Watts joins team following successful apprenticeship

Southern Ute tribal member Xavier Watts started his apprenticeship program with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) through the Southern Ute Cultural Department in October of 2018. Now that Watts has successfully completed the two-year program, he will continue working under the guidance of NAGPRA Coordinators Garrett Briggs and Cassandra Atencio.  

Watts originally worked as a Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) employee for the Culture Department then made his decision to join the apprenticeship program to further his career in the preservation field. “When I first started, I knew nothing about how it [NAGPRA] operated…now with the help of Garret and Cassandra I have a better understanding of how our office is essential to key projects on and off the reservation.”  

Watts worked to help complete the first digital database for the NAGPRA office, it currently has every project and consultation file from 1993 to now. “This database not only streamlines our research, but it helps with our collaborations with other offices and officials,” Watts stated.  

“We’re trying to preserve and document our culture and heritage,” he explained. “Without the documentation we lose pieces of our history.” 

With the global pandemic taking away the opportuning for in person training and teaching Watts has turned that into a positive form of learning via the internet. Watts meets virtually with his department supervisors and is currently the only person who goes into the office to check mail and keep the office updated.  

“It’s a different experience now, a lot harder to learn but that hasn’t stopped me from getting work done,” Watts emphasized. The Cultural Preservation Department staff is working remotely, but available via phone and email to respond to questions about cultural events and any other related matters. 

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