Law gives Native American tribes in southwestern Colorado a voice in state capitol – The Durango Herald


Utes will be invited annually to address the Legislative Assembly

Ute Mountain Utes displayed their culture at meetings and a ceremony at the Colorado Capitol. (Courtesy of D’Angelo Padilla/Weenuche Smoke Signals)

Under a new law, leaders of Colorado’s two Native American tribes – the Ute Mountain Utes and the Southern Utes – will address the Colorado Legislature each year.

Senate Bill 22-105 aims to improve communication between tribal governments and the state legislature.

The bill requires the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Speaker of the Senate to invite representatives of the two tribes to address a joint session of the General Assembly on an annual basis. The day will be scheduled from year to year.

The bill was sponsored by two Democrats, Sen. Kerry Donovan of District 5 and Representative Barbara McLachlan of District 59. Gov. Jared Polis signed it into law on April 11.

In a proclamationPolis declared April 11 “Ute Day at the Capitol”.

“The tribes are our partners, and they should not be left out when policy is developed and implemented,” Donovan said in a press release. “This bill provides the perfect foundation to begin building that relationship (and will meet) the needs of their communities.”

Representatives of the three Ute tribes – two from Colorado and one from Utah – were present at the Capitol for the ceremony.

Mountain Ute President Manuel Heart participates in an April 11 roundtable on Colorado’s two Native American tribes at the state capitol. (Courtesy of D’Angelo Padilla/Weenuche Smoke Signals)

Members of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes met April 11 at the Colorado Capitol as part of a renewed effort to improve communication between the Legislative Assembly and the tribes. (Courtesy of D’Angelo Padilla/Weenuche Smoke Signals)

“It’s good to be at home in our homelands. The state has recognized both Ute tribes and their sister tribe in Utah, demonstrating the relationship between the state and sovereign nations,” Mountain Ute Tribe President Manuel Heart said in a statement. .

Tribal representatives also participated in roundtables focusing on behavioral health, UTE curriculum, education and economic development.

In his weekly address to tribe members on April 18, Heart said Colorado was the first in the nation to work with tribes on future legislation on a government-to-government basis.

“This is an opportunity to address the Colorado legislature on any new bills,” he said.

Heart said in his first speech on Capitol Hill, he provided an overview of the tribe and reservation communities, and highlighted the issues and concerns of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. They include:

  • Improved fencing along state borders and reservations needed to keep feral horses out, which can damage the pastures that livestock depend on.
  • During hunting seasons, trespassing is increasingly common on Ute Mountain Ute tribal lands and ranches, including the Pine Crest Ranch.
  • The Brunot Treaty, which preserves hunting and gathering rights for the Ute tribes, is expected to be extended to Uncompahgre National Forest, which is historic Ute territory.
  • Colorado must increase teacher salaries at the new Kwiyagat Community School in Towaoc to the agreed-upon 9% increase.
  • Financial support is needed for addiction programs for the two Ute tribes in Colorado. A renovation project is under consideration for the Peaceful Spirit Treatment Center, and the opening of its services to customers in Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute is under discussion.

In a statement, Southern Ute President Melvin Baker said that while the tribe’s relationship with the state has been positive, there are “significant areas for improvement in our relationship with the administration of the State and the Colorado Indian Affairs Commission”.

He said Colorado’s efforts set an example of how the United States and Indian Country should work together. Baker said the goals are to work with the state to create economic development, protect Native Americans and natural resources, celebrate tribal culture, and acknowledge traumatic histories so surrounding tribes and communities can thrive.

“To sustain the relationship, it must be nurtured, respected, and genuine interest invested. We look forward to enhancing this government-to-government relationship and establishing a new collaboration with the state legislator,” he said. he declares.

The Ute Day proclamation at the Capitol says in part that: “The State of Colorado celebrates and honors the rich heritage of the Ute Nations whose creation originated in the mountains of Colorado as an integral part of the history and Colorado’s contemporary life, making vital contributions to culture, government, medicine, education, religion, environment, economy, and the military.

The sovereignty of Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute will be honored, the proclamation says, and Coloradans are encouraged to “actively seek knowledge of the history and heritage of the proud Ute people in the past, present and the future of Colorado”.

The Ute tribal flags and associated descriptive plaques are prominently located in the Colorado Capitol.

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