Southern Ute history was made on Tuesday, June 4 as the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council passed a resolution to appoint tribal member Chantel Cloud to serve as chief judge of the Southern Ute Tribal Court.
Vice Chairman James M. Olguin swore in Cloud at a reception on Monday, June 17 at the Southern Ute Tribal Courthouse.
Cloud is the granddaughter of Thurman Diamond Smith and Sunshine Cloud Smith. She graduated from Ignacio High School and attended college at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned a double undergraduate major in English literature and sociology. She stayed at her alma mater for a master’s degree in sociology.
“I chose CU mainly due to having attended the Upward Bound Program there for a period of three years while in high school,” Cloud said. “I loved the atmosphere and campus. I also chose CU because of the living and working opportunities in that area.”
Cloud said an interest in criminal justice and relatives and friends working in the field sparked her choice to pursue law as a career.
Councilman Aaron V. Torres praised Cloud for her perseverance.
“This is a big, hard job and you can do this. I think you can be the best chief judge we’ve ever had. I can feel it in my heart,” he said.
But Cloud isn’t a stranger to new atmospheres and hard work. She said moving away from the reservation made her a different person, and she hopes those lessons follow her into the chief judge’s office.
“It makes a person understand that we are part of a larger world and there is a lot out there to learn from, grow from, experience, and it all helps one become a better, more rounded person who has even more to offer themselves, their family and the tribe,” Cloud said.
Previously, the Tribal Council appointed Judge Scott Moore as chief judge while Cloud gained experience as an associate judge. Since the appointment of Cloud, Moore has been reappointed to associate judge.
Councilman Howard D. Richards Sr. commended Moore for a job well done.
“You have taken into account our traditions and culture. You have learned to let the elders speak and give them the time they deserve. I have seen improvement over the years with you,” he told Moore.
The tribe’s Judicial Review Committee had been evaluating Cloud’s progress and recommended to council that she was ready to assume the position of chief judge.
“It’s an honor to give the reigns to Chantel Cloud. I feel confident that she can take over and do a good job with chief judge,” said Judicial Evaluation Committee member Elaine Newton, herself a former chief judge.
Olguin said the Judicial Review Committee’s job is not over.
“The committee’s job is still to be part of helping Judge Cloud grow and evaluate her,” he said. “She will stumble, but we’re here to help and that’s what makes us better.”
He said the Tribal Council recommended Cloud receive additional training, and the Judicial Review Committee provided her that training.
“I would like to commend the committee for all the training and guidance,” Olguin said. “It has showed us that Judge Cloud has the ambition for this job.”
During the reception, Council Lady Ramona Y. Eagle and Councilman Alex S. Cloud both thanked Cloud for stepping in to the position.
“You are a lady of the Ute people. I think your grandmother would be very proud of you, and you will be a great role model to Ute women. Thank you for taking that step,” Eagle said.
“You come from a long line of strong women. There are going to be tough days, but go back to your culture and traditions and what you were taught to help guide you,” Cloud said. “Congratulations, your honor.”
Cloud thanked everyone for their encouragement and said she hopes she can continue the path of justice that has been set by past judges and work for the tribe for a very long time.