HE WAS TRADITIONAL
When Big Jim and I were in college, he in Arizona and I in Albuquerque, we used to talk on the phone at least twice a week and would hang out whenever we could. We would talk about what we would do after we graduated.
Neither of us would admit it, but I think we both planned to return home. I missed my family and he missed his. He used to always tell me he wanted to get his degree and do something fun and be a good role model to his daughter Maylon. He said he didn’t know if May would ever live in Colorado, but he would make sure she knew where she came from.
That was important to Big Jim, knowing where he came from. Many people would say Big Jim was a traditional person and in touch with his culture, but he would slightly disagree.
“For me, it’s not about being cultural. It’s not about being traditional. It’s just the way that I live my life, the things I do everyday when I get up. It’s about living the Ute life,” he said.
The way Big Jim lived life was, in my opinion, the reason he was such a great leader and a role model; not only to Maylon, but also to everyone who ever encountered a moment with Big Jim. He loved life and he loved being one of the Creator’s messengers to honor his family and his people.
May your spirit live on as wealthy in love as you did, my Brother Big Jim.
— Beth Santistevan
My name is Henry Howell. I am one of the Sun Dance leaders for the Northern Ute Tribe from the Uintah & Ouray Indian Reservation in Fort Duchesne, Utah.
I have been friends with Jim Newton for several years; we met through the Powwow Trail when traveling to Ignacio for annual powwows and ceremonial gatherings. I have always had a strong impression that Jim loved his Ute people, and he was always strong willed about his spiritual beliefs.
He loved to sweat and sing Sun Dance and powwow songs, and one of his biggest dreams was to chicken dance. He often mentioned this in many of the conversations we shared.
He was very kind hearted. He always shared what he could with his people and always put others first. He never held back when it came to an elder, and he was known for being considerate.
Our last conversation was about his concern for his family, his mother and father, the wife and child he left behind. Even toward the end, he was thinking of his family.
I know that with his passing, he will be greatly missed by the Southern Ute Tribe, for he was a great leader, father, husband, brother, son and friend. In my heart I know I will miss my brother, and I send prayers to the family of Jimmy Newton.
— Henry Howell
Growing up, my father, Orian L. Box, was always doing artwork. He loved his culture; he wanted to make sure the youth knew how special it was to be Ute.
I was a young child when Jim would come spend time with my father. I considered Big Jim a big brother. After my father passed, he was always there for me. He promised my father he would always look out for my mother and me. He would tell me stories and be a shoulder to cry on.
Just as my father guided him, Jim strived to educate youth on the past and future of our people. In 2007, I had my son. I remember introducing Tavian to Big Jim as his uncle. He always checked on us, like any big brother would. I will miss those check-ins.
Big Jim was proud to be Ute. He cared for the youth; he wanted them to also be proud. Jim wanted to make things better for the future generations, like leaders long ago.
Jim approached my mother and I when he was running for Tribal Council, asking if he could use my father’s artwork for signs. He honored tradition by bringing a gift.
For four years, Big Jim honored my father with a men’s old-style Northern traditional special during the Tribal Fair. He did it because my father took him to powwows, taught him how to dance and how to make outfits.
Jim was also the chief volunteer officer for the tribe’s Boys & Girls Club. He advocated for the program to come to the reservation to give kids a positive place to go after school. Thanks to his perseverance, this past year saw the Native Summit, where all the Native clubs got together.
I will miss my brother Big Jim. I am thankful that just as my father was a mentor to him, he was a mentor to my son and me. He will be missed.
— Lindsay Box
Big Jim was a friend of my kids, Sheila, Jake and Tim (BFF). They traveled the powwow road together, and that’s how I got to know him. In his younger days, Jim was like all adolescents: fiery, carefree, but respectful at the appropriate times – like at my house.
Through the years he and I built a solid friendship, and the trust between us grew. I found out he was a protector for the drum groups and the ultimate guide. He never needed a map to find a powwow; he never got lost. They always would make it home safe.
He became “Jimmy the Fig Newton,” and he always had a big teddy bear hug for me. I could almost feel a warm breeze as he would wave his big hand and say, “Hi-ya Ulee, how’s it going?” Then the stories would roll. We’d laugh at his bros from the drum groups, about myself, or about a moment in his day.
For those of you who didn’t get to know Jim: He was a big man. He would greet anyone with a smile and a firm handshake, or a big hug and a chuckle. Friendly, kind and supportive: The role of the chairman fit him well. I am proud of him, a 30-something and heading a tribe.
To me, he was a Sun Dancer who took a dream and ran with it. He never forgot about his friends and family, the drum groups, or us, the tribal members.
