Southern Ute Indian Tribe: General Election 2021

W. Bruce Valdez
SU Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | SU Drum

CANDIDATE STATEMENTS

Southern Ute Tribal Council Candidates

Lindsay J. Box

LINDSAY J. BOX

Maykh Tribal Members,  

 I am humbly asking for your support in the 2021 General Election. I am the proud daughter of the Orian Box (egap), and Jann Smith, paternal granddaughter of the late Fritz and Pearl Posey Box, (egap) and the late Howard and Joan Sackett (egap). I have two sons of my own, Tavian and Kiko. I lived on the reservation majority of my life with the exception when I continued my education.  

I graduated from Fort Lewis College with two Bachelors degrees in Sociology and American Indian Studies and I attended New Mexico State University to work on my Masters degree prior to going on a sabbatical and beginning my career with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. For 10 years, I have worked within the tribal organization in the Cultural and Preservation Department, Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum with most of my time spent with the Boys & Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Tribal Council Affairs. Throughout these years, I have gained a lot of experience and had the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the tribal organization. This will be helpful in my role on Tribal Council.  

Now, why I am running for Tribal Council? Although I am young, I have the strong work ethic, the drive to learn as much as I can, and the ability to analyze situations to find solutions that work in the best interest of the tribal membership. My youth will help me keep the pace of the long days while helping me bridge the generations of our Tribe. I know I can be the strong, compassionate leader our people need. I have so many ideas and the drive to put, take, and shift those ideas into motion. Times are changing, and we need a leader who understands how these changes impact the Tribe and can bring us back to the forefront of progress. My father instilled in me and emphasized how important our Ute traditions and culture are to each one of us, and I know my upbringing will help me communicate with and understand the challenges of our Tribal Elders.  

I am committed to hearing the concerns of our tribal membership and working with the appropriate staff and administration officials to find effective solutions.  

A few of my priorities include revisiting the Financial Plan. The foundation of our plan is strong. Diversification is important to secure success, but we can’t look past what has made the Tribe successful. We need to use our strengths to vet new opportunities. We need to shift our thought process for new investments to include thinking how the Tribe can leverage our expertise in emerging markets, but ensuring we are going to meet our rate of return required. We must also understand the Tribe’s rate of growth and plan appropriately. Another component of the Financial Plan is the tribal budget. We must shift from the status quo process to one that is more effective, provides transparency, and utilizes tools to measure success. For years, tribal members have expressed a growing concern over the budget’s size and effectiveness, to a point where trust is missing. I have new ideas to help regain the trust of the tribal members, so we know how our dollars are being spent. This will make us a more productive government. The plan also sets the expectation of tribal employment and I have ideas how to utilize the budget process to develop and require succession planning and creating equity and advancement expectations for members. This begins with understanding the current tribal unemployment rate and identifying how large our employment pool is, as well as identifying and finding solutions to roadblocks.  

I also would like to prioritize community development. For years, we see communities around us improving and growing. We have seen these communities grow with the help of tribal dollars which are earned in our community but spent elsewhere. It is time that we invest in our own tribal community. This requires work on multiple fronts. We must work on tribal housing, finding affordable solutions that meet a variety of membership’s needs. And while we can make progress on housing solutions, we also must work with our law enforcement to make these communities desirable and safe to live in. And we must have (employment) opportunities for our tribal members to succeed. This includes developing opportunities for tribal members that do not want to work for the Tribe, rather they need assistance starting their own small business. We owe it to the membership to develop programs that they can access to jump start their dreams of owning their own business. 

Another huge priority of mine is to truly invest in language and cultural preservation. There are a few tribal programs that are currently working towards these efforts, but it is within Council’s scope of authority to allocate tribal dollars to save our language and culture. I am committed to budgeting two full-time positions, at a livable wage, that will be responsible for documenting our language, developing resources so others can learn, and teaching our members. It is also important that these resources are be available to both on- and off-reservation members.  

I also want to be sure that we do not forget the larger picture and working with local, state, and federal partners to understand and protect our sovereignty. We must take the driver’s seat to determine our own destiny and hold the federal government to its trust responsibility. However, we must advocate when their federal oversight and approval is minimal at best. Our leaders must stay informed on the various issues in which threatens our tribal sovereignty.  

Although these are a few of my priorities, I have a number of other ideas that I believe will improve programs and services to the membership and help our tribal government begin to be more efficient and effective. I know what this role entails, and I am ready to work tirelessly for our membership. If you have questions, I can be reached at (970) 759.1494.  

