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Tribes, State meet in Towaoc

During the quarterly Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) meeting in Towaoc, Colo. Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman, Manuel Heart puts a shawl on Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne. The shawl was a gift to from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Photo Credit: Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum

At this year’s second quarterly meeting for the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes updated state officials on what the respective tribes have been working on.

The meeting was held at the Ute Mountain Ute Casino Hotel & Resort in Towaoc, Colo. Friday, June 3 during the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s 127th Annual Bear Dance. State officials from numerous state agencies were in attendance including new Lt. Gov. of Colorado, Donna Lynne and Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman.

The Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes both updated the commission on what they are doing to help housing situations on their reservations

“The Housing Department is applying for a grant for new homes and remodels for homes,” Ute Mountain Vice Chairwoman, Juanita Plentyholes said.

She also mentioned that the tribe has purchased some trailers in the past to help with the housing issues and that the tribe is in the process of purchasing nine more trailers.

For Southern Ute, Councilman Melvin J. Baker talked about the Cedar Point Housing Initiative – a housing project fully funded by the tribe

“We are looking at adding 100 more homes [to the Cedar Point Housing Subdivision] in the next 5 to 10 years,” Baker said. “But we have to justify Phase 1 of the initiative to go on to the other phases.”

Phase 1 of the housing initiative will include 23 residential lots and 25 townhome rentals along with other non-housing infrastructures.

Attorney General Coffman said she understands the tribes’ struggles of providing adequate housing, as it is a common theme around the state.

During the Attorney General’s update, Jose Esquibel, of the Attorney General’s office, discussed opioid use and let the tribes know the state is interested in learning about the use of opioids and overdoses on the reservations. He also talked about Naloxene, a medication used to block effects of opioids especially during overdose, and offered to help the tribes’ law enforcement get trained on using the medication.

Up next, Executive Director of CCIA, Ernest House Jr. brought his updates to the table. He discussed the mascot issue and the success the short-term commission, Commission to Study American Indian Representation in Public Schools (CSAIRPS). House said he would like to get the commission’s support to create a committee to work with schools on a criteria schools can follow regarding the use of mascots, names, caricatures etc.

“We are setting the bar high, there are only two tribes in the Colorado, but we’re setting the bar,” Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart said about the amount media attention Colorado and the commission received after the release of the CSAIRPS report.

House also discussed the addition of CCIA youth members. He hopes to work with the tribes over the summer to come up with a proposal to bring to the commission at the September meeting. House said he would be discussing small logistics with the tribes concerning the youth members such as funding for their travel.

The end of the meeting included an historical signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“The agreement will help address communication and coordination of maintenance and engineering activities on highways that cross tribal lands,” a press release by CDOT stated.

The next quarterly meeting will be held in September in Ignacio, Colo. with the Southern Ute hosting.

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