‘Land is Sacred,’ Chairman Baker urges Colorado to block Durango’s land grab

Melvin J. Baker | Southern Ute Tribal Chairman
Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

“Land is Sacred”: Chairman Baker urges Colorado to block Durango’s land grab

Chairman Melvin J. Baker delivered a powerful testimony last night, urging the Colorado House Committee on State, Civic, Military, and Veteran Affairs to defend a historical promise. Chairman Baker urged the Committee to support Senate Bill 24-193: Protect Tribal Lands from Unauthorized Annexation. This legislation stands as a crucial shield against the City of Durango’s egregious attempt to seize Southern Ute Indian Reservation land for economic gain.

For generations beyond counting, the Utes have been the unwavering stewards of Colorado. Their ancestral lands stretch across the state’s mountains and valleys, a testament to their deep connection to the land. The rich culture, traditions, and language of the Utes are woven into the very fabric of Colorado. Their resilience is a testament to their spirit, having endured forced assimilation, brutal relocations, and the relentless theft of their land and cultural heritage. The Reservation, established by federal treaties, was a solemn vow: “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” for the Utes. Yet, Durango’s actions are a blatant disregard for these historical agreements.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, a cornerstone of southwestern Colorado, considers their land more than property – it is sacred. Chairman Baker’s message struck a clear chord: Respecting tribal sovereignty strengthens, not weakens, Colorado’s future.

Senate Bill 24-193 is not a formality; it is a critical lifeline. By honoring the Tribe’s sovereignty, Colorado can build a future based on mutual respect and collaboration. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe extends a hand in partnership, but Durango’s actions threaten to unravel years of progress. Colorado has a stark choice to make: stand with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and build a future based on trust or allow Durango to unravel the fabric of respect. Passage of this bill sends a clear message: Colorado honors its Tribal Nations.

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