2021: The Year in Review

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Píinu Núuchí Skate Park: The SunUte skate park has all the features and elements the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council asked for including: a bowl, wall, rails, 1/4 pipe, and ample surface to bike or skate.
Bear Dance returns: Record heat did not deter dancers from participating in the four-day spring ceremony, which was closed to the public in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic. Health and safety remain a top priority for the Tribe, while still upholding culturally important Ute ceremonies such as the Bear Dance and Sundance.
Bear Dance returns: Adorned with brightly colored shawls, women lined the Bear Dance corral in a circular fashion — dancing for an Honor Song in recognition of Father’s Day. The Southern Ute Bear Dance was held in Ignacio, Friday, June 18 — Monday, June 21. The Tribe screened visitors upon entry, checking temperatures and vaccination cards of participants and spectators throughout the long weekend.
Bear cubs return to wild: Southern Ute Wildlife Biologists, Danielle Austin and Aran Johnson set the rehabilitated cubs loose in the HD Mountains, where they are expected to hibernate until spring.
Bear cubs return to wild: Once released, the bear cubs wasted no time in setting off into the wooded areas in the HD mountains in a remote section of the Southern Ute Reservation.
Casino reopens for business: Corleen Rael plays slot machines during the reopening of the Sky Ute Casino Resort on Thursday, April 15. Rael was one of the first players to walk onto the gaming floor since the closure in 2020.
Ignacio Chieftains donated: The Southern Ute Drum Archive received 18 boxes of historic newspapers donated from the Ignacio Community Library and longtime Ignacio resident, Malcolm Jones, respectively. Also, the Archive received seven bound books of Ignacio Chieftains from the 1930’s that were donated by the Pine River Community Library in Bayfield, Colo.
Tribe rolls out vaccine: Southern Ute tribal member Roger Sage gets a first-round vaccination against the 2019 novel coronavirus, better known as COVID-19, Thursday, Feb. 4. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe partnered with Indian Health Services (IHS) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to host a series of vaccination clinics at the Sky Ute Casino Resort.
Reconciliation at Fort Lewis: FLC Board of Trustee Member and Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal member, Ernest House Jr. and FLC Special Advisory to the President for Indigenous Affairs, Lee Bitsoi, place the removed panels into proper storage containers that will be relocated to the Center of Southwest Studies.
Reconciliation at Fort Lewis: Southern Ute Chairman Melvin J. Baker thanks the large group in attendance for the ceremonial removal of the clocktower panels located on the Fort Lewis College campus.
Heritage dancers rejoice: Jingle Dress dancer, Shayne White Thunder dances during the Grand Entry portion of a heritage dance presentation held at the Durango Public Library.
Heritage dancers rejoice: Southern Ute Cultural Preservation Events and Heritage Coordinator, Marvin Pinnecoose demonstrates how to men’s fancy dance during a heritage dance presentation at the Durango Public Library.
Heritage dancers rejoice: Heritage dancers, Heather White Thunder and Edward Box III share a laugh as they dance together during a round dance at the Durango Public Library. Many cultural events cancelled in 2020, made their return in the latter half of 2021.
KSUT turns 45: KSUT went on the air June 14, 1976, one of the first eight tribal radio stations in the United States. KSUT had only a 10-watt signal that could be heard for about 20 miles, and broadcast only four hours a day. Southern Ute tribal member, Eddie Box Jr. has been a key figure in the long term success of the station, the new media center now bears his name.
KSUT turns 45: Lillian Seibel, KSUT’s first station manager, recalls: “People appreciated [KSUT] right from the beginning. It was exciting for them to hear native music.”
American Indian mascots scrapped: Ernest House Jr., Walt Pourier and Darius Lee Smith (left to right), stand together for a photo following the signing of Colorado Bill SB21-166, at the Denver Indian Center on Wednesday, June 28. The bill prohibits the use of American Indian mascots by public schools, including charter and institute charter schools, and public institutions of higher education effective – June 1, 2022.
American Indian mascots scrapped: Southern Ute Chairman Melvin Baker attended a bill signing ceremony at the Denver Indian Center on Monday, June 28. Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed three bills into law: HB21-1289 Funding for Broadband Development, SB21-116 Prohibit American Indian Mascots, and SB21-029 Colorado American Indian Tribes In-State Tuition all of which positively impact the Tribe.
American Indian mascots scrapped: Bill SB21-116 prohibits the use of American Indian Mascots in Colorado Schools. Schools that belong to the two Ute tribes are exempt from this, however schools that wish to keep their mascot are required to consult with tribal nations.
Rise above Colorado mural: Aeden Valdez-Baker adds his own touches of earth tones to the mural.
Rise above Colorado mural: Jr. Miss Southern Ute, Autumn Sage shares her gratitude and appreciation to the departments and youth who were involved in completing the mural that is currently housed in the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division.
Píinu Núuchí Skate Park: Cyrus Naranjo shows off his well-honed skateboarding skills during the Grand Opening of the SunUte Skate Park on Friday, Oct. 29.
Vets honored at home: Southern Ute Veterans Association Member Gordon Hammond and Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bruce Valdez listen as Vietnam Army Veteran Rod Grove shares his gratitude to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4031 on Saturday, Sept. 4 in Durango, Colo.
Historic Preservation Office established: The Tribe’s Cultural Preservation Department, Native American Graves & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) staff will assume the responsibility of review pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act upon completion of the development of its Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). Pictured left to right: NAGPRA Tech Xavier Watts, NAGPRA Coordinators Cassandra Atencio and Garrett Briggs.
Vets honored at home: Southern Ute Vice Chairman and Veterans Association Member, Bruce Valdez, raised the Southern Ute Tribal Flag during a small ceremony held in Veterans Memorial Park in recognition of Veterans Day.
20 years of SunUte: The SunUte Community Center kicked off the month of December, 2021 with a 20-day celebration to honor the center’s two decades of operation. In 2001, SunUte opened their doors to the Southern Ute tribal membership, staff, and surrounding communities. Pictured Here, Byron and Etta Frost, view the new collection of metal prints in the SunUte Community Center on Friday, Dec. 17 before attending SunUte’s appreciation luncheon.
KSUT turns 45: The newly built Eddie Box Jr. Media Center, which officially began broadcasting on Indigenous People's Day, September 2021.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | SU Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
Fabian Martinez | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Lindsay J. Box | Tribal Council Affairs
Lindsay J. Box | Tribal Council Affairs
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
Courtesy KSUT
Courtesy KSUT
Courtesy Ernest House Jr.
Senator Jessie Danielson
Senator Jessie Danielson
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
Lindsay J. Box | Tribal Council Affairs
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
Fabian Martinez | The Southern Ute Drum
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This past year has been nothing short of challenging; yet coming together as a tribe, community, and nation we have overcome obstacles, and opened the doors to new ideas, new ways forward! Upholding cultural traditions and building on social networks in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, the Tribe has proven itself to be resilient. Programs and projects flourished, from the long-awaited opening of the PíinuNúuchí Skate Park to the re-opening of the Sky Ute Casino Resort.

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