Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 9, 2002 - Issue 54


pictograph divider


A Monumental Day

credits: Photos by Tom Smart of the Deseret News. first photo Stephanie LaRee Spann jogs past Delicate Arch with the Olympic torch this morning after an American Indian sunrise ceremony conducted by her grandfather. second photo-Frank Arrowchis hands the torch to granddaughter Stephanie LaRee Spann during the sunrise ceremony. Arrowchis learned the rites from his father.
MOAB — The Olympic flame began its final ascent to Salt Lake City on a wing and a prayer as the sun rose over famed Delicate Arch early today.

Wearing a feathered war bonnet and full buckskin regalia, Frank Arrowchis carefully peered east across Arches National Park for the first rays to peek over the snow-capped LaSal Mountains. The Northern Ute sunrise ceremony passed down for generations must take place when the sun first appears, he explained earlier.

As the light illuminated the clear sky, Arrowchis said afterward that he offered a petition of protection and guidance for torchbearers, Olympians and the president of the United States.

Arrowchis, 65, waved an eagle wing in the four directions of the compass before patting the first torch runner — his granddaughter Stephanie LaRee Spann — from head to toe as a blessing.

The 16-year-old Taylorsville High School student then jogged around the snow-splotched red sandstone bowl, setting in motion the five-day relay to the climactic lighting of the Olympic caldron at opening ceremonies Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

About 400 spectators gathered in a bowl just west of Delicate Arch cheered at the sight of the flame.

"It was really peaceful, Spann said, shivering in the frosty air. "It kind of made me appreciate that I still have my grandfather and that I can share this experience with him."

A raven's caw and an American Indian flutist's gentle song broke the morning silence, though the natural melodies were outdone by a news helicopter whirring overhead.

"Most of our music comes from our hearts," said Lakota Tribe member Nagi Nupa, who titled his flute solo "We Are One."

Torchbearers paraded the Olympic flame through the Windows section of Arches, including Double Arch and Balanced Rock. Mountain bikers pedaled it into Moab for a Main Street procession.

An AirMed airplane this morning was scheduled to fly the flame to the Navajo Indian Reservation in Monument Valley for a short tour in the southeastern corner of Utah. The plane will then deliver it to Bryce Canyon National Park, where cross country skiers and snowshoers will hoist the torch. The relay also was to pass through Zion National Park before ending today at a St. George street party.

Indian culture was in full bloom this morning at Arches National Park.

Forrest Cuch, state director of Indian affairs, held the torch up to the east, south, west and north before running his leg down the Delicate Arch Trail.

"It's just a way of consecrating the beginning of the day," he said.

Cuch said he was skeptical about the significance of the Olympic flame before joining the relay for a short time in Oklahoma. Now, he said, he sees in it a "powerful" message of love and peace.

Arrowchis, a rancher in the tiny outpost of Whiterocks on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in eastern Utah, learned the sunrise ceremony by watching and listening to his father, who is a medicine man and tribal elder.

"It's just something handed down, and it becomes part of you as you're growing up," he said.

Arrowchis does not conduct the ritual lightly. It has deep spiritual meaning to Northern Utes.

"It's real," he said. "For us it's real, anyway."

The ceremony is not unlike one performed in Olympia, Greece, last November when the Olympic flame was kindled by a ray of sunlight. An actress playing the role of a high priestess placed the fire on an altar and petitioned the gods on behalf of those who would relay it to Salt Lake City.

"The ancients again bring us that source of connection to the divine," said Mitt Romney, Salt Lake Organizing Committee president.

Neither Arrowchis nor Nupa usually conduct public displays of their rituals, but they consented for the 2002 Winter Games.

"I think the spirit of my ancestors reached out and touched us and said, 'This is a good thing,' " said Nupa, clad in a cream-colored elk skin and a moose pelt.

Moab resident Jo Anne Simbeck, 59, arose at 3:30 a.m. to hike the dark Delicate Arch Trail for a spot at the lower bowl, too far away to hear Nupa's song.

"My only disappointment is that there was no music," she said. "I felt like bursting out and singing 'America the Beautiful.' "

There also was a bit of what Moab is famous for in today's events.

Directly under the long shadow of Balanced Rock, Natalie Hettman, a 61-year-old National Park Service worker, put the lit torch into a PVC pipe latched to her back wheel and pedaled down the road on her old mountain bike.

"Well this area is known for its mountain biking, so it makes sense I'm biking it through," Hettman said. "It would have been fun if they would have let me go off road a little too, but that's OK."

The torch is scheduled to start Tuesday in St. George and end the day in Provo.

pictograph divider


Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


Canku Ota Logo


Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Thank You