Tribe updates state on intergovernmental projects at CCIA

Leaders of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes met with Colorado officials on Thursday, Sept. 12 in Ignacio to share updates on energy projects, health care, and plans for recreation on Lake Nighthorse.

The quarterly meeting of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, a state-sponsored group, took place at the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Leonard C. Burch Building. Southern Ute Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. began his report with efforts to improve relations with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“I think we got the attention of some of the higher-ups, and hopefully we can make things happen there,” he said.

Newton said the tribe is working with the BIA’s Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development on a Tribal Energy Resource Agreement, which, if completed, would be the first of its kind in Indian Country and would authorize the tribe to conduct its own energy-related transactions without separate approval.

On the ongoing issue of recreation plans at Lake Nighthorse, Newton said the tribe was disappointed to learn the state had declined to manage recreation, but will continue to work with all agencies involved to find a solution.

“It’s just not in the cards in the short term,” said Bob Randall, deputy director of the state Department of Natural Resources. “It fits the model for what a state park might look like, but taking on what is essentially a blank slate … is a significant financial liability that’s preventing management as a state park today.”

Southern Ute Council Lady Pathimi GoodTracks reported on a CCIA Health and Wellness Roundtable meeting she attended Aug. 19-20. The meeting focused on healthcare concerns of the Ute tribes and included representatives from state and local health agencies and other groups.

“It went very well. It was productive; everybody was extremely helpful,” she said. “It was good to have San Juan [Basin Health Department] there, and all these other agencies, because it was a learning experience for them.”

At the roundtable, the group identified several focus areas, including preventative care, veterans’ health and behavioral health services, according to a report distributed at the meeting.

“The tribe is currently working on a [memorandum of understanding] with the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] to where the VA will agree that the tribe’s clinic will be the primary provider for veterans within this area,” GoodTracks said.

The commission’s next meeting is slated for Friday, Dec. 13 in Denver.

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