Commission prioritizes tribal health and natural resources

Colorado Lieutenant Governor, Diane Primavera welcomes the Tribal Education and Legal departments from the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes to the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs’ first quarterly meeting at the Sky Ute Casino Resort Casino on Tuesday, October 29.
Southern Ute Chairman, Christine Sage, Vice Chairman, Cheryl Frost and Councilman Cedric Chavez take their seats before the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs meeting on Tuesday, October 29.
Southern Ute Councilman, Adam Red emphasizes the importance of Southern Ute tribal members and Native Americans to get registered for the 2020 census on Tuesday, October 29 at the first quarterly Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs meeting.
Southern Ute Chairman, Christine Sage and Vice Chairman, Cheryl Frost talk with La Plata County Commissioner, Julie Westendorff about some of the updates that the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs provided during the first quarterly meeting on Tuesday, October 29.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) held the first quarterly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio, Colo. Tribal leaders, local governments and members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe were all in attendance.

Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera called the Commission to order, after an invocation provided by Southern Ute elder Alden Naranjo. The meeting began with the approval of minutes from the last quorum and the authorization of the latest agenda.

The Southern Ute Tribal Council gave their updates on tribal health, employment and culture. “Employees are key to how the tribe runs and they should be appreciated,” Councilman Adam Red stated. Red recently led the TEAM Challenge which recognized tribal employees for their hard work and provided an opportunity for tribal council to meet with each employee.

In addition to the challenge council shared that they recently made changes to the tribal mission statement. The mission now reads, “We are a sovereign tribe, managing resources and protecting our culture as we serve our people now and into the future.”

As the meeting went on, the biggest concerns that were brought up had to do with natural resources, mental health and tribal education. “What are we doing as a tribe? We need to start working better as a team,” Councilman Bruce Valdez said. “When we open these opportunities for tribal members, so much is possible.” Recently, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Fort Lewis College have been working together to create small business startup activities that will coincide with the Southern Ute Economic Development department to possibly open a new entrepreneur program.

During the updates, Councilmen Melvin Baker announced that this will be the last CCIA meeting that he will attend as his term on council will end soon. “There is a lot of work to be done, but I know the council will continue on working hard to fix the many issues that they are presented with,” Baker stated.  Councilman Red also announced that this will potentially be his last CCIA meeting but assured everyone that he is campaigning hard and hopes to be elected again to serve on council as well as the commission.

Echoing the councilmembers before him, Councilman Cedric Chavez thanked the Commission and provided an update on the issues of water, mental health and school. “It’s common and known that mental health issues effect people but looking forward I would like to see how we can help our young people be able to learn more about their health and pay attention to the impacts that this will have on their futures.”

In addition to health concerns, the commission was given a presentation by staff from the West Springs Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. The hospital is a psychiatric care facility that specializes in treating PTSD, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts. West Springs is currently working with tribes to provide better culturally informed care. They are one of a few inpatient hospitals to accept Medicare and Medicade insurance and even have a sliding scale fee for those without insurance. According to their website they are dedicated to “Rebuilding lives and inspiring hope by providing exceptional mental health and addiction recovery care, to strengthen the health and vitality of our communities.”

Currently the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is working to expand the number of tribal members who are working with the 2020 Census, which is used to account for accurate tribal households and the community for the next 10 years. “This is an opportunity for extra work while helping the community,” Red explained. “The counts help the state be represented in Congress and even determines the way funds are allocated.”

Bringing the meeting to a close, Ute Mountain Ute Councilman Austin Turtle provided an update on behalf of his tribe. The councilmembers recently underwent a change of leadership, Manuel Heart was sworn in as the Ute Mountain Ute Chairman on Monday, Nov. 5. In addition to the change of leadership, they have been working to meet with the tribal community to discuss the feasibility of a new grocery store—he believes this will be a real possibility in the coming years.

“Thank you for your devotion, leadership and commitment to serving on the commission—I look forward to seeing you all again,” Primavera expressed.  The meeting was then adjourned and commission members who were traveling were rushed to the airport to outrun a snowstorm.

The next CCIA meeting is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 13, and will be held in Denver, Colo.

 

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