The topics of safety and historical trauma were highlighted at the 23rd Annual Four Corners Country Conference held at the Sky Ute Casino Resort. The three-day conference was hosted August 25-27, and included attorneys who are working with tribal governments to crack down on violence, abuse, and emotional distress across sovereign lands.
U.S. District Attorney, John F. Walsh, moderated the conference along with Damon Martinez, D.A. of New Mexico, John Leonardo, D.A. of Arizona, and Diana Hagen, D.A. of Utah. Deputy Attorney General, Sally Yates, answered questions from tribal members while providing some of her own in regards to living on the reservation.
“It’s an honor to see a lot of brothers and sisters talk about the different things that affect us,” Chairman Clement J. Frost said as he introduced the attorneys. “[Native people] at times are looked at as unimportant…but as natives we know we are strong. We work together, and we build that strength.”
“We’ve made an extraordinary amount of progress, but our work is not done,” stated John F. Walsh. “We have to ensure that victims in Indian Country are supported and that there are fewer victims every year.”
For ongoing years, plagues of violence and abuse have swept through native lands at alarming rates. Reports have indicated that since 2014, one-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, have a 2.3 percent higher rate of exposure to trauma, have two times the rate of abuse and neglect, and are twice as likely to die before age 24 than any other race. The attorneys addressed these issues with tribal members after hearing a number of stories.
“Don’t forget that as Native Americans, we have history and culture we always share,” Ute Mountain Ute Council Lady DeAnne House said. “We understand the affects trauma can have on someone, and we need to provide them the traditional healing needed to move forward.”
During the conference, the attorneys got to spend time in the Southern Ute Community and learn more about the culture. Sally Yates and John F. Walsh toured the reservation along with Stuart Delery, Acting Associate Attorney General, and Michael Cotter, D.A. of Montana. The tour reached Cedar Point where the Southern Ute Police Department informed them about the areas history, including the shootings during the past years and the actions taken to prevent it.
“We have different jurisdictions on our reservation,” stated Lieutenant Chris Naranjo. “Whenever we get calls, such as a shooting, we have to determine if it’s on or off the reservation … we have to think if it’s tribal or non-tribal in contrast to jurisdictions like Durango or Denver – it’s not cut and dry.”
The tour routed to the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum where Tallas Cantsee talked with them about the heritage of the Southern Utes, before departing to Ignacio High School and meeting the students.
“Speaking for myself, I’ve learned a lot today on behalf of the tribal people and from the students,” Sally Yates said. “They speak from the heart and we really appreciate their dedication. We recognize to solve the common issues in Indian Country and forming strong government-to-government relationships.”