To Jimmy the Fig, I owe him many praises and thank-yous. Before he was chairman, he was here day and night singing and sending good prayers for the passing of my mother, Naomi, and also for my best friend, my partner, and husband, Mic.
Thank you Chairman Newton for laughing with me and accepting me for who I am and not how old I am.
He taught me to see through young eyes.
– Ula Gregory
HE WAS CONNECTED
Fresh out of the Al Collins Graphic Design School in Arizona, Big Jim came to the Drum carrying with him a big heart and a bigger smile, with big ideas and bigger dreams.
Jim was the reporter/photographer for The Southern Ute Drum, taking photos and writing articles. I knew Jimmy before he came to work with the Drum. I have fond memories of him from the beginning, of him wanting to do always more. He wanted to create a design department for the tribe. He didn’t like to see work we could create in-house contracted out.
He was a quick learner, but I was to learn he was young and ambitious. That carried us well as a team. He handled a portion of the design work. But it was his people skills that made him a good reporter and photographer.
He knew everyone, it seemed, and even until recently when I would introduce him to someone he already knew them, or where they were from, being there while in the powwow circuit drumming for Yellow Jacket and 12 Gauge. He introduced me to many people, and for that I am grateful to have known him.
He has always had a soft spot in his heart for the Drum. He was in the trenches with us – the old saying is “You’ve got to live through it to appreciate it.” I believe he did: working the late deadline hours, traveling here and there for photo coverage, but he always understood a deadline was deadline and he has always supported us in that respect.
Personally I have known him to always be about the youth, from supporting the concert I promote during the Tribal Fair to reigniting the drive for the support our youth need. We spoke often about our health, our kids, music and sports.
But he always said when I had a problem or concern, “It will be OK,” and gave me that nod. I knew then that it would be OK. I trusted him as a friend but more as a leader to get the job done and follow through. We are blessed to have had such a man as a leader.
— Robert L. Ortiz
HE WAS A LEADER
Jimmy Newton Jr. – my childhood friend, my classmate, my brother, my boss, and our tribal chairman – lived through loving his peers, family and native people. This young man enriched himself with the deepest respect for his elders, namely his uncle, the late Darrell Newton, and his cultural mentors, the late Orian Box, the late Gerald Howe, and the late Eddie Box Sr.
Throughout childhood, Jimmy always had the biggest smile to match his big heart to share among his friends and those who surrounded him. He had a passion for his comic books and his pets, but his identity was not far behind. I can remember growing up and attending our community powwows at the Southern Ute Head Start and Tim Ryder, Jake Ryder, Sheila Nanaeto (Ryder), Erica Howe, Robert Howe, Faren Burch and Conrad Thompson, “the Eagle Springs Drum Group,” would be there accompanied by the late Gerald and Daniella Howe, to put the powwow on for the local native community.
The days of powwow dancing practice at the old rec hall paid off for all of us as the local powwows gave Jimmy, who was a traditional dancer – along with us, the Southern Ute youth group – a chance to let our heritage shine together. Really good times and memories. I will cherish those forever.
Jimmy was a year behind me throughout our childhood schooling, and he always identified himself with his Native people, through participation in cultural events, celebrations and Native American awareness activities, and through daily interactions with the local community and Indian Country. He will forever be remembered for his loyalty and dedicated heart to his people, his family, and those who were fortunate to cross paths with such a beautiful person.
God bless you, Big Jim. You will be loved and remembered forever.
— Amy Barry
Chairman Newton was proud of being one of the youngest tribal members elected to a seat on the Southern Ute Tribal Council and then to the chairman position. And that pride was warranted. We will remember him as a leader who was always mindful of the responsibilities that had been entrusted to him. He leaves behind a legacy that has inspired generations of young tribal leaders to continue advocating and fighting for tribal rights. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chairman Newton’s family.
— John Hickenlooper, Governor, State of Colorado
When Jim first came onto the council, he came to talk with me. His thoughts were really for the people, and he had all this enthusiasm for the people. He was really young and he was proud of that, that he made it into council. He was really happy about that.
He really cared about the young people; he really cared about the children – not only the tribal kids, but within the community. Whatever interests they had, he supported them.
One thing that we really talked about was this Boys & Girls Club that came to reality. We got a group of people together and we went to these conferences to see just exactly what this Boys & Girls Club was all about. He gave a lot to that.
Running for the chairmanship, he really wanted to see if he could succeed because of the things that he saw; he wanted to make some changes. He realized some of it was difficult. I supported him, told him it’s OK.
He was just a really kind individual – really respected his cultural ways, really was into his singing and things like that. He was a great leader. Whether people disagreed with him or not, that young man tried.
In the time that I spent with Jim, I really got to know him, really joked a lot. He used to say I could be so mean. We would always text each other.
He always would say “We’re the Nuuciu.” We should remember him by that.
