Commission addresses health, solar energy and partnerships

Southern Ute Councilman, Cedric Chavez shares with the commission members how important the awareness of mental health is in tribal communities at the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs second quarterly meeting in Denver on Friday, Dec. 13.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) hosted the second quarterly meeting at the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Finance in Denver on Friday, Dec. 13 with state representatives and both Colorado Ute Tribes in attendance.

After an invocation provided by Southern Ute Councilman Cedric Chavez, Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera called the Commission to order. The meeting began with the approval of minutes from the last quorum and the authorization of the latest agenda.

Councilman Chavez was the only representative from the Southern Ute Tribal Council to attend the commission meeting and gave the quarterly updates on education, tribal elections and department achievements. He also reminded everyone in attendance to practice self-care. “Always remember to take time for yourself, be rested so you can keep fighting for your people,” Councilman Chavez stated. Chavez recently attended the listening session in Cortez, Colo. to help learn about and better understand the impacts of mental health issues in tribal communities. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, this is something that effects everybody from the youth to the elderly. I believe it is an issue that needs to be spoken for,” Chavez stated.

During the updates, Councilmen Chavez recognized the work of the Tribal Services Department and the Public Relations office of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for hosting a walk for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Indian Country. “The walk was put on for the murdered and missing women, to show that we as a community think about them and know that no matter where you are you can show your support,” Chavez stated. Councilman Chavez also announced that this epidemic is no longer going under the radar, the Southern Ute Tribe recognizes the missing and will be a voice for these women and girls.

As the meeting went on, a hot topic on the agenda was a presentation by the Navajo Nation Office of the Speaker for the 24th Council, Seth Damon. The Navajo Nation currently owns two pieces of property in the state of Colorado and is currently working with CCIA on creating new partnerships with the two federally recognized Ute tribes in Colorado. The partnership would help ensure the use, rights and development potential of these lands and would be an opportunity for the Navajo Nation to create economic development opportunities for education, housing and agriculture. “The Navajo Nation has long term priorities for the state of Colorado and hopes to see polices created to respect Navajo rights and foster support for our existing investments,” Damon said. “We want to support the current tribal members who reside in Colorado by providing access to development, education, public safety, social services and health care.” 

Recently, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Colorado Department of Health have been working together to create mental health listening sessions across the Southwest area. These listening sessions were held in Cortez, Durango and Towaoc, Colo. The data from the sessions will be released in a report and the next steps of programming will be implemented.

Wrapping up the meeting, Ute Mountain Ute Treasurer Austin Turtle provided an update on behalf of his tribe. The council recently underwent a 2020 Census training that will help ensure the accurate count of Native populations. In addition to the training, the council has been working to meet with the tribal community to discuss the opening of the new solar program that will generate electricity for tribal buildings; the project is currently in its final stages.

“Thank you for your time today,” Lt. Governor Primavera stated in closing. “I am excited to see you all again during the Denver March Powwow and happy Holidays.”

The next CCIA meeting is scheduled for March and will be held in Denver, Colo. to coincide with the annual Denver March Powwow.

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