Fri Mar 30th, 2018
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) hosted their quarterly meeting at the State Capitol with members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe from Wednesday, March, 21 — Thursday, March 22.
One of the key meetings was held at the Gates Family Foundation. The Foundation has a strong interest in collaborating with the Ute tribes in Colorado, the CCIA works as a liaison between the Colorado Education Department and the Tribes — CCIA was also the driving force in setting up a meeting with the Gates Family Foundation.
While the Foundation does offer funds for viable programs, they also see themselves as a valuable networking experience. “Where do we have the capacity to help the tribes,” asked Gates Family Foundation President, Tom Gougeon.
The values of the founders included stewardship of the land, we select companies to partner with based on their economic viability and stewardship — having positive effects on the environment, he explained. “We are a resource in terms of land, water, education. It’s really a wide spectrum,” Gougeon said. The Foundation ran a scholarship program early on, which morphed into charter schools and education initiatives. They spend a lot of time focusing on how individual communities find a pathway forward, taking into account growth and change.
“Schools and education systems need to respond to the needs of a specific student population,” emphasized Gougeon. Executive Director for the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, Ernest House Jr. reminded those in attendance that the Cortez and Ignacio school districts have the highest rates of enrolled Native American students for the state of Colorado.
“When you pay attention to your youth, they have a better chance for success in the community,” Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Marissa Box said. Similar sentiments were echoed by Southern Ute Chairman Christine Sage, “We need to prioritize. Our kids are our future,” she said.
One avenue of partnership for funding that was brought to the table was the Southern Ute Community Actions Program’s Head Start, the school is currently fundraising for a new facility on, or near Tribal Campus. The Head Start’s main building was shut down late last year due to safety concerns surrounding asbestos and classrooms are temporarily housed in the Southern Ute Cultural Center.
“This conversation will continue in Southwest Colorado,” said Abby Schaller, Program Officer for K-12 Education with the Gate Family Foundation. Representatives from the Foundation will meet with Ute tribes individually later in the spring, in Towaoc and Ignacio respectively. “We’re seeing the importance of State-Tribe relations across the country,” CCIA Executive Director Ernest House Jr. emphasized.
Leadership from the Colorado Ute Tribes met with Governer John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynn for a formal introduction and honoring of the Ute tribes in the House and Senate on Wednesday, March 21, followed by the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs roundtable at History Colorado, Thursday, March 22.