Toghoyaqh,  

Lindsay J. Box 

Cedric J. Chavez

CEDRIC J. CHAVEZ

Greetings Tribal Membership, 

When I first started out with thoughts of being a representative for you it was a tough decision, I just knew that like you I was tired of the same old story. I wanted to be able to make a difference and bring honest, hardworking minds back into our government. 

With a multitude of support, I was able to do just that. The part no one ever really talks about when making it into office is that when you get there, there are some binding documents that guide you along the way. The first being the Constitution of the Tribe and the second being the oath of office you are sworn in with. 

The words in the oath itself are what bring it home when it comes to how you should be conducting your office especially when it comes to supporting the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and its membership. 

My original platform had a lot to do with accountability. Mostly of the Tribe and its workings being accountable to the people which it serves, but significantly accountable in the fact that everyone is doing the best job they can to meet the needs of the tribal membership in the most equitable manner possible. 

Accountability breeds accountability, and in my first term it began to happen. Not through one person, but through like-minded people working in the administration and in the workforce. I was very happy to be part of a working group that was described as one of the most engaged council’s there had been in a while, and it made me want to work harder at my job because there was a difference. 

But with the good you must always be able to take the bad and while you making your small wins there are places those wins don’t make it to or they are just not received well. And this is where we need to pick up and provide for wins that are across the board for all to partake in. 

The oath of office provides for the fact that you will not inject anything of a personal nature and that is simple enough to follow but I do take personally when others make the decision to not follow our codes, policies and procedures, or the very constitution which enables the Tribe to have governance over its home and the people it serves. 

Many times, it’s those personal choices within the government that bring about inequity and at other times the fault can be found in documents that need updating. Updating the foundation of the Tribal government is one of the main functions of the council and is constant work because as soon as you update a new reason to update falls out. While updating codes is a lot more expansive than updating policy it is still an essential piece of governing as it keeps the Tribe current and allows the Tribe to speak on its own terms. I know there have been times that we do not have a policy, or a piece written into code and we revert to state or federal codes that are not totally representative of the Tribe causing a loss of representation and those are pieces I would like to see corrected so we have little to no inequity when it comes to serving the people. 

In my time on the council, we worked on a governance manual, and I was real excited to see it coming together because it provided for accountability within the Tribe at all places including the Government itself. At what point this manual is at now I have no idea, but I can tell you that it was one of the most exciting works I had the pleasure to be a part of because it was another avenue of accountability. 

I could go on about accountability all day long and we all recognize that we want accountability to us as members but like all things accountability is a two-way street. What do we do as members that make us accountable to one another and to our Tribe. This is always a tough question because it hits closer to home and it can only be answered individually but I wanted to make sure to not leave it out because it’s an essential piece to the conversation as well. 

Personally, I do what I can to make sure I am providing for myself and my loved ones with what I am afforded through the Tribe’s services and distributions. When I was growing up I was taught that work was going to be one of the most important things I could do for myself and those around me especially if I wanted to be able to provide a life for myself. The difference between living on reservation and living off the reservation would be two different worlds as certain amenities and protections don’t follow you off the reservation and that living in the real world meant you had to work harder to make a life for yourself, respect for culture and traditions and whether I took part in them or not I was always to make sure I did not disrespect them or those who participated in them. 

Hindsight being 20/20 I should have listened better. I have done the best I can but all things being equal and me being human although I have not made the best choices in life I am not afraid to come before you because at the end of the day my life has helped me become who I am today and I am not trying to pull the wool over your eyes and I am not looking for the limelight of power, what I am looking for is honesty in our government and a hope for all to have that same comfort. 

While it’s true at some points in time we will all not agree on every one thing the truest thing we can do is really sit down together and hash out our issues. We know the issues but where do we reach middle ground on them. At what point do we feel comfortable that our departments are taking care of the business they need to, defined within their approved codes or policies and procedures. If a policy is bad enough to make its way into the circle of scrutiny, then by all means is it a bad policy or is it an unliked policy. For codes is it a bad code an absent code or an undefined code. 

Actions such as these are just a small piece of the job and come together with a ton of input but are of the most important because these are the pieces of government that define how the government works. When we look to new people coming into the government we look for change and are often disappointed when we don’t feel we’ve gotten it, but the fact of the matter is that until we make change in our guiding documents, we will always have to make due with the best we can do because there are parameters to what you can actually do and what you can’t do when it comes to being a part of the government. 

