Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Council members met with state officials at the quarterly held Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs meeting held at the Leonard C. Burch Building Thursday, Sept. 10 to provide updates. The following day, on September 11, tribal leaders from the three sister tribes came together for a Tri-Ute meeting hosted by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Southern Ute Chairman Frost provided an update to all state officials in attendance, with the big news being about the recent Gold King Mine Spill.
Frost said at the time of the meeting the tribe was seeking $200,000 reimbursement from the Environmental Protection Agency. Frost also reminded state officials that since the spill will have long-term effects that amount will likely increase.
Vice Chairwoman Ramona Y. Eagle, also mentioned that the tribe is still dealing with the Town of Ignacio with on-reservation sales tax exemption sales tax exemption for tribal members – Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute. Some shops and stores are waiting to hear from the state about tribal members being tax exempt, she said.
Also brought to the table at CCIA was talk about adding youth members to the commission. Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute would each have one youth representative that would attend the quarterly meetings.
“We have to make sure that we are looking out for the safety of the youth … make sure that this a valuable experience for them, teach them leadership,” Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia said.
Southern Ute Tribal Councilman Alex S. Cloud stressed that it is important to keep the youth engaged as a lot of the issues discussed at the meetings may not always be appealing to a teenager.
The commission is still looking at the logistics of how the youth with travel and what the age range should be and the commission will vote on implementation of it at the December 2015 meeting. The youth program wouldn’t start until fiscal year 2017, Executive Director of CCIA Ernest House Jr. said.
Also discussed was the commissions’ focus on Native American representation in schools. There are 50 schools throughout the state that had logos or names that were about Native Americans, that number is down in the 30’s this year, House said.
“The Governor is very supportive of changing logos and names,” Garcia said . “But we need to lead with a constructible dialog approach, asking schools if you want to honor native culture there are better ways to do it, let us help you.”
Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart suggested sending a delegate from the tribes to visit with the school.
“Teamwork, lets send people to talk to the administration and let them know where we are coming from,” Heart said.
Sister tribes gathered on the Southern Ute Reservation Friday, Sept. 11 to provide quarterly updates and discuss accomplishments, issues, and future endeavors.
A big discussion brought to the council by Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, was tribal member enrollments.
Vice Chairwoman of Ute Mountain, Juanita Plentyholes said getting Certificates of Indian Blood and family trees from the sister tribes to verify Ute blood, has been a challenge.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is different from Southern Ute and Northern Ute, as the tribe enrolls members based on one-half blood quantum of Ute blood, as long as the mother or father is enrolled Ute Mountain Ute.
For example, a child that is 1/4 Ute Mountain and 1/4 Southern Ute and 1/4 Northern Ute, can be enrolled in the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe as 3/4.
Northern Ute has a 5/8-blood quantum of only Northern Ute blood, and Southern Ute requires members meet the 1/4-Southern Ute blood, and the parent or parents of the child must also be an enrolled member.
“I’m going to be honest it puts more financial burden on the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe,” Ute Mountain Councilman Gary Hayes said. “ The default is Ute Mountain.”
Plentyholes said that many of the Ute Mountain Ute Elders are taking care of grandchildren that don’t meet the one-half Ute Mountain blood quantum and are struggling because they don’t have the funds.
“It’ll come down to the membership,” Hayes said. “Do we really care about who we are as Ute people, or money?”
Chairman Frost, agreed that ultimately it will come down to the membership’s vote, but Frost said he would support using more Ute blood, like Ute Mountain- rather than seeing the require blood quantum decrease to 1/8 blood quantum.
Northern Ute provided an update on their tribe. Their business committee members will be in Washington, D.C. September 21-24 pushing on energy issues, Northern Ute Chairman Shaun Chapoose said.
Chapoose also handed out information for sister tribes to discuss concerning a proposed Northern Ute casino in Dinosaur, Colo., and a resolution that would support Northern Ute members getting the same hunting rights as sister tribes in the Brunot area.
Ute Mountain Ute provided updates. Chairman Heart asked for the sister tribes to pursue historic Ute land north of the San Juan River, that other tribes are trying to claim. Heart said the land has old Ute petroglyphs so he asked for support from the Tri-Ute Council to protect and preserve that land.
Heart also proposed the Tri-Ute Council help develop a Bear Dance Committee that will travel to each Bear Dance and help teach the songs to the youth or whoever would like to learn, he said.