Leonard C. Burch contest winners – Jr. High Essay

Leonard C. Burch contest winners
Leonard C. Burch contest winners
Zachary Weinrich, an eighth-grade student at the Ignacio Jr. High School, was the second-place winner in the Leonard C. Burch essay contest.
Raeann Martinez, a seventh-grade student at the Ignacio Jr. High School, was the third-place winner in the Leonard C. Burch essay contest.
Christopher R. Rizzo | The Southern Ute Drum
Christopher R. Rizzo | The Southern Ute Drum


Chloe Knapp

Leonard C. Burch was a great leader of the Southern Ute Tribe, who was dedicated to helping his tribe become prosperous. Leonard led a rich life filled with many good deeds. He had a wonderful personality that touched everyone around him. Leonard C. Burch was a loving and devoted family man, who always stuck to the traditions of the Southern Utes.

Leonard C. Burch was born on December 24, 1933. Leonard ‘s family gave him the Indian name, “Shining Star”. After graduating high school, “Shining Star” enlisted in the Air Force. Leonard spent four years fighting for our country. Afterwards, Mr. Burch took up a job working in a reality office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He worked there for five years. Then Leonard became the Southern Ute Tribe Chairman at the age of 32, Mr. Burch was the youngest Chairman ever elected for the Southern Ute Tribe.

When Leonard was Chairman, he used his vision and energetic personality to help the Southern Ute Tribe blossom in many ways. Mr. Burch believed that the Southern Utes should own their own enterprises. After convincing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to let the tribe do so, the Southern Utes began to drill their own oil. Also, Mr. Burch worked on the Animas La Plata Project. This project is working towards getting the Southern Ute Tribe their water rights. Leonard wanted the tribe to be independent, and receive the money it deserved. The tribe now has assets of at least $1.5 billion. Mr. Burch loved his family, and was very traditional Southern Ute man. Leonard had four siblings, seven daughters, and fourteen grandchildren. He was married to, Irene Burch, whose maiden name was, Irene Coolidge. His daughters’ names are, Leonora Burch, Leona Burch, Lena Mae Burch, Lisa Burch-Frost, Leona Lucero, Laurena Burch, and Lynette Sage. Leonard always respected the ways and traditions of the Southern Utes. Mr. Burch led walk of the warriors. He also attended special ceremonies, like the Sun Dance.

Leonard C. Burch will be remembered as a great leader, and family man, who was devoted to his duties. Mr. Burch was a very important part of the Southern Ute Tribe. He is honored throughout Ignacio, and the whole four corners. He will forever remain in the hearts of the tribal members, as well as the minds of the community. Leonard C. Burch truly was a shining star.


Zachary Weinrich

Have you ever heard of Leonard C. Burch? Here is a quote from him that is titled making our own way. “We were under the thumb of others for so long. You always had to get permission, we are determined to make our own destiny.” This quote in many ways tells us who Leonard C. Burch was and what he did for his people and the community.

Leonard C. Burch had amazing qualities of leadership and how to treat people. Mr. Burch was kind, respectful, noble and a multiple more of great things. He didn’t do things for himself but for the good of his tribe. That is why he was able to do such great things. He lead by example.

Leonard C. Burch was born on December 24, 1933 in Southwest Colorado. His parents were Sam and Clara Burch. His Native American name was Shining Star. He graduated from the Ute Vocational High School in1954. Mr. Burch quickly served a tour with the Air Force in Turkey. After this he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Leonard married Irene Coolidge who is a Navajo tribal member. They had seven daughters together. Then on August 1, 2003 Mr. Burch died from cardiac arrest.

Leonard C. Burch first term as Chairman was in 1966. He would be Chairman for over 32 years. Leonard brought the tribe from poverty to one of the richest in America. He developed the tribes oil and gas companies. Leonard C. Burch was instrumental in getting the Animas La Plata water project going. That project was for the Ute nation to receive water rights. Mr. Burch worked on it for over 20 years. Education and preserving culture were one of his biggest priorities. Also, if you didn’t know Leonard Burch was the youngest Chairman in the Tribes history.

So, if you didn’t know who Leonard C. Burch was you now know about a great leader, great man. Arguably the greatest Chairman of the Southern Ute Tribe.

Sources: Black Tie Colorado, Wikipedia, Animas La Plata Water Project, Leonard C. Burch Post Office building. Letter.


Rae Ann Martinez

“I lead my Ute people into the future.” The words of a true visionary. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe became progressive because of Leonard C. Burch and his “Strength of an Eagle.” Leonard C. Burch a family man, Sun Dance Chief, a Korean war veteran, a Southern Ute visionary, who led his people into the future. A kind man, who can be described by few words; strong and legendary. I believe his memory will never fade, he truly had the “Strength of an Eagle.”

Leonard C. Burch, was long time leader of the Southern Ute Indian tribe. He served as Chairman for more than 32 years, from the time of his first election in 1966. Under his guidance, the Southern Ute Indian tribe became a major economic force in the Four Corners area, which is also the largest employer in La Plata County. Following his leadership the tribe saw countless examples of community development and improvement in health, education, and social programs available to tribal members.

Leonard C. Burch, prided himself in maintaining relationships with the United States Government, the State of Colorado, and neighboring governments. He successfully obtained passage of federal laws permitting the tribe to consolidate land, within the reservation. He did not want the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to be dependent on the BIA, he wanted the tribe to become independent. He was noted for his commitment to regional water resource development. He helped to create a group of Indian and non-Indian, water users in southwest Colorado, to help for construction of the Animas La Plata Project, currently being built, as part of a settlement of the Tribes water right claims. In recognition of his role in this, he received the Citizens award from the United States Bureau of Reclamation. He received numerous awards during his lifetime, such as the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. In the later years of his career, he worked closely with members of tribal council, to establish a financial plan that involves, several energy companies, and important investments both on and off the reservation. The financial development of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has been greatly looked up to as a model tribe by, Indian tribes throughout the Country. His life was one dedicated to the Southern Ute Indian tribe, and Four Corners area. He remained respectful of the culture and traditions of the Ute people. And for this, he shall be remembered as one of the greatest visionaries of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for truly having “Strength of an Eagle.”

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