MANITOU SPRINGS - One by one, about two dozen people on Wednesday morning passed five colorful sacred pipes around a small room on the third floor of a building in Manitou Springs.
The group thoughtfully took in the smoke from the pipes, or chanupas as the Northern Ute Tribe representatives called them. Each blew smoke around themselves and around the room.
The ritual led by Ute elder Loya Arrum served as a "prayer for good blessings and harmony," she said.
The elder and her daughter Kerry Cesspooch made the trip Monday from their home on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah at the invitation of Don Goede and Kat Tudor, owners of the soon to open SunWater Garden Spa on El Paso Boulevard in Manitou. The spa will consist of a new building and the site of the pipe ceremony, a more than 100-year-old structure that will be connected when the work is done, Tudor said.
Goede and Tudor said they were honored that Arrum and Cesspooch made the journey to return to Pikes Peak, which they call "Tava" meaning "sun." Before the ceremony, Arrum talked about her ancestors who, according to pikespeak.us.com, were the first documented people in the Pikes Peak region. The elder said she loves to visit Tava and pray at several sacred trees on the mountain.
"To be able to tie in the past with the future is a dream come true," said Goede, noting that he and Tudor are aiming to open their spa in the fall. "The fact that (the Ute people) have a say in what we do is incredible."
The main spa structure is being built on the corner across from Manitou Springs' Memorial Park.
According to the owners, the spa will have several services to "celebrate healing on many levels." Goede listed a few of the ammenities, mentioning Watsu water massage, Balneo therapy for the immune system, water yoga, Vichy showers that pinpoint pressure points on the body, and other types of aqua therapy.
Goede said construction crews found a new spring in early April as they tore up an existing parking lot, giving the owners a link to the network of springs that gives Manitou its name.
The new spring will be the centerpiece of a garden, pond and possibly the site of vapor pools, Goede said. He said he and Tudor are working through water rights with the city of Manitou Springs and aiming "to find balance between the legal and spiritual sides."
Arrum also blessed waters pouring from the Seven Minute Spring on city land across Washington Avenue from the spa location. The elder shed tears as she gave her blessing in her native Ute dialect. She spread tobacco leaves on the ground, doused herself with the water and pointed to the Earth, the sky and Pikes Peak while praying. She prayed in the Native American language because, "I believe that's what the spirits want to hear."
Arrum said Manitou Springs would receive many gifts from the water at Seven Minute Spring and at the spa. She said she believed it would become "an international place of healing."
"Water is so important for every animal and for Mother Earth," Arrum said. "The town will be blessed in many ways."