The late Leonard C. Burch was a longtime leader of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, he served as Chairman of the Tribe for more than 32 years beginning in 1966. Each year the Southern Ute Indian Tribe recognizes Dec. 10 as Leonard C. Burch Day. For more than ten years, his immediate family has organized the Leonard C. Burch Walk/Run in his honor. This year, following the passing of his beloved wife Irene Burch, the family has made the decision to postpone this annual event until next year.
Leonard C. Burch Day was first established on Dec. 10, 1996, by the Southern Ute Tribal Council and is celebrated as a tribal holiday every year. On Dec. 8, 2020, La Plata County Commissioners met to hear a proposal brought forth by County Commissioner Julie Westendorff to recognize Dec. 10, as Leonard C. Burch Day throughout La Plata County. The Burch family introduced the annual Leonard C. Burch Walk/Run in 2011 in an effort to bring the community together, educate and recognize the accomplishments of the late Chairman Burch, according to a previous Drum article titled “In recognition of Leonard C. Burch,” author Shockley, Jeremy Wade, first published Dec. 4, 2020.
The event takes place at the SunUte Community Center annually, offering participants the option of completing a one-mile or three-mile course throughout Tribal Campus. Participants also have the opportunity to win prizes and receive free t-shirts printed in memory of the late Chairman. Each year the event garners more participants, all who gather to remember the accomplishments of the late Leonard C. Burch.
This year the Burch family has made the decision to postpone the annual event as they continue to grieve for their mother and grandmother Irene C. Burch who was the wife of the late Leonard C. Burch. She peacefully passed away on Friday, Sept. 15 in her home surrounded by family; she was 87 years old. Leonard C. Burch and then Irene Coolidge married in Pagosa Springs, Colo., on Feb. 14, 1959, and following their marriage the couple began their family in Ignacio where she briefly worked at the Ignacio Elementary School Cafeteria. Burch stood gracefully and steadfastly supporting her husband, Leonard C. Burch, who was a Southern Ute Tribal Leader for three decades.
Irene C. Burch is survived by daughters: Leonora Burch, Leona Burch, Lena (Steve) Gallegos, Lisa Burch, Leora (David) Lucero, Laurena Burch, Lynnette (Roger) Sage, and Rachel Burch; siblings Gracie (Roger) Tsosie, Stanley (Martha) Coolidge, Carol (David) Flute, Lillie (George) Kellywood, Donald (Arlene) Coolidge; 16 grandchildren, ten great grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, extended family and dear friends. (Irene Burch Obituary – 2023)
According to a statement published by the Burch family, “Throughout his life, Mr. Burch remained respectful of the culture and traditional ways of the Ute people,” the family stated. “He participated continuously in the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Sundance as both a dancer and Sundance Chief and he supported programs to preserve the Ute language and the Tribe’s museum.”