Naranjo retires as NAGPRA Coordinator

Alden Naranjo was the subject of many stories, and expressions of gratitude as he bid farewell to the tribe during his retirement party on Friday, March 31.
Southern Ute elders Tim Watts, and Chairman Clement J. Frost congratulate Alden Naranjo for his many years of service with the tribe’s Culture Department during his farewell at the museum.
Cassandra Naranjo, gives a formal farewell and words of deep appreciation to her father Alden during his retirement party. Cassandra will be taking over the cultural preservation position with NAGPRA left open by Naranjo.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has bid farewell to longtime Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Coordinator, Alden Naranjo. Naranjo – a tribal elder – was recognized by state, federal and tribal reps at a retirement reception held at the Southern Ute Cultural Center on Friday, March 31.

During a farewell speech, Naranjo acknowledged the long road it took to get the tribes and government officials to all work together. But now, he said, he’s proud that the tribes and agencies work together and listen to one another for everyone’s benefit.

“I just want to say ‘thank you’,” Naranjo said. “I enjoyed working with the tribes, federal and other government agencies.”

He said that though his time as NAGPRA Coordinator has come to an end he will still be here as an elder to help pass on his knowledge, language and traditions.
“I’m still going to be here to pass it on,” he said. “I’m going to help … I’m going to pass it on like my elders did.”

Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Clement J. Frost thanked Naranjo on behalf of the tribe for his many contributions over the years.

“He’s only retiring from the office, but not from the things that he knows,” Frost said. “Alden took time out of his life to protect the things that mean the most to us.”

Frost continued, “he’s been a great asset to the tribe … he’s met with many government officials to educate them. I stand here and honor the tremendous asset he’s been and to say ‘thank you’ for all the things he has done for us.”

Over his 40 years working for the tribe, Alden spent 20 years as NAGPRA Coordinator, 16 years as a police officer, two years working for the Division of Wildlife and two years as a probation officer. Most recently, Naranjo has been mentoring his successor, Cassandra Naranjo, who will now take over the main duties as NAGPRA Coordinator for the tribe.

“We’ve done this for three years and I have a lot gratitude,” Cassandra said about apprenticing under her father. “I’m glad you’re still going to be around and that you taught me how to do this job.”

Betsy Chapoose, Northern Ute Cultural Rights and Protection Director also thanked Alden for mentoring her over the years.

“I owe a lot of gratitude to Alden he’s really helped me,” she said. “He did a great job mentoring.”

As for retirement plans, Naranjo said he would catch up on things at home that he has neglected over the years while he was busy working.

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