Society problems

Summit Historical Society exhibit explores the Ute Tribe’s use of engineering and science in Summit County

The Summit Historical Society’s new exhibit explores how the Ute tribe used science and technology.
Elaine Collins/Courtesy Photo

Summit County residents and community members can learn about Summit County’s earliest residents at the Summit Historical Society’s new exhibit, which showcases how members of the Ute Tribe designed their homes and businesses. other parts of their culture.

The traveling exhibit, titled “The Ute Knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math,” will run through September 6.

A new interactive exhibit allows visitors to participate in STEM activities to discover how the Ute tribe used science and math.
Elaine Collins/Courtesy Photo

According to History Colorado, the STEM Ute Project explores the integration of STEM and Western Ute traditional ecological knowledge. The project includes fieldwork, programs, exhibits and film, and builds on more than 20 years of collaboration between the three Ute tribes, scientists and Colorado history museums.



In 2017 and 2018, Ute elders, youth, and scientists visited sites in Colorado’s West Slope and San Luis Valley, exploring the intersections between tribal knowledge and science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This includes the tribe’s use of ethnobotany, or the scientific study of a people’s traditional knowledge and customs regarding plants and their medicinal, religious, and alternative uses.

Ute elders and scientists discuss and share knowledge about historic Ute sites in western Colorado. Courtesy of History Colorado

“We really hope that people, our visitors to Summit County – whether they are full-time residents, second home owners or visitors – their takeaway is land use, and land that (the Utes) used was migratory. … The migratory part of the Utes was very, very important to the early land use of Colorado (and) Utah. And in this use of the land, (the exhibition) compares it to today.



Queen added that the company is currently developing smaller pop-up exhibits for county libraries, the senior center and other public spaces to continue education on the Ute migration routes and other aspects of the Native American culture.

The Summit Historical Society visited fourth-grade students at Summit County Elementary Schools about Ute uses of STEM, including allowing students to interact with a large-scale map that shows how the Utes traveled in areas of Colorado and Utah during different seasons. Classes also examine old and new photos of the Ute tribes.

Then, students are divided into groups and rotate through the stations highlighting each of the STEM areas and how common they were in everyday Ute life.

In the current exhibit, children and adults can participate in hands-on activities to learn about the history of the Utes in Summit County. This includes solving math problems such as how long it would take to walk from Denver to Salt Lake City and how long it would take for a horse versus an automobile.

“What makes it really, really special is how it’s been looked at by the Ute tribes today, and in the school curriculum they have pictures of Utes 100 years ago and today,” Queen said. “It shows their involvement in today’s society. They’re not just about reservations; they are in all parts of our society. This is what is really important. It is simply to establish how they used science, technology, engineering and mathematics.