Story of Ute woman brings community together | PostIndependent.com

Story of Ute woman brings community together

Dennis WebbPost Independent Staff
"Chipeta, Queen of the Utes," by Cynthia Becker and P. David Smith
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It’s not easy getting a whole community on the same page about something, but why not at least in the same book?That’s something of the philosophy behind Glenwood Springs’ first “One Book, One Community, Everyone Reads!” program, which concluded Thursday with an author’s lecture at the Glenwood Springs Library.Colorado writer Cynthia Becker spoke to a few dozen people about her book “Chipeta, Queen of the Utes,” which she co-authored with P. David Smith. The book centers on the wife of the Ute Chief Ouray. Chipeta is thought to have visited Glenwood Springs in 1914 at the invitation of the manager of the Hotel Colorado. It’s also possible she joined other Utes in bathing in the local hot springs before the arrival of white settlers in the late 1800s, Becker said.”This was a place that was obviously special to her because of the hot springs,” Becker said in an interview following Thursday’s presentation.

The One Book program began in Seattle and spread around the country. Carbondale residents have jointly read a few books based on the program.The program gets people talking together about a book, and also can offer the opportunity to meet with the author. Becker spoke about her research methods, gave a slide show about Chipeta, offered anecdotes about her and answered readers’ questions, including one about whether it was true that the U.S. government broke all its treaties with Native American tribes.For the Utes, at least, the answer is yes, she said.”The government was really good at going back on their word,” she said.Often, the government revised its positions to allow settlers to move ever-farther into Native American territories, she said.

Becker’s speech served as the final offering in the Winter Lecture Series at the library. Glenwood’s “One Book” program was a joint effort by the library, Frontier Historical Museum and Through the Looking Glass bookstore. Library director Pat Conway said the organizers picked Becker’s book because of its local ties and historical bent, and because it is well-researched and well-written.She expects that organizers will do the program again next fall. While turnout was a bit light Thursday, Conway said she thinks the program just may take time to catch on. The program has succeeded in getting a lot of Glenwood residents to read the book, however. The library made 35 copies available for the program, and most are checked out, Conway said.Linda Austin-Martin hasn’t read Becker’s book yet. But now she wants to, after hearing her talk.”I thought the presentation was really good,” said Austin-Martin.

She said she liked the topic’s regional nature and focus on local history, and was interested in hearing how Native Americans were treated. She also was curious about what political impact Chipeta had.In her talk, Becker told about Chipeta traveling as part of an Indian delegation to Washington, D.C. Becker said dusty records from Indian agents proved helpful in reconstructing such trips because expense reports for meals and rooms helped indicate who all had gone along. That was one way Becker overcame the challenge of writing about a woman in a tribe with no written record, at a time when oral histories focused mainly on the men.Austin-Martin attended Becker’s talk in part because she has gone to Winter Lecture Series events for years, often taking clients from Mountain Valley Developmental Services, where she works.She said she has belonged to a book club for years, and it broadens participants’ perspectives as they share how subject matters relate to their lives. She thinks the One Book program takes this to a community level.”I think anything that brings the community together is usually good. To have it revolve around literature and regional history is marvelous,” she said.


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