An Elders General Meeting was held at the Sky Ute Casino Resort on Friday, Aug. 21. Tribal Council met with a roomful of tribal member elders to discuss the affairs at hand.
“We want to hear what your needs are and whether the programs are going good for the elder,” Chairman Clement J. Frost said. “Whether it’s health or other issues, we want you to express your voice so we can establish a good working relationship.”
“Hopefully we have a good discussion, and hopefully we address all the concerns for you,” Councilman Tyson Thompson said.
Tribal members brought forth the attention of what was stated to be unethical conduct from the Visiting Angels program, a contracted, Durango-based company that is centered on home care for elders in need. The program involves home cooking, cleaning, and common housework from a caregiver. Recently, disapproval arose between tribal members after debates regarding the staff’s behavior towards elders came into play.
“We need to evaluate the polices of the Visiting Angels program,” declared tribal member Marge Borst. “We need to develop a program that has a health advocate for our elders, one that will bring hope.”
Other tribal members voiced heavier concern.
“I don’t understand why we’re using Visiting Angels, period,” stated Yvonne Tree. “We are giving them too much money when there are family members who can take care of them. We need to take care of our family, and we need to give our own people jobs. Why can’t we hire our own, and what ever happened to self determination?”
Tribal members additionally expressed concerns regarding the Southern Ute Health Department.
A Tribal elder who wished to remain unidentified stated, “There’s no leadership at the department. They’re trying to make our health center into an urgent care, which it isn’t. I really question those who are in charge there.”
The room was met with a few heated arguments between tribal members as the meeting progressed, but each was defused in a calm manner.
Southern Ute Veteran, Ronnie Baker took to the microphone to address his opinion on the situations within the community.
“We as a tribe need to get together and support one another rather than point fingers. That’s all I’m seeing here, rather than respect for one another. I respect every one of you, and I respect council and what they’re trying to do for us, because down the road they’ll be like us. We need to be there for each other as a whole, as people.”
“We really appreciate what everyone has to say, and coming together like this allow us to move forward,” stated Council Lady Amy J. Barry. “Our relationship together is important.”
“I think we have a lot of problems as a whole,” tribal elder Judy Lansing said. “There are people who need to do their jobs, but I am strong and I will still fight … This why the elders met three times in a row to have their concerns addressed.”