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Youth council aims to develop leaders, aid Tribal Council

Members of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council share a smile with the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council on Friday, Feb. 28 after being honored with a welcoming ceremony inside the Council Chambers. Youth Council members include (left to right) Cameron Weaver, Elijah Weaver, David Boyd, Autumn Medicine Blanket, Issac Suina, Randy Herrera and Lonicia O'John.
Photo Credit: Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum

There are seven new council members on the Southern Ute Reservation, and none is old enough to vote.

No, it wasn’t a youth insurrection within the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council that took place Friday, Feb. 28 in Council Chambers in Ignacio – it was the dawn of a new counterpart, the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council.

Its purpose is twofold: to develop leadership in tribal members between 12 and 18 years old and to provide the Tribal Council with regular feedback on the concerns of tribal youth, said Education Department Director La Titia Taylor.

Joining the youth council were David Boyd, Randy Herrera, Autumn Medicine Blanket, Lonicia O’John, Issac Suina, and Cameron and Elijah Weaver. The youth council has not yet selected its officers, Herrera told the Drum.

The youth council members’ terms are staggered to promote continuity. By random draw, the members who initially will serve two-year terms are Herrera, O’John and Cameron Weaver. The others will serve a one-year term.

Youth council members said they were motivated to apply out of a desire to make meaningful change within the tribe. Mary Guenther of the Education Department coordinated the recruiting process, and the Tribal Council selected the final seven in February.

“I want to learn more about my culture, and I want to be a part of something and make a change in the world,” O’John said, adding that she wants to explore how tribal students can learn more about Ute language and culture.

For his part, Cameron Weaver said he aims to promote proper care for tribal elders.

“Since they’re older, we should make them more comfortable,” he said. “[I applied because] I wanted to learn how to be a leader more and speak out.”

The Tribal Council approved the creation of the youth council in 2003 and signed off on its bylaws in 2005, but it had been largely dormant until this year. There was an attempt in October 2011 to get it off the ground with six members that ultimately didn’t last.

“It’s been over a decade in the works,” said tribal Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. “It takes a lot of courage and a lot of dedication to step up to the plate.”

Newton acknowledged the youth council’s namesake, a “great Ute woman” remembered for her tireless work with young tribal members. Following the swearing in of each of the youth council members, which he performed, Newton presented the group with a gavel for use in its meetings.

Council Lady Pathimi GoodTracks urged the youth council members to draw on both cultural and modern wisdom in performing its duties.

“Hopefully in this council, you’ll learn both. You’ll see how you would use both in order to be a balanced leader,” she said, adding that the youth council members could have future opportunities to travel with the Tribal Council to places such as Denver and Washington, D.C., on business.

After taking the oath of office, Suina introduced himself as the great-great-grandson of the late Julius Cloud, brother of Sunshine Cloud Smith.

“I am very humbled and honored to be here,” he told the assembly of Tribal Council members, parents, Education Department staffers and others, “and very grateful to the council for picking me to be on this council.”

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