Tribal members attend community meeting

Members of the Southern Ute Tribe met at the Multi-Purpose Facility for the tribal town hall meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 16.
Maria Rivera | The Southern Ute Drum

A ‘town hall’ style meeting was held Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility where Southern Ute Councilmen, Kevin Frost and Adam Red touched base and answered questions regarding the Trump administration, the Tribal Health Department, and Construction Services. Southern Ute membership meetings are open to all enrolled tribal members and give the membership the podium to get their voices heard.

The first topic on the agenda was information on the Tribal Council’s meetings with the Trump administration earlier this year. Tribal Council communicated concerns regarding development of energy and infrastructure on tribal lands. “The Tribe also got called to attend an energy meeting at the White House Office of Energy Affairs, [to discuss] the need to have reliable energy sources for our people,” Councilman Frost said. The Tribe was asked to present two main issues regarding energy development during the White House Energy Meeting, which took place Friday, July 28, those topics were permit and drainage issues for the Tribe. “By forming relations with [the current] administration we are [working] to help our tribal growth in the future,” Councilman Frost said. “By having these meetings, it builds a trusting relationship between the Tribe and Federal Government.” The Southern Ute Tribal Council is working very diligently to pass the Smart Act, according to Councilman Frost, which will remove the Secretary’s approval and the Tribe will be the exclusive decision maker in building new infrastructure and projects. If it is passed, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe will be the only tribe able to do that.

Tribal members spoke about their concerns on tribal health and the changes they wish to see within the Southern Ute Health Center. Including the need for an X-ray machine, and having consistent doctors, and wait time for patients at the Health Center. The reason for the wait time is patients showing up late for their scheduled appointments, which causes back up, according to Tribal Health Administrative Assistant, Marge Barry. “Its not just the Health Center, you can go to offices in Durango and have to wait the same amount of time. We are very lucky to be able to have the Health Center option available to us,” Southern Ute tribal member Tristain Benally said. The X-ray machine has been down for some time now and they are working to replace the equipment so that it is available to patients, so they will not have to go to Durango for services. The Southern Ute Health Center also offers same day services if you call first thing in the morning.

A comment was made about the clinic out growing itself and the need for a new one. “We have entertained the idea of a new health facility like a mini MAYO clinic to move in the direction that’s best of the Tribe, right now we just don’t have the funding to do so. Our elders sacrificed a lot for us to have these health services, we should be very appreciative that we have that option,” Councilman Frost said.

Southern Ute Construction Services Division Head, Danny Abeyta spoke on behalf of his department about the issues of snow removal. “Construction Services has taken on 100 plus new people from Arboles to Ignacio, taking on more areas where Custom Farms use to take care of,” Abeyata said. “They start at 4a.m. in the morning and stay out all night, until everyone is taken care of. Dialysis patients are first, next is elders, and then the general [tribal] community — please bare with them, they are doing the best they can to take care of everyone in a timely manner.” If you need sidewalks, roofs or anything else that needs snow removal please contact the Southern Ute Wood Yard.

Southern Ute tribal members have the opportunity to speak about the changes they wish to see within the tribal community.

“We need to come together to make big changes within our community,” Councilman Frost said. Tribal members need to unite, and attendance at community meetings is vital for change, Frost said in closing. If only a handful of the membership share their concerns, there is not much change that can happen.

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