land, or home. Yet it is those things. And so I think that first I'd have to tell you that this land isn't mine. I get to have it in my lifetime, to tend. And it belongs to my
4 Tribe. And that when I'm given this chance to live here, itʼs my time to live here. That it's my time to tend these things. And that in that way, my own life comes from it. And that I'm able to continue what was given to me. When I came home from college, the home was abandoned. And I was able to talk to the rest of my family members, who had interest in it. And they were pleased that I would come here, to set my life. And they wanted to know that it would continue. Because I was able to go to four of my family members, in a good way, and pull it together and continue that, because it was time to revive it. Maybe the same way as Bear Dance. That things are set. And so I really can't understand business and real estate. I just couldn't imagine being disconnected from -- not just a home, but from time itself. And then that -- that my obligation to owning this place, of tending it, is to ensure that it's continued, and that it's taken care of well. That's how I personally return back what was given to me, whether it's a home, whether it's education. Whatever it is that I gained as a Tribal member, I have to return those things back, throughout an entire lifetime. And that -- that's my -- It becomes my life, my son's life, and the people that I'm able to take care of. And so that's the way I see having a home. I'm very fortunate that I have a home to tend to. NANCY GREEN: So you have a connection to this land, and time, and your ancestors? MARIAH CUCH: I'd have to specifically say when my great grandpa had left Colorado, and he came here. This is his allotment. This is the home that they came to after they came back from South Dakota. And so there was times in my life when I had to go through hardships. And I look at these trees. You know, it did come down to that, where you feel so involved with your own suffering, or your own personal things, and you find yourself in a moment. And when that moment disappeared, my mind was in a different place, I was able to feel that here. That a lot more had taken place, in my life time, that was more come -- more of a compilation of suffering, and agony, as well as joy and happiness. And that it was these trees that lived those things too. And so that way, I felt that comfort, because the trees had been there with my family. And that the trees lived a longer time than any one of us could, whether it was my grandpa, or my great grandpa. And in that way, life continued from those things, because of the trees themselves, because they're older than us. And maybe it was a sapling when my grandma's cried on it, and it's still taking that for us. And it's -- it's a good. NANCY GREEN: You have been through a lot of hardship. It seems like, from what you told me, there is just a generation -- your father's generation, and maybe the generation before that, that went through a lot. That maybe got lost. MARIAH CUCH: Well, youʼd have to ask them that generation. But I think that it -- when I think about it, because it -- I guess, as a young person looking back towards my father's generation, and we do. We go back in time for answers for yourselves. You know, reasons for things being the way they are. I see that it is a common -- how to say this -- break in time. A break in a society. A huge enormous rift that occurred during those generations. Not only just my grandfather's time -- well, my father's time, my
5 grandfather's time, of course, which -- which dominoed into what I am. And so, to understand myself, I look back to understand my family. And, again, to come back home here, and realize that they did suffer greatly. And that when I feel like I -- when I feel like the world owes me something, it cuts very clean to me, because I don't have a right to feel that way, because there's things in my world I don't concern myself with. I'm not starving. I'm not suffering in anguish, and doubt, the way that the previous generations before me had to deal with. And, in their time, and their -- Let's just say this, for example. That when my father was taken from home, he grew up here for a little while, and then my grandpa lived in the mountains not far from here. During his time, he was part of a relocation that took place in the '50s. And he was a young boy. He was about five, and his older brother was eight. And he was relocated to Springville, and raised that way. He didn't speak English. You know? My father wasn't born but in the early '50s. And he didn't even speak English. And that -- and then the trauma of that. I have a young son. I can't imagine the trauma of him having to endure that. And then to come into a culture that had no idea of his self. Of what I own as an individual myself, comes from the home, the land, everything that I gained in my short lifetime. What would a young man take into that world? Nothing. And yet everything he is has no answer for. And so whether that happened at just boarding school, or relocation, or whatever it may be, that the answers for yourself are in your lifetime. And that that's where that suffering come from, I believe, so. That's how I answer it. NANCY GREEN: Yeah. It's a hard time to lose your culture. Be torn away -- ripped away from you. MARIAH CUCH: What does a five-year-old have, if not that absorbing of a world? NANCY GREEN: Your dad was a veteran too. Were there a lot of Utes that were veterans? MARIAH CUCH: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, we've got quite a big list of veterans. Yeah. That's something that our people, as an entire -- I would say that we take a great pride in our veterans, and our service to our country since that time. Yeah, we have World War I veterans, and World War II veterans, and Vietnam. All through the service. And even now, we have Tribal members on the other side of the world. NANCY GREEN: What does it mean to -- to you, to be Ute? MARIAH CUCH: What's the Ute? My life, again, on August 31st, 1976, and today's what, May 18th? All of those things are Ute. From my life. And there's -- there's many, many more births, and there's many, many more days that are Ute. And all of those things are -- they're maybe like that field there, that they have plants in them. That can pile up so much to be what a Ute is. And that's what I see is a Ute, is all of the variety of life that began from our ancestral lands, from our home, began from that time, spreading