Many of the powers granted to the council are established in the Constitution but only when approved by the people and the federal government. Some of the biggest issues out there are questions for the people. And while it’s true that if they are questions of the people they should be brought by the people, it never makes it that far. So, who should bring the question? I believe that if the question is big enough it should be asked and regardless of who asks it lets get it done so we can put it to rest and seek ultimate approval from the powers that be. 

Some of the best advice I received at the beginning of my term was to keep something close to me that reminded me of why I was there, learn all that you can, and to take the people with me everywhere I was. Things I did just so, I would’ve loved for the people to see how I spoke for them at every turn because you are what went through my mind as well as the differences between what was right and wrong. Looking back on my votes I approved of quite a few of the works brought forth to the Tribal Council because they were in the best interest of the Tribe and its members, while I did oppose few, my opposition always came from a good amount of information that came through time and thought or a good dose of seeing situations for what colors they truly were. 

I know there is middle ground out there because I have seen it come to pass many times and I believe we can work towards that better understanding, but we can only get there together. Being representative of who and where we come from, always knowing that we come from an original place where the people worked together to live and provide for one another, each person having a role to play to maintain life amongst the people. Our power to survive in the worst of times is what makes us who we are and the closer we come to working together to remain even in our differences is what will help us to provide for a better future. 

Do we need change? Yes! We need change that’s developed through insightful conversations. The change I speak for hits the very foundation of what our government speaks for and allows for better representation when it comes to guiding documents such as the financial plan, tribal code, tribal policy and procedures, etc. the documents that bring about a way of life for us should be representative of us past, present, and future! 

I have always been taught that one page is the standard, but in instances as these there is no standard, we are people trying to work with people and for people, so perfect is really not a defining moment here. What is defining is that everyone in their motion takes on their role as a part of our piece of the world and pushes their best efforts forward to sustain who we are. I have put my best efforts forward and will continue to do so in the best interests of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and its people! 

Thank you for your time and for your support! 

Respectfully, 

Cedric J. Chavez 

 

Lorelei Cloud

LORELEI CLOUD 

Mayhk,  

My name is Lorelei Cloud, and I am running for a seat on the Southern Ute Tribal Council.  

I have been a council member for five years in the capacity of the Vice-Chairman and Treasurer. I have dedicated those years to helping our people. In that time, I have provided financial information in the form of monthly articles and quarterly newsletters, and I have represented the Tribe on different water committees and conferences.  

Our past ancestors and leaders fought for us to be here. We are the Tribe’s greatest asset and should be treated like it. Our Tribe is small in numbers, and we also need to care for and support each other. Over the past years, our people have endured many different situations. We need leaders with an open mind to find solutions that come before us. The Tribal Council is voted in by the Tribal People and I intend to strengthen that power for you. Power is achieved with clear communication. Please understand that I will always listen to your concerns. When elected to Tribal Council, I plan to host monthly meetings. Having open, frequent, and honest communication builds trust that we need to move forward in this world and to be resilient. This will give our people the opportunity to ask questions and receive information about what has recently happened in our Tribe.  

I am committed, I am dedicated, and I am devoted to making good on my promise to encourage all members to understand and participate in our policies and actions. This beautiful reservation is our only home and I embrace the opportunity to make it a harmonious community. I will leave a legacy with a foundation of truth, innovative solutions, and the pride to be a Ute. I promise with my whole being to honor every member and will be a model of care and transparency. I will stand by you, and we will walk the great Red Road together with the blessing from our Great Creator. 

Lorelei Cloud 

Vanessa Pinnecoose

VANESSA P. TORRES 

Maiku Pino Nuuchi 

My name is Vanessa P. Torres I am a candidate for this year’s General Election. I currently sit on the Southern Ute Tribal Council. I was first elected in November 2020.  

 I am the daughter of Georgia McKinely and the late Sam Pinnecoose. I come from a family of five and I am married with one daughter. I was born in Durango, Colo. and have lived in Ignacio the majority of my life.  

I had the opportunity to work on the behalf of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council for the past eleven months. I am very grateful and thankful for this opportunity. It has given me a scope to know more of our Tribal Government along with the other three entities: Growth Fund, Sky Ute Casino Resort and Southern Ute Shared Services.  

Every day is a challenge for all of us and the Tribal Council. As a Tribe we will continue to have challenges regarding the issue of our sovereignty.  

  Yes, we many have financial benefits from revenues. However, we need to look ahead to the next ten to twenty years, we also need to consider thinking beyond that. It will be part of my responsibility to work with the elected members to prepare for the next 20 years in which we will face the challenges that will be more critical to the Tribe and the membership. 

