Sunday, June 8, 2008

Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings, Colorado

Native American Indians have performed their special dances for generations at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The dances are carefully designed to take into account the sun’s rays (see shadow of dancer). The traditional dances have been passed down from father to son and grandson, each bringing new life into their extraordinary customs that continue to this day.

A visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. The dwellings are open year round, but the American Indian dancers only appear from June to August. They perform daily at specific times, and, as you wait for their program to begin, a visitor can explore the dwellings, museum and gift shop.

Following is an excerpt from the Manitou Cliff Dwellings site.

Chief Manitou
In the first decade of the 20th century Cayete, a great uncle of Mike's and Bob's grandmother, performed here at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. At a time when Native Americans were more of a curiosity to western tourists, "Chief Manitou," as he was nicknamed by old timers in Manitou Springs, and other Indians would meet arriving passenger trains at Colorado Springs' old Rio Grande Railroad Terminal, now occupied by Giuseppe's Restaurant. He also sold Indian "trinkets" at the Narrows in William's Canyon, below the Cave of the Winds.

Joseph Tafoya, Sr. (Chief Little Deer), 1892-1972
Chief Little Deer entertained and educated Cliff Dwellings visitors from 1916 until his death in 1972, right here in the Pueblo building. A volunteer, he was one of the original Seabees during World War I. He attended Carlisle University with Jim Thorpe. Later, he served as governor of the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. During the 1940's he was Chairman of the All Pueblo Indian Council.

Joseph Tafoya, Jr. (Whitecloud), 1922-2000
Bob and Mike's father, Whitecloud (okhuwa-tsa in his native Tewa language), died July 19, 2000, at the age of 78. Following in the footsteps of his own father, he performed for decades here at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. He was a man of many talents. While attending Santa Fe Indian School, he studied with well-known Indian artists Pablita Velarde and Allen Houser. Later, while attending high school in EspaƱola, one of his paintings of traditional Pueblo life won a national art competition judged by Norman Rockwell.

Mike Little Deer Tafoya, 1948-2001
Cliff Dwellings visitors and staff will miss Mike Little Deer Tafoya. He died on August 4, 2001, following a short illness. He was 53. Born at Santa Clara Pueblo in Northern New Mexico, Mike was already dancing at the age of two with his Grandfather, Joseph Tafoya Sr. (Chief Little Deer), and others at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. He traveled around the world with members of his family, sharing Native American Indian culture and dance with others. In his later years he acted as emcee for the Cliff Dwelling dancers, lacing his descriptions of dance origins and significance with a unique brand of humor.

The Tafoyas are members of the Winter Clan, also known as the Corn People, who are connected to the Hopi. According to their creation story, they are the Ice People, who emerged from the Earth at a point between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Southern Colorado.