U.S. Senators, tribe meet

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D) takes a photo with the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council during the Senator’s visit the tribe Friday, May 1.
U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R) shakes hands with Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost after both state governors visited the tribe Friday, May 1.
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum

The tribe was paid a special visit Friday, May 1 by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. The main topics up for discussion were water rights and irrigation.

Irrigation issues across the reservation are a big concern for the tribe, Councilman James M. Olguin said.

Due in large part to the lack of Bureau of Indian Affairs funding, ditch blow outs on tribal lands and are not being repaired because the BIA doesn’t have the equipment or funding to fix the ditches.

“There is not sufficient funding, not even enough funding to rent the equipment to do the maintenance … we are running in the negative and will for awhile,” Priscilla Bancroft, acting BIA superintendent for Southern Ute Agency, said.

“Because of the lack of water, a lot of the lands that are irrigable are not getting water. The BIA needs the equipment to maintain those ditches,” Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost said. “The tribe had to help the BIA buy new equipment because equipment is outdated and some of it doesn’t even work.”

The Pine River Project serves 12,000 acres of Indian and non-Indian land. According to Jason Mietchen, Range division head; only 40 percent of that land is being irrigated.

“We do really need that funding to continue getting water to our tribal membership,” Frost said.

Senator Bennet assured the tribe he heard their concerns.

“I will do everything I can to help get this through,” Bennet said. “I appreciate the tribe’s support of mine.”




The Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Councilmembers also attended the meeting and were able to ask the Senator’s their own questions.

Youth Councilman Cameron Weaver asked Senator Gardner how he felt about the recent failure of the mascot bill.

Gardner responded that he wanted to know how it made the youth feel.

“I think they made the wrong decision,” Weaver said.

“It goes beyond the mascot,” Chairman Frost said. “They’re using war paint and war bonnets and other objects … the name is part of it, but there are other things that are tied into it.”






















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