Tribe celebrates state bill protecting self-determination

Photo Credit: Southern Ute Indian Tribe

A major victory for tribal sovereignty came as Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 24-193, the “Protect Tribal Lands from Unauthorized Annexation Bill,” into law on June 6, 2024. This legislation arose from the City of Durango’s attempt to annex land on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support, passing unanimously through both houses of the Colorado legislature. This strong backing underscores the widespread recognition of tribal self-governance. 

“This is a momentous day for Colorado,” Southern Ute Chairman Melvin J. Baker said. “The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is incredibly grateful to the sponsors of this bill for their unwavering support. We thank Senator Jessie Danielson, Senator Cleave Simpson, Majority Leader Monica Duran, and Minority Leader Rose Pugliese. Their commitment echoes the deep respect Coloradans have for tribal sovereignty and the sanctity of reservation lands. Together, we are sending a clear message: collaboration thrives when we honor treaties and respect tribal sovereignty.” 

Vice Chairman Lorelei Cloud echoed these sentiments, “The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has a long history of championing initiatives that uplift and benefit our local community. This bill aligns perfectly with that commitment. By ensuring our right to self-determination and a voice in actions that impact our reservation, we will continue serving our people and strengthening the communities that call our reservation home.”  

The bill itself simply necessitates the Tribe’s consent. It ensures that any future annexation efforts within the Reservation boundaries must involve the Tribe’s meaningful participation. This crucial step guarantees public safety, environmental responsibility, protection of cultural resources, and the establishment of necessary agreements. With this legislation in place, Colorado can proudly stand as a model for strong and respectful relationships with its tribes. 

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