Utes welcomed back to Meeker
They were supposed to vanish as a dying race, ride off into the sunset. Assimilation into the dominant society was their fate.But last weekend the Ute Indian Nation came back to Meeker in their colorful outfits to dance at the first annual Smoking River Pow Wow.They came back at the invitation of the town of Meeker, something many people thought would never happen.As Northern Ute Elder Clifford Duncan said, “The sound you will hear today is not of a gun – it is from a drum.”And to the beat of the drum dancers from across Indian Country danced in the new outdoor arena prepared for this event in the same location as the annual Meeker Sheepdog Trials.It was a privilege and honor to be asked to welcome everyone to the Pow Wow in one of my last official duties as acting forest public affairs officer. Here are my comments.”Thank you for coming today to be a part of history in the making. Welcome Meeker officials (the mayor), citizens, visitors and members of other tribes in Indian Country.It’s an honor on behalf of the White River National Forest to welcome Ute Indian Tribal officials here today as part of our government-to-government relationship.The WRNF honors our treaty obligations, our trust responsibilities, as well as all laws that require us to consult with you as part of our relationship.It’s an honor to be here among warriors, both Ute and local veterans who have fought to protect the freedoms of all Americans. … Thank you.It’s an honor to be among Sun Dancers, Elders and members of the Ceremonial Circle.The Ute People’s relationship with this sacred land has been in the background while we have quietly worked together. The WRNF respects those laws that apply to ancestral Ute sites.Doors have been opened by our working relationship during the past 15 years. In 1993 we sponsored the pow wow in Glenwood Springs that brought all three Ute Tribes together.In 1994 we camped for three nights and walked the Ute Trail together for four days and promised we would help the Ute Indian Tribe bring their young people back to the Flat Tops.In 2000 and 2001 we fulfilled that promise with the first Ute LifeWays Youth Camp for tribal and local young people to learn about Ute culture and each other.In 2002 we incorporated tribal input into the American Indian Interests section of the forest plan.It is time that we bring the results of our work to the attention of the larger community here today. By coming together as one community in this first ever Smoking River Pow Wow, people can get to know each other and together enjoy themselves.This opportunity opens another door. It is up to each and every one of us what we do with this opportunity. We are all responsible for how we proceed.The Meeker community is interested in bringing the Ute People home.Welcome back … welcome home.”With more than 30 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week. Today Bill returns to his job as archaeologist for the White River National Forest.
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