Leonard C. Burch contest focuses on Department of Energy

Trennie Collins|The Southern Ute Drum


The 3rd Annual Leonard C. Burch Art and Literacy Contest has commenced as of October and will end Tuesday, Dec. 9 The contest is open to the Ignacio School District, Pine River Learning Center and all tribal member students on and off the reservation. The theme of this year’s contest is “The Department of Energy”.

The contest divides students into different grade levels such as: K-3 grades, 4-5 grade, middle school and high school. This year, kindergarten through third grade students get to do artwork that depicts their feelings of the Department of Energy.

Middle school and high school students must do an essay that ranges from 500-750 words. Everyone who turns in there work will be judged by a panel of judges with a chance to win prizes that include an iPad, iPad Mini, Leap Pad 3 and Bluetooth speakers just to name a few.

Leonard C. Burch was one of the great pioneers of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the contest was created to inform the community about his legacy while celebrating his life through education.

“My dad seen how the government was taking advantage of native country when it came to natural resources and energy and he didn’t want this to happen to our tribe” his daughter, Lynnette Sage said.

Now the tribes Energy Department has grown immensely it’s now handled by the Growth Fund where there are four energy companies: Red Willow Production Company, Red Cedar Gathering Company, Aka Energy Group and Southern Ute Alternative Energy.

“My dad wanted to be a big part of it because he wanted us to start relying on our own resources” Leonora Burch stated when asked why her dad was so influential in the energy departments growth.

Burch was chairman and on Tribal Council for 32 years. He first became chairman in 1966 – at the time, he was the youngest chairman ever elected.

During his tenure on Tribal Council, Burch began looking into matters affecting the Tribe, addressing jurisdictional issues, taxation, water rights, energy and a lot more.

One of the biggest projects that Burch worked on was the Animas La-Plata Project, which not only showed his commitment to regional water resource development, but also his commitment to the Tribe and native people as a whole.

The Animas La-Plata Project was authorized by the Colorado River Basin Project Act of Sept. 30, 1968 and in 1988 it was incorporated in to the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000. It provided for implementation and completion of the project.

Today the project is completed and Lake Nighthorse was filled on June 29, 2011 but is still awaiting opening.

With all Burch’s hard work he received many awards for his ability to lead the Southern Ute Indian Tribe into the future. Burch was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in February of 2004. Where his wife, Irene Burch and daughters accepted the award of his behalf.

He also received the 15th Annual Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award in 2000 and the Council of Energy Resource Tribes’ Achievement Award in 2002.

Even though Burch received many more awards for his work he was always fully committed to making a better future for the Tribe and its members.

“My dad would want everyone especially the youth to be educated, in everyway possible. Even when he retired he always read and wanted to learn new things. No matter what, being a family man, community leader, tribal leader he always had mind power and over everything else he always stayed humble.” Sage said. “Learn and keep learning. Keep the youth motivated and teach them how to stand on their own two feet. We are never promised tomorrow.”





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