6 out to today, and -- And we're so many things. We're everything in that way. NANCY GREEN: The theme of the show is We Shall Remain. What does that mean to you? MARIAH CUCH: Oh. I'll tell you one thing about myself. I love physics. I studied physics in school. And that it's complicated, physics is. It -- the blade of grass that's the blade of grass today wasn't the blade of grass from ten years ago. Your body, it becomes new every seven years. Everything revolves. And so what I am, this one here, is everything. And that we are. In fact, all things. And so what I am is everything. And so what was Ute is today, what is Ute is yesterday, what is Ute is tomorrow. And so we never lose those things in ourselves, because we continue in the way that all things continue. And that those things are beautiful. They are all things, the way God wills them to be. And, again, we are just what we are, as individuals. As human beings. And that those are things we all are. If I go back in time and I look at the dark time that my grandfathers lived in, specifically my great -- my grandpa, who was born in 1914, who grew up first of hundreds and hundreds of generations of Ute. Grew up born on a reservation. When I look in his time, did he ask himself, What is a Ute? Did he even dream that his children would come back from that world there? Did he dream I would be here? I can't say that. But I'm here. And so I have to trust that those things are set for my future. And that he did that time. He did the gap. And that all of that time I can only live in contentment, and humility, because of what he suffered, what my grandmother suffered. What my father continues to suffer. Asking that very same question, what is a Ute? And the reality of it is, is that we hold the blood of our families. And we are Ute. And that's us. That's us that drives a truck down the road. That's us that farms in the field. That's us that's in college. That's us, the elderly woman that passed away in Chicago, who was probably, you know, in the '60s, a hippie, and -- We are so many things that's beautiful. And it's our blood that makes us Ute. It's our -- sometimes some of us lose our family names, but it's our blood that makes us Ute, and a vessel of the past. The same as that tree. The same as all things that -- that we are vessels of our families. Of those things. And that we live in a very small moment of time. To answer that question, you ask me on the day of my death. And that will be one lifetime that's Ute. And that's it. NANCY GREEN: Your son, Daniel, is such a great kid. What do you want for his generation? MARIAH CUCH: For the kids? For all of them? Because when I see my son -- I love my son. And when -- when I think of his life, I cannot think of him being a doctor or a lawyer. Whatever he is, that's fine. But I see his world. His world includes his friends. His world includes our culture. His world is all of that. And so I'm very -- You probably saw me just get so excited thinking about the children, because I remember that. I remember that time. And it was good. As difficult and hard as it was, it was beautiful. And I think that my responsibility as an adult is only to ask one question of my
7 responsibility to them. My son. To the little ones today. Is what would I have wanted handed to me when I was that age? What would endure my lifetime, to get them through to the end of their days. And that's what I try to provide for him, and for all of them. NANCY GREEN: You get excited about the kids. MARIAH CUCH: Oh. I get excited when I think about the Ute youth. Because I think why I get excited is because I come from this place where we all come from, on a reservation. No, I don't have any kind of doubt about that, or my childhood. And so I would encourage the young people, you know, I'm here. I've come through -- I never liked to use my education as something to set in front of the young people. I don't like to tell them, Go be educated. I don't want to say those things to them. I want the teenagers to maybe understand something that maybe all teenagers can understand. Is that what you are is good. What you love is wonderful. And with your lifetime, do your best at expressing yourself. Don't look for answers for what you are outside of your own heart, your own self. And be that way. Be happy within yourself, regardless of what the world pounds at you. Because where you come from individually is good. Where you come from, as a Ute, is so much to stand on. And that you're part of a lineage, and you get to live in a time where no other Ute got to live. So stand proud, and remember that about yourself as a young person. And don't doubt that. Don't doubt, for one minute, that you're Ute. Because it's all good. That's what I would say. NANCY GREEN: It seems like growing up on the reservation you have to face some harsh realities drugs, abuse, violence. They also exist outside, but do you think you have to face more of that here? MARIAH CUCH: Uh-huh. I really couldn't say more or less without having a comparison to it. It's my life. And so I really -- I see it around me. I know -- I have to call my older brother constantly and tell him his friends passed away. He's 34. You know? Constantly watching the young people die. That's not something that just stops. And every time that comes to us, it's difficult. And that's why I would say, you know, live your days being alive. And I guess that's why you treasure every moment of it. And I do have dear friends that are struggling now. I don't think I deal with it very often, because the reality is there. What I do in the paper, what I do for the people is try to remind them of the good things in the world. You know. And the things worth living for. Because there's just so much. Uh-huh. I really can't say what -- what's comparison. I have no clue. But I do know that it's difficult. And there's a lot of reasons for that. And that's all I would have to say about that. NANCY GREEN: Itʼs a tough question. Itʼs tough to get perspective on it. But itʼs something a lot of people donʼt want to talk about. Did you see that growing up?
