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Tribes convene in Fort Duchesne

Photo Credit: Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

Ute tribal leaders came together Wednesday, June 17 in Vernal, UT to provide updates on the current state of their respective tribes.

Kicking off the meeting, was the introduction of the Ute Indian Tribe’s newly elected Business Committee members: Chairman Shaun T. Chapoose, Vice Chairman Edred D. Secakuku and Ronald Wopsock – all were elected into office last month. Also in attendance for Northern Ute were Tony Small and Bruce Ignacio.

“Our council is operational, we’re an aggressive council, we get stuff done,” Chapoose said.


Bereavement Policy

Tribal officials discussed a Bereavement Policy between the three tribes. The agreement would ensure that if a Ute tribal member residing on a sister tribe’s reservation passes away, the tribe that the Ute tribal member resided on would provide immediate assistance.

“There is a process you can follow and go through BIA, but it’s a lengthy process,” Southern Ute Councilman Alex S. Cloud said. “Working through the [tribes] is a lot faster.”

Ute Mountain Ute Council Lady, Regina Whiteskunk agreed. “We can help provide services … we can help make that time as comforting as possible.”

The Tri-Ute Council decided that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Bereavement Policy would be passed on to the three tribe’s Executive Offices to collaborate on and present to the Tri-Ute Council at a later date.


Brunot Agreement

Northern Ute then brought up the Brunot Agreement, and the need of Ute Mountain and Southern Ute’s support going forward.

“We should be active as one,” Chapoose said.

According to Northern Ute’s Legal Counsel Jeremy Patterson, parties that signed the original agreement were bands that now make up Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and Northern Ute tribes. But when the new agreement was signed, Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute were the only tribes that signed the agreement with the state of Colorado, he said.

Now Northern Ute is in the process of establishing an MOU with the state of Colorado to confirm hunting and fishing rights.

“All we are asking for is support.” Northern Ute tribal leader Tony Small said. “All we want is the same hunting and fishing [rights] you guys [have].”

One band that signed the original agreement is now apart of the Northern Ute Tribe, so now the whole Northern Ute Tribe would be included in the agreement, not just the one band, Patterson said.

“It’s a good idea,” Whiteskunk, Ute Mountain Ute, said.

She then asked what the management of permits and licenses would look like for Northern Ute Tribe. She advised the tribe to have a management plan in place before taking it to the state of Colorado, and suggested the tribe works with both Ute Mountain and Southern Ute to help plan.


Ute Language

The preservation of the Ute Language was also up for discussion at the roundtable.

“The children are key, as long as we are gearing it more to the youth … that will be what preserves [the language] in the end,” Chapoose said.

Council Lady Whiteskunk argued that time spent preserving the language should be focused on the conversational aspect of language, not so much on developing apps or software.

“We need to encourage out elders to speak it to our kids … I need to hear it,” she said.

Chapoose agreed that preserving the language starts in the home, but said the tribe’s shouldn’t limit themselves; if the technology is available it should be used, he said.

Council Lady Amy J. Barry said the states – Colorado and Utah – should mandate Ute curriculum in public schools, instead of leaving it up to schools to decide whether or not to teach it.


Crisis Response

A main topic of concern was the recent shooting and police activity that took place on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.

A drive by shooting occurred in the early morning hours of June 14, hours before the Tri-Ute Games kicked off in Fort Duchesne. And another incident, that took place Tuesday night while the athletes were enjoying a Beach Party at the Bottle Hollow Reservoir.

Chairman Chapoose, updated the tribal officials on the incident and apologized for the unfortunate events.

Councilman Cloud thanked Chapoose for the apology but said it wasn’t the tribe’s fault, and it was something that was beyond Northern Ute’s control.

However, Cloud did suggest the three tribe’s come up with safety plans before an event like this is held.

“We need to have this all in place,” he said. “Communication is key.”

Cloud also commended Northern Ute’s recreation staff for keeping him up to date on everything that was going on Tuesday night.

Following the Tri-Ute meeting Wednesday, tribal officials came together to calm nerves and reassure the athletes and families that they were in good hands.

“We’re here to reassure you that the Ute Tribe did everything possible to protect you,” Chapoose said.

Police activity was heightened during the Tri-Ute Games and was increased after Tuesday’s incident.

“A special thank you to the law enforcement for being here and protecting our kids … [Tribal leaders] are here for [the youth],” Cloud said.

Council Lady Ramona Y. Eagle wished everyone safe trips back home and reminded them to remember the good that came out of the games.

“We started with a good spirit when we first came … we want this to end in a good spirit too … your friends and relatives you met here throughout this week … have good memories about that.” Eagle said.

Tri-Ute athletes also got to hear from Issac Suina, Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council Chairman.

“I, as a youth, appreciate our leader’s words of encouragement, and would like to thank the Northern Ute Tribe for your hospitality,” he said.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will host the next Tri-Ute Meeting in the coming months.

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