Sharing nature’s bounty

With all its success in business and politics over the past few decades, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is finding ways to give back by helping tribes with fewer resources.

Often this comes in form of training, as when the Southern Ute Air Quality Program lends its expertise to others looking to protect their own skies. Or it happens in the form of lobbying, as when tribal representatives speak to Congress in favor of legislation benefitting all of Indian Country, such as recent tribal energy bills.

Most recently, the resource the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council moved to share was much more traditional: a small sample of its abundant wildlife.

For several years, the council has heard occasional requests — generally from among the New Mexico pueblos — for permission to hunt for culturally significant game on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. On Friday, Nov. 2, the council approved the latest request from the Pueblo of Laguna to allow its traditional leaders to hunt deer, an animal that is culturally important to the Laguna people but is now scarce on their reservation.

“I saw this as a blessing because this was an opportunity for our traditional leaders to be directly engaged with the land, with the spirits of the mountain and the community of Southern Ute,” said Laguna Gov. Richard B. Luarkie. “We were fruitful, and this was a very successful hunt.”

The council granted the nine Laguna hunters six buck and three doe tags, Luarkie said.

Council Lady Pathimi GoodTracks said she thinks it’s good the Southern Ute Tribe is in a position to help other tribes when asked.

“The tribe does have the resources,” she said. “I think it’s in following with the cultural and traditional followings of the tribe to help other tribes.”

GoodTracks said this modern form of helping one another is probably similar to agreements between tribes dating back centuries.

The Laguna people use every part of the deer, Luarkie said, “from the horns all the way down to the hooves.” Traditionally, when someone harvests a deer, it’s shared with the community in a feast, he said. The tribe also hosts an annual Deer Dance around the first of the year.

“Deer is one of the blessings, or one of the gifts, in our teachings that our creator provided to us,” he said, adding that the Laguna Pueblo has made requests to the Southern Ute council in each of the past three years.

The act of hunting is culturally significant, Luarkie said, even in cases where there’s no meat to show for it at the end of the day.

“We’re taught that even if you don’t harvest an animal, when you’re in the mountains and you go home, the peacefulness, the tranquility, the strength, the stability, the fresh smells, the fresh air of the mountain goes home with you,” he said. “The belief is that when you go hunting, you never go home emptyhanded.”

In a letter to the Southern Ute tribal membership (see page 13 of this issue), Luarkie thanked the tribe for its generosity and willingness to help.

“I am proud and thankful for what you have allowed,” he said. “As we continue on our journey, I want you to know that with every bit of my limited humanity, all of my prayers, positive thoughts and support are with your community. I look forward to the opportunity to continually nurture our young relationship and hope that we can forge a solid partnership for generations to come.”

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