Tribe holds second General Meeting to update membership

Chairman Christine Sage gives opening remarks at the General Meeting on Wednesday, May 26 at the Sky Ute Casino Resort Event Center. This General Meeting was a continuation from the meeting that occurred on May 15.
Fabian Martinez | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Tribal Council hosted the second half of the biannual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 26 at the Sky Ute Casino Resort’s event center.

“This was a part two to address the presentations that did not happen in the first,” explained Chairman Christine Sage to those tribal members in attendance. The second General Meeting was a continuation of the meeting from May 15 which did not feature presentations from Tribal Council.

This General Meeting focused on the Tribal Council and the Executive Office, giving updates on the work that the Tribal Council and Executive Office have been conducting within the past year.

 

The Chairman’s Report

 

2018 was a busy year for Southern Ute Chairman Christine Sage as she attended many events in the Ignacio and Southern Ute communities as well as important events pertaining to the federal government. The Chairman attended the SUIMA’s transition ceremony, and the Ignacio High School graduation. She held meetings throughout the year with Tom Stritikus, President of Fort Lewis College, Mark Garcia from the Town of Ignacio, La Plata County, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. One of the biggest events the Chairman attended was the inauguration of Governor Jared Polis and the swearing in of Native American politicians, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davis early this year in Denver.

Chairman Sage also gave a detailed look at the Chairman’s duties as outlined within the Tribal Constitution. She defined Tribal Council Work Sessions which develop, revise and give feedback on business that is not yet finalized for approval. Also, during meetings, Tribal Council looks at issues relating to the tribal entities and most importantly tribal members. According to Chairman Sage, any tribal member can request a closed session meeting with Tribal Council and the Executive Office. Setting up a conference call, or video call, can also happen if the tribal member lives off of the reservation.

 

Tribal Council Initiation

 

This is the first year in office for both Council Members, Cedric Chavez and Bruce Valdez, both of whom presented the membership with the inner workings of what happens when a tribal member is voted into office. New council members go through an orientation period that features over 36 meetings in four weeks’ time in order to learn what each department and tribal entity is and the work that has taken place prior to their election. The orientation allows new members of Tribal Council to prepare for the work ahead of them throughout their term.

“It gives us an idea of what we are doing [as a tribe] and where we are going,” explained Bruce Valdez.

Valdez suggested a longer training period and more conducive discussions with departments continually increasing communication. This will better prepare new members to take on work with the tribal organization, tribal committees, and other outside groups that Tribal Council is associated with.

 

Tribal Council Committees and Groups

 

All members of council explained their work on committees and groups as one of the facets of work that Tribal Council does. Each member of Tribal Council is a part of both internal (Southern Ute) committees and external (national, governmental, intertribal, etc.) groups. Council Member Lorelei Cloud explained that council can sit on or sit in on any committees within the tribal organization due to their positions on the council.

The internal committees that have Tribal Council representation are the Tribal Security Committee, Tribal Policy Committee, Youth Services Initiative Committee, Audit Committee, Multicultural Committee, and Growth Fund Management Committee among others.  For external committees, members of the Tribal Council are a part of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA), Ten Tribes Partnership, Intertribal Buffalo Council, Tribal/State Environmental commission, Department of the Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee, Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board and many others.

Members of Tribal Council expressed that these committees are important for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe as they provide for the community, build intertribal and intergovernmental relationships that help address the concerns and issues that are present on the Southern Ute Reservation, while working towards potential solutions.

Council Member Adam Red explained that it is important to know what is occurring on the federal level, which allows the Tribe to recognize what laws and policies may directly affect the Tribe and its membership.

 

Tribal Developments

 

Council Member Melvin Baker gave an update on the development taking place on the reservation as well as in Oceanside, Calif. On the reservation, there are two large projects in development. The first is the on-going housing development on Cedar Point, including the recent introduction of townhomes within the subdivision. There are currently 22 lots  within the subdivision for tribal members to build foundations and put homes. At the time of the meeting, no lots had been selected by tribal members, which is a growing issue for the Tribal Housing Department and Tribal Council. Tribal Council is currently looking at possible solutions that may include rent-to-own housing on four lots to potentially garner interest. As of the meeting there had not been any formal decisions made about developing the four lots in Cedar Point. Any tribal member that is interested in a lot can pick up an informational packet at Tribal Credit.

The second development project on the reservation is the construction of the future Skate Park. Baker stated that an estimate of 1.5 million will have to go into the construction of the park in the lot of the old Sky Ute Casino. The 1.5 million will include infrastructure and the clean-up of old utilities in the area. Currently, there is a request for bid (RFP) from contractors for the park and will be evaluated by the Executive Office and Tribal Council on June 28.

As for those developments off the reservation, Oceanside, Calif. remains one of the biggest investments for the Tribe. Currently the Tribe owns a hotel which opened in 2014 and two apartment buildings, one of which was opened in 2018. Tribal members who visit SpringHill Suites in Oceanside can receive a discount on room rates and restaurants.

A block away, the Tribe owns two apartment buildings called Pierside North and South. Pierside North is currently 85 percent leased with one room, two room and studio apartments available from $2,200 to $3,400 a month. The apartment complex features a pool, fitness center, courtyard, and dog park along with many other amenities. Pierside South is the newest addition, which was completed in November 2018 and is currently in lease-up phase and features ocean views and apartments that range from $2,200 through $5,000 a month.

There are currently two blocks that are undeveloped in Oceanside that the Tribe owns. There has not been a formal decision made as to what will be put into future development on these blocks.

 

Tribal Council Goals

 

Council Members also expressed their goals for their remaining time on council to the membership. Council Member Lorelei Cloud expressed her interest in protecting water rights for the Tribe, as well as helping keep the Ute language alive in new ways.

“Among my top priorities is to keep the Ute language alive,” stated Cloud, who also wants to see the Ute language on signs across tribal campus.

For Council Member Cedric Chavez, helping the youth is one of his biggest goals by showing his support for the skate park and the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council. Chavez also hopes to expand economic development interests, strengthen self-determination for the Tribe and support all tribal organizations.

For all members of Tribal Council, communication between the council and the membership seems to be one of the biggest goals. Many members of Tribal Council encourage the membership to discuss issues with them if needed.

“As Chairman, I encourage meeting every tribal member after meetings have occurred,” said Chairman Sage.

Enrolled Southern Ute tribal members can request copies of presentations made at recent General Meetings by contacting Lindsay J. Box, Tribal Council Communications Specialist at 970-563-2313 or via email at lbox@southernute-nsn.gov.

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