— Joycelyn Dutchie
As chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, it is with deep sadness and high honor that I write about the life of a visionary leader, a strong voice for his people. I put pen to paper to write a tribute to a great, young, farsighted leader and a true friend. We all will mourn the loss of Chairman Jim Newton Jr. for a long time.
On behalf of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, its council and its membership, we wish to express our sympathy, prayers and our thoughts to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, its council, its membership, and our many relatives on the Southern Ute Reservation.
He brought to his council the views of a young man dedicated to his tribe and its people. He never left out the other Ute sister tribes and their wishes and goals. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and its Tribal Council is very honored to have worked with Chairman Newton throughout these years on a government-to-government basis and on a tribe-to-tribe basis along with the Northern Ute Tribe of Utah.
He kept his goals within the comprehensive planning that the Southern Ute Indian Tribe set forward for its future. Jim always had visions for the future and used the knowledge of his past oral traditions and family to achieve those goals. Past leaders were his role models, and he looked to them as mentors and valued their advice to accomplish many successful projects during his administration.
He was a role model for the children in the Southern Ute schools; his belief was in the youth who will become the leaders of the future. He showed by example what education and knowledge could achieve. His record in council and as chairman attests to this.
His projects with youth – whether the Tri-Ute Games, NAIG, school sports, or the recent development of the tribal youth council – were among many goals achieved.
Chairman Newton became an excellent speaker before the federal and state governmental agencies, at the tribal leaders summit in Washington, D.C., and in any forum to further tribal objectives. e HeHe took Ute legislative issues to the highest governmental level and stood his ground to achieve, protect and exercise tribal sovereignty. As sister Ute tribes and the only two recognized tribes within the state of Colorado, many issues were addressed by both Ute chairmen and the Ute tribal councils for the betterment of their tribal members.
As the youngest Tribal Council member ever elected, he was way beyond his years in his vision for all Utes.
— Manuel Heart
Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. began every morning with a cup of coffee, a little more sugar than cream, but a kick start all the same to a productive day. His work never ended because the vision for his people was great. He was dedicated to the membership and an inspiration to staff.
Chairman had a big heart, full of kindness. He saw the best in each employee, focused on their strengths, and had the ability to motivate them to contribute to the “bigger picture.”
He was a mentor and a friend. We, as employees, are fortunate to have been part of his team. We should all be so thankful to work for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, but appreciate that we were in the presence of a great leader.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work so closely with Jim, to have been witness to his accomplishments and his struggles, to see him receive praise so humbly, and to sometimes withstand criticism so harsh. He made me proud to be on his staff and most of all proud to be Ute.
His usual at closing time was, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Although he won’t be there the next time I look to his office, the memories and teachings will forever be with me. And so at the end of each day, the best part is knowing that we too, were a part of his family.
— Sunshine Flores
HE WAS A MENTOR
Jim touched not one, but all the youth, in one way or another. Throughout his career and even before his career, he was youth oriented. He was always doing something for those kids. He always went back and gave back to the wrestling program at the Ignacio High School. I know he’s helped kids out of pocket personally so they could go to camps.
I told my 3-year-old daughter that Big Jim went to heaven, and she said “Dada, what are all the children going to do? What are we going to do now?” It just shows how he touched kids. He was a big man and they looked up to him. He had a big heart, and those kids recognized that. It really means a lot to me that he’s done that. They’ll always remember him.
He learned that from his elders and he passed that on to the kids. He was always teaching tradition to them. He would go out there and show them his artifacts, his regalia, and he would explain what they meant so that they understood.
Anything that he would do for the kids, he would do it. He would always tell me, “It’s for the kids!” It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes, but I think that’s one of our goals is to try to reach our kids in a manner that Chairman Newton did.
— Alex S. Cloud
If we are lucky in our working lives, we come across compassionate bureaucracy. Someone who gives you more than a minute of their time and has a keen interest in the subject matter and a willingness to “grease the skids” on behalf of those who need a hand up.
While an individual’s issues dominate most discussions with politicians, it was always refreshing to speak with a councilman who profoundly cared about how you were doing in your service to the membership. In my case, the subject matter was youth and programs pertaining to education. The compassionate bureaucrat I refer to was Jim Newton.
Jim knew kids and kids knew Jim. After impromptu meetings in tribal parking lots or along a gravel road, I knew the youth would have an ally when one was needed. Someone who would speak on their behalf with conviction when the time came. I would see him in attendance enjoying youth in their sports, cultural and educational activities.
Invariably, there would be youngsters getting high-fives from “Big Jim” for their efforts. I am sure that there are young adults who participate in drum groups because Jim cared about their connection to culture.
It was a pleasure to see Jim grow from a teenager that would hang around my house on occasion to a leader who kept youth as a focus, but it is hard to know that generations of kids lost a leader who dared to care about them.