8 MARIAH CUCH: How would it be if we went to prom, and within ten years half of those boys were dead? That's the reality. How would it be if you went to prom and half of the girls, that were in beautiful prom dresses, had been raped within the next six months? How would it be if 3/4 of them, in the next two years after that, had babies? How would it be if that your -- every other child probably had drugs on them growing up or what. Those are very real things in my world too. And I don't -- I -- that's why I plead with them, you know, as young people. Treasure yourself. Treasure that moment. Because when -- maybe we walk through a war zone. I don't know. I don't know. It's beautiful (inaudible). Your life is precious and beautiful. And -- They say in America that the one that lives and doesn't short his life is the Indian man. And I'm looking at my son now. And I know he'll grow to be old, because he'll -- because I believe that. And because I'm here today. And because of my grandma has arrived. And because my dad still lives. And I know I tell my young son, I know I tell him, Son, you have to stand on the world. You have to stand in the world that has the corpses of your friends, that you have to stand in the world that has the corpses of your friend's dreams, and you have to stand there as a man. And son, you stand your ground, because you stand on them all. You stand where your grandpa stood, and you stand where he fell. You stand where your great grandpa stood, and you stand where he fell. And that's where you stand in your lifetime. And you stand on them all. And when he turns, when he turns his head in his lifetime, there will be many men. And that's the good future we have to look for. I want to see the men stand, because women will survive. Hell or high water, we do. And that's what I want to give it to my son, and the young men. You stand on their corpses in a holy way, with yourself, with your mind. Because it's the warriors we lost. That's why it's difficult, Nancy. How do you have an answer for that as a human? As a mother? As a sister? As a woman? Hell or high water, we'll make it. But it's our boys, our men that we need to give strength to. NANCY GREEN: As an outsider, as a non-native looking at Ute culture, is there anything that you think is critical for me to understand? MARIAH CUCH: Uh-huh. It's hard for me to know what to say, because in all reality, it seems so foreign to me, the needs of the culture you're asking about. I would say that we have teepees. We eat hot dogs. You know, we're human. You know, I was -- again, I was born in the '70s. I know what Pacman is. I know what Star Wars is. You know, there's certain things that just are all of us. And so we're not much different. We come from a different culture. I think that our culture's like an island. You know, Indian ways of all of us, as Indian people, are like little islands in the bigger world. But I really -- they would have to ask me, you know, I really don't understand that reflection back, looking towards me, as far as, Hey, you know, what's different about you? I'm like, Well, why don't you tell me, and then I'll tell you. Because I -- I don't know. Maybe it comes back to where, as a -- well, I'll just say Indian, because maybe there's more people than just the Utes. I think we have to live so broad. We have to go from the Bear Dance to McDonalds. I mean, that's not odd to us. We have to constantly -- any culture that comes into whatever the mainstream is has to extend its own self, to be part of that.
9 Punching in a time clock. You know, writing English. All of the things that we use to function, those tools. They're not necessarily foreign, but they're just -- there were hundreds of generations of Ute-ness that's not expressed in my everyday life, that are part of bigger society.