Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction CO Colorado

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September 15, 2008
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Ute Indian elder welcomes Obama to GJ

GRAND JUNCTION " Northern Ute elder Clifford Duncan said Democratic Sen. Barack Obama is the best candidate for Native American people.

Duncan returned to his ancestral home in the Grand Valley from his current home on the Northern Ute Indian reservation in Ft. Duchesne, Utah to meet and listen to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speak Monday.

Duncan spoke with Obama briefly before his speech at the Cross Orchards Living History Farm.

"First I greeted him, and then I welcomed him to the Ute Nation," Duncan said. "He said, 'thank you for having me.'"

Duncan told Obama that the Grand Valley was once Ute Indian land.

"We're the first nation of this western hemisphere and we've been in the back seat for too long," Duncan said.

Obama is more likely than his Republican challenger John McCain to address Indian issues such as health care and education needs of Native Americans, Duncan said.

Richard Ott, of the Dominguez Archaeological Research Group helped arrange Duncan's visit with Obama before his speech Monday.

"Utes were the original owners of this land so we felt it was appropriate to meet him (Obama) and welcome him to western Colorado," Ott said.

Ott helps to facilitate communication between federal land agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and Indian tribes: The Northern Utes, the Ute Mountain Utes, and the Southern Utes.

"Federal law requires government to consult with Native Americans any time energy projects or other projects will have an impact on public lands," in order to protect the Indian's cultural heritage and natural environment, Ott said.

"There's been talk from the McCain camp mocking Obama's work as a community organizer," Ott said. "Our work with the Utes is community organizing on a regional scale.

"We're working with Native American, federal land management agencies, energy companies and other people who love the natural heritage of Colorado.

"And it's succeeding. Community organizing is what we need in this country."

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 15, 2008 05:50PM Published Sep 15, 2008 05:38PM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.