— Arnold Santistevan
During Jim Newton’s early years in his Southern Ute tribal government career, he purchased a drum and donated it for the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy students’ use. The boys had been receiving drum instruction from John Oberly, but when he left the academy he had to take his drum – so hearing about this need, Jim purchased a drum and donated it for the use of drum instruction for the SUIMA students.
He also would come over to give instruction when he had time, but when he couldn’t make it one of the Yellow Jacket/12 Gauge drum group members would step in and take his place. I see this as only one of the examples he set pointing out the fact he greatly valued his tribal culture and the tribal youth. The students enjoyed seeing him around the campus as he came and visited or had lunch with Billy Jack and the students.
He will be greatly missed by all SUIMA students and staff.
— Carol Baker Olguin
There are two memories that I would like to share about tribal Chairman Newton. My first memory of Big Jim came when he was junior in high school and the heavyweight wrestler for the Bobcats. That year, I was assisting Mark Hensley as a coach for the team.
The squad had to travel to Montrose for regionals. It was a tough regional and Jim qualified for state, securing fourth place. I remember how emotional Jim was right after he realized that he was a state qualifier. He knew his parents would be proud, and he mentioned that he was following right in the footsteps of his dad, who had also been a state-qualifying wrestler in high school.
That year I noted that Jim had some qualities that I admired: determination, hard work, a fun-loving attitude, and a sense of pride in himself and his family. As Jim grew in his leadership positions with the tribe, we maintained contact and had a mutual respect for one another. He continued to reach out to the students, especially those involved in NAYO and wrestling.
My most poignant memory of Jim would have to be when he came to the Ignacio Middle School to put on an assembly for all the students this past year. I was unsure of exactly the type of presentation Jim was going to conduct, but I knew it would be interesting.
Jim and Flora showed up in a big truck full of personal artifacts that he wished to share with the students. After all the items were placed on three tables, the students gathered in the new gymnasium. Jim began explained each individual item and its importance.
Everyone in the gym was fascinated by the stories he shared. It was the first time many of the students at the school had ever had insight into the chairman and his Southern Ute culture. Jim was very well spoken, patient and respectful as he shared things close to his heart.
He gave us all a gift that day: an example of leadership by giving of oneself to the youth of our community. I will miss Big Jim. I really respected the mild-mannered-but-determined way he used his words and actions to emphasize unity and pride within our community. He left a legacy of mutual respect that I hope will guide us all in the future.
— Christopher W. deKay
I had the pleasure of growing up with Jim and having him as a friend. He truly cared and talked to everyone from the heart.
This was apparent while the YAFL football program was young and in need. While the community of Ignacio was getting the program started and stabilized, Jim was right there to help. Just how he showed care for people growing up, he cared for all the kids. He knew we needed help and was one of the first to volunteer his time.
He would coach the linemen and pass on techniques we had learned in high school. More importantly, he would coach the kids about responsibilities they had to each other and to themselves.
It was no surprise he had a wonderful relationship with the kids, and they all respected him. Jim was always willing to help the team and the kids with whatever was needed. He would help with equipment, jerseys, shoes, and even socks if a player needed them.
He just wanted the kids to feel comfortable and have the chance to play ball. He was always the crisis management coach and would get to the bottom of the kids’ issues. Even though no one could ever knock him around when he held the hitting dummy, they sure loved to try.
Jim was one of the nicest, easiest-going guys I knew. I respect how he treated everyone his whole life. I will miss our conversations, our laughs, and that big smirk he would give when you first seen him. You will be missed by many, Big Jim.
— Eric Silva
When I became the director of Higher Education in 1999, I had the privilege of meeting and advising Jimmy Newton Jr. as a student in the Southern Ute Scholarship Program, letting him know he was doing a good job and to hang in there.
Jimmy was about 21 years of age. On a routine student visit, I met Jimmy in Tempe, Ariz., where he was attending college. I took him out to dinner and we talked about his courses and what he wanted to do with his life. He explained that one day he would like to go back to the tribe and work for the Drum.
He obtained a bachelor’s degree in visual communication from the Al Collins Graphic Design School in the spring of 2001. He also mentioned that maybe one day he would run for Tribal Council. Wow! Who would have thought that it would become a reality, and as our youngest chairman?
As an older tribal member, I watched him grow into the man and leader he became. I’m so proud of Jim’s accomplishments. His compassion for the youth is incomparable! He gave hundreds of dollars out of his own pocket to help community students attend camps and educational experiences.
As the chairman of the Southern Ute Tribe, ironically, he started giving me advice, telling me to hang in there and “You’re doing a good job.” We were fortunate to have such a great leader!
— La Titia Taylor