Tribe hosts Colo. Commission of Indian Affairs meeting

Donna Lynn, Lieutenant Governor and Chairwoman of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs listens intently with CCIA Executive Director Ernest House Jr. during a meeting in Ignacio, on Friday, Sept. 23.
Ute Mountain Ute council members: Chairman Manuel Heart (left), Vice chairwoman Juanita PlentyHoles and Regina Whiteskunk-Lopez attended the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs meeting in Ignacio on Friday, Sept. 23.
Rocco Fuschetto from Ignacio School District talks about education during the CCIA meeting.
Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs members took a tour of tribe on Thursday, Sept. 22 that included stops at the Southern Ute Growth Fund, Leonard C. Burch Building, Council Chambers and the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy. CCIA members listen as SUIMA Director, Carol Baker Olguin talks about a typical day for an Academy student.
CCIA representatives pose for a photo outside Tribal Council Chambers.
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum

Housing needs by both, Ute Mountain and Southern Ute tribes hold equal responsibility for both tribes, for it’s tribal members. Education and health care were also topics of discussion at the quarterly Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) meeting held in Ignacio, Colo. on Friday, Sept. 23 at the Southern Ute Museum and Culture Center (SUMACc).

In an update from CCIA Executive Director, Ernest House Jr., testimony was given at the Colorado Housing Board Meeting earlier this year in July, regarding the Ute Mountain Ute Housing Authority. A 10-unit housing project will focus on homeless populations, as well as Social Services support in Towaoc.

Southern Ute Councilman Alex S. Cloud also talked about the Southern Ute Housing initiative. The Tribe is researching cost and working to have a budget set to move forward. Hoping by spring to expand the Tribe’s current housing.

“We need to focus on reducing homelessness in Indian Country, as there is a great need for housing,” Ernest House Jr. Executive Director of Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs said.

Ute Mountain Ute Chairman, Manuel Heart also commented about funding for housing, stating that the houses will be placed by fairgrounds.

“With reauthorization of tribal funds, we can get manufactured homes from Albuquerque,” Heart said.

Healthcare and education were also topics of discussion.

Ute Mountain Ute Vice Chairwoman, Juanita Plentyholes stated the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is looking at budgets.

“We are looking at our needs in our community, how do we invest? We need an improvement in health services,” Plentyholes said.

Colo. Dept. of Human Services, Chantelle Hanschu addressed youth substance abuse.

“We can help and work with the tribes with these services, as well as services for elders, including programming. We are looking at ways to amp up their services and provide assistance,” she said.

In a study provided by Crestina Martinez, from the Department of Health Care Policy & Procedure, the reporting period from April 1, 2016 – June 30, 2016 was presented to CCIA.

Of the total 22,136 clients enrolled in Medicaid, 5,763 clients did not seek any type health care, 26% of clients, while 74% utilized funding in fiscal year 2015-2016.

In the state of Colorado, $97.6 million in total expenditures for American Indian/Alaskan Natives enrolled in Medicaid. Of that $12.4 million in in total expenditures in Montezuma County and $4.4 million in La Plata County.

“Our next step is policing, staffing and identifying needs – identify clients on our lists. IHS clinics to develop referrals to health care services and reinvest those funds for Native Americans,” Martinez said.

Cloud also stated that the tribe switched their health insurance carrier for the Southern Ute tribal membership, as third party billing was not being paid.

Southern Ute Treasurer, James M. Olguin reported the tribe received an invitation to an oversight hearing in Sante Fe, for self-determination in Energy Development on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

“We always strived for self determination. We filed suit for high dollar fracking and we are still in that process to get that approved,” Olguin said.

Olguin also spoke of the relationship between the tribe and the Town of Ignacio.

“We are still having conversations about the sales tax issue,” he said.

Olguin also talked about the tribe hiring a fourth in-house attorney.

“Training these individuals to become our in-house attorneys – this is the only program among Indian tribes to have an attorney training program like this, and we are proud of that,” Olguin added.

Anthony Maestas was hired full-time attorney and Juliane Begay just celebrated one-year in the training program.

Chairman Heart reported on attending an EPA Region 8 meeting in Denver.

“We went through a process to allocate $2 million for water in Towaoc, and waste water. And in White Mesa, we were asking for 8 million – we got 9.2 million!” Heart exclaimed.

Ten tribes live on the Colorado River and in Coalbed City, 30,000 people attend the Fort Mojave Indian Days Parade, polluting the river. Opposition came against the parade. The vote won by one vote, 4-3 against the proposition to halt the parade.

“We want a seat on the Water Commission, to have a better voice in the Water Quality Impact. Tribes have no voice or say,” Heart said.

The Colorado tribes want to address the Colorado Waters Association, to advocate for the tribes.

For the first time water will be going out of Lake Nighthorse, to the “dry side” out the inlet and taking it west – the primary reason for the lake is for water storage.

Councilwoman, Regina Whiteskunk-Lopez stated this would be her last CCIA meeting.

Lopez also elaborated on her tenure on council, her opportunity to testify in State legislatures.

“We don’t need complications, we need decision making. Our tribal sovereignty is always being threatened. It has been a privilege and honor to work with our sister tribes. I appreciate your support,” she said.

Ignacio Schools Superintendent, Rocco Fuschetto spoke of the Impact Grant that was awarded to the Ignacio School District. The grant will work specifically with Native American students.

“The Ignacio School District has identified 50 Native American students who are lacking English language skills,” Fuschetto said.

Executive Director of History Colorado, Steve Turner, spoke of a grant for tribes to make better decisions about managing their culture.

The National Science Foundation Grant, a 5-year $2.5 million grant will study traditional practices in Ute for youth, families and visual ecological knowledge, to provide a better understanding.

Colorado Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman spoke of a grant that will be used for ‘Narcan,’ a nasal mist, for the average person to administer to combat opiate overdosing.

There will two training sessions in Durango on Thursday, Oct. 6. Local Law Enforcement, first responders, and the public are invited to receive the training for opiate overdose. Prescription drugs training will be on October 7.

CCIA at-large member, Lucille Echohawk extended an invitation to all native youth to participate in a Native Youth Leadership Conference in 2017 with the University of Denver.

“This will be an opportunity for the youth to build up the leadership in our state,” Echohawk said.

A Tri-Ute Conference will also be hosted at Fort Lewis College in June, 2017.

In a proposal, read by House, to bring youth members onto the CCIA board is still being reviewed by both tribes, to review costs for traveling to and from meetings, to establish an organization similar to Unity and to work with both tribal councils to review that proposal again.

In ongoing business, the mascot issue in schools was addressed.

CCIA will be focusing on the schools that reached out to make the change. West Middle School in Denver has funding to make the change to their current mascot.

CCIA has also been contacted by a school in Palo Alto, Calif., who is watching the process. CCIA has also been extending outreach to their local tribes.

Shining Mountain School District (Indians) is the first school to come out with a brochure, with guidelines for banned behavior. For instance, no face paint or halftime shows featuring face paint.

“We need to develop a commission to invite the schools to come discuss their concerns, their thoughts and why they want to make a change,” Olguin said.

Art Goodtimes, of San Miguel County made an announcement of ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ (IPD) to be held in Placerville, Colo. on Saturday, Oct. 8.

“Educate us, help us understand. We invite any of you to IPD. Educate our citizens about tribal affairs,” Goodtimes said. “We also passed a resolution in support of Standing Rock and a resolution on Bears Ear.”

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