White Mesa gets new playground equipment

Members of the White Mesa community celebrated the installation of new playground equipment on May 11.

The equipment is just one way that the tribe is supporting residents in the community, according to Council Member Malcolm Lehi, who represents White Mesa.

“[White Mesa Administration] is here and doing things for our community in a big way,” said Lehi. “Not only that as tribal leadership is supporting and helping our community move forward to the future and for the next generations to come.”

The installation of playground equipment for White Mesa youth was part of a collaboration between the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the White Mesa Community and the Sleeping Ute Diabetes Program.

Speaking in an interview with Red Rock Radio 92.7 FM on May 10, White Mesa Administrator Gwen Cantsee explained the program focuses on physical activity for youth as the first step in prevention of diabetes in the community.

The equipment includes swings, slides and half-court basketball.

“There’s also a canopy over the playground equipment to get the heat off the playground equipment so that kids don’t get burned or anything. It’s really nice,” Cantsee said. 

“There’s benches out there and hopefully in the future we’re projecting possibly installing a restroom area and drinking fountain for the kids there.”

With the isolating effects of the pandemic being particularly hard on children, the community is anxious to have the equipment available to residents.

“It’s been a long time coming... With all of the cooperation and the collaboration between the different departments it became a reality,” said Cantsee. “So, we’re really happy about that and it’s going to be good to see our youth out there taking advantage of that.”

In addition to the new playground equipment, other programs offered at the White Mesa Community Center will be returning soon.

Cindy Badback explained with about 80-percent of seniors vaccinated, they are set to see the return of programs offered to elders in White Mesa.

“We’ll be getting the in-house meals pretty soon and doing more deliveries out into the community,” said Badback. “We are planning on getting many activities set up for them, especially the cultural areas and with the children joining in. So we’re looking forward to getting that headed out again into our community. Maybe making trips to all these traditional things we’ve got like the bear dance, and out shopping.”

Badback says even with high vaccination rates, they will still take covid precautions by wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Additionally, this Saturday donations will be arriving from Salt Lake City for those in the community aged 60 and up. Badback says they hope to have the boxes ready about 2 p.m. and asks those eligible to come receive the packages.

Of course, a true return to normal for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in White Mesa will be measured by the return of the White Mesa Bear Dance in September.

One of the organizers for the dance, Jack Cantsee Jr., says the celebration is scheduled for Labor Day weekend, but how large it may be will depend on other Ute Bear Dances.

“We’re watching the other Bear Dances that are going on and after the Bear Dances if [Covid] numbers go up,” said Cantsee. “It all just depends on if their numbers go up or if they stay down if we’re going to really proceed with it.”

Although it’s hard to know how COVID-19 will impact an event four months from now, Cantsee Jr. says at this point they’ll likely have people wearing masks to be cautious and could cut accompanying activities just to hold the dance.

Despite all that, Cantsee Jr. says they hope to be able to host people at the event, which is a cultural experience on its own.

“The last dance is the killer,” said Cantsee Jr. “It ends up being a competition between the singers and the dancers and who’s going to outlast each other. If the dancers fall, then the singers have won that one. But if the singers give up, the dancers win.”

Cantsee Jr. says while the Bear Dance is a social dance it is also a healing ceremony. “Once you get the hang of it, it’s hard to not want to dance.”

You can hear more about the White Mesa Bear Dance in the full interview, posted at Redrock92.com.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday