KSUT | By Clark Adomaitis

A golf ball behaves differently in dry mountain air than on a humid coastline. Last month, Ute Mountain Ute tribe member Devin Frost, 19, got a taste of that difference.

Hanley Frost, a Southern Ute elder who has taught classes at the local Montessori Academy and worked on translations for a Ute dictionary, led the classes. Frost’s lighthearted attitude captivated the students, and they recited back the words of their ancestors that Frost taught them.

“The altitude and the humidity really have a big impact on the ball," explained Frost. "Here at our home course, which is Conquistador, our ball would probably fly like 150 (yards) with our pitching wedge. But there, our pitching wedge was flying only 120 to 130 (yards). So having that 20 to 30 yards of difference, it’s a big change.”

In July, Frost traveled from the Four Corners to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to compete in the North American Indigenous Games.

The journey wasn’t just about golf. It was a social experience too.

Gavin Frost, left, Devin Frost, center, and Austin Romero. right, played golf for Team Colorado. Tehya Ketchum / Weenuche Smoke Signals

“I played a kid from Alberta and a kid from Minnesota. It was really nice to get to know their culture and get to know where they're from, and how different their culture is to ours. It was fascinating just to listen to their stories of how they fish, how they hunt, how they eat,” said Devin Frost.

Gavin Frost is Devin’s younger brother and also is a golfer.

“One thing that we all had in common was golfing. We had a lot of fun. Native kids don't get the recognition that we should get,” said Frost.

The North American Indigenous Games were founded by Two First Nations men in Canada who started pursuing the idea in the 1970s. Since 1990, they’ve been held every three to five years. This year, more than 5,000 Native American athletes from over 750 Indigenous nations competed.

Team Colorado's basketball team included Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribe teenagers. Divine Windy Boy / Southern Ute Drum

Bird Red lives in Ignacio and traveled to Halifax as a basketball coach for Team Colorado.

“That whole stadium was packed," said Red. "I was there at the opening ceremony, where all 5,000 participants filled up this whole sports arena. We all got to introduce the states or provinces that we were representing. We'd be on the Jumbotron. And all the other teams would get to see us walk in. And it was super huge. It was big.”

At 21 years old, Red enjoys reminiscing about his years as a teenage athlete.

Gavin Frost, 19, had to adjust his stroke when he played in the humid air in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Tehya Ketchum / Weenuche Smoke Signals

“I was working with kids between 14 and 17. I'm not that much older than them. They remind you a lot about being that age. And it's cool to reminisce through their eyes. and just watching them enjoy life in Canada. They just make me feel young again.”

Trajan Garcia played on the basketball team that Red coached, and he’s a senior at Ignacio High School.

“I'm proud that I went. I think this is important because it puts us, as a nation, together. It lets me and my people bond together as a whole,” said Garcia.

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