Our world is changing more and more every day with climate change, drought, inflation to name a few.  

As a candidate I realize there is much work to be completed as we move forward on behalf of our Tribal Membership. We have outdated policies; bylaws need to be revised to accommodate present day issues. 

As an avid tribal hunter who utilizes our hunting and fishing rights on our reservation. I truly love being in our mountains and realizing how blessed and grateful we have our lands to hunt and fish on. We have the seven rivers that run through the reservation. We are currently seeing the effects of the drought on our reservation and how it has affected the land and the spring fed ponds. We face challenges today and in the future that will affect the health of the rivers and streams.  

I currently sit on the Ten Tribes Partnership (TTP) and the Tribal Leaders Forum. The TTP is a coalition of tribes from the higher basin to the lower basin of the Colorado River ranging from Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, all the way down to Mexico. The organization is meant to allow tribal voices to be heard and help protect tribal water management and usage on the Colorado River. The discussions in the meetings are not just our own reservation, it includes our sister-tribe and tribal neighbors, it pertains to all tribal water settlement and unsettlement water. Water is sacred to the Natives and is essential to life. We need to protect our resources.  

We are not a separated group, we have a lot of influence in La Plata County, we want to be able to hold on to that power in order to work with the different governments, school districts and the different communities. 

The tribal council will need to think of innovative ways to benefit the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the tribal membership to do what’s in the best interest for the young people to the elders as we face the challenges by working together with the people who are the policy makers. 

As a council person I would like to continue to work for the Tribe in a manner where we spend the money/funds wisely to keep the departments running effectively and efficiently. I will continue to do so if given the opportunity to serve a full term in making sure we manage our money and resources in a proper way which benefits the Tribe and the membership. 

I would like to continue to be a fiscally responsible council leader and make sure our money, the Tribes funds, are being used for the intended purpose of keeping the operations going and for the membership as well. 

Example: in the budget process are the departments researching RFP or just estimating a price that sounds good to them? Is the item a want or need for that department? 

As Tribal Council here are some of the things we have worked on and which I supported — and benefited the Tribe. 

When we received the CARES Act funding with limited federal guidelines. Tribal Council had agreed to move forward to assist the tribal membership to receive a portion of the funds due to high prices of food and other expenses. It was also indicated in the Tribal Member grant program to remind tribal members they may be required to pay back the grant funds and were advised to keep their receipts. However, the way the tribal grant fund was handled they did not have to reimburse those funds. Tribal Council is currently working on the ARPA Act which will be allocated to the departments for services.  

The broadband funding which during the pandemic we saw a need for the tribe and the membership, not having adequate Internet service to serve our native children who had to do remote learning as well as tribal business with poor quality of services, which continues to be an issue. The Tribe is moving forward in three stages to implement the broadband service and looking at a timeline of 2023. 

The Tribe is interested in moving forward with renewable energy projects including Coyote Clean Energy Project, Carbon Capture C02 Project, and Fruitland Horizontal Drilling. The Tribe is engaging to reduce carbon emissions and to fight climate change. 

There has been discussion on the east side of the reservation for a while now. It is imperative for the need to hear from our tribal membership on their concerns whether to move forward or leave as is. 

We as council have combined the top thirteen priorities — here are a few examples: Language Revitalization, Broadband, Substance Abuse and Financial Plan. 

One of the important issues I truly support is the Substance Abuse/Drug Abuse and Mental Abuse, which you may have heard me speak on before. Our tribal and local community have been hit hard with these addictions that effects our members, the housing issues, and families. We are in need of an inpatient treatment center for our members as well as a sober living program to assist the individual with support and guidance for the families. Mental health is another issue we need to address on the reservation. We send our adults and juveniles out of the area to assist in their treatment, which do not practice cultural sensitivity.  

We are in need of housing for our membership here on the reservation, we need to assist our membership and being able to provide ample, affordable housing. We also need to assist our membership who live on fee lands, allotted lands, and off the reservation.  

There is also an issue for housing for staff members, at times we have lost valuable employees due to no housing in the area because the cost of living as risen. How can leadership address these issues as well? I am sure we can find solutions for these situations.  

These are a few issues we as Tribal Council are addressing. I would like to continue to remain on Council to assist in the projects.  

I humbly ask for your vote on Friday, November 5, 2021 to continue to do the work to help benefit the good of the Southern Ute Tribe and the membership.  

Thank you, 

Vanessa P. Torres 

 

W. BRUCE VALDEZ

Mr. Valdez did not provide a Candidate Statement for publication into the Drum.  

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