San Miguel County: Indigenous Peoples Day, 10/8

A great injustice happened 135 years ago: the San Juan Mountains, which the Ute people called home, were opened up for settlement by the U.S. military. Against their will, various Ute bands were removed to reservations in Colorado and Utah.


In an effort to address this historic injustice and begin a process of reconciliation, the Towns of Mountain Village and Telluride, in concert with San Miguel County, are sponsoring an Indigenous Peoples Day on Saturday, October 8.

“Roland McCook and I are hoping for a community day of healing,” said event co-organizer San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes. “The goal is to provide local citizens living in these mountains with a greater understanding of some of the more regrettable aspects of Colorado history and to start to build a deeper relationship with the three Ute tribes in our region.”

Saturday morning at 10 a.m. a memorial plaque will be dedicated in Placerville Park to the Nuche (Ute for “The people”).

At 2 p.m., the Town of Mountain Village will host an afternoon welcoming gathering in its Heritage Plaza, where a statue of a Ute Warrior has resided for several years. Following speeches a Ute Mountain Ute dance group will perform.

And Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. the same troupe will dance, drum, and sing in the Oak St. Mall between the Courthouse and the Sheridan Opera House, where the Town of Telluride has erected a monument in memory of the Nuche.

The main event of the day will be held in the Sheridan starting at 7 p.m., when mayors from local municipalities will present resolutions and welcoming speeches to their Ute guests.

Tribal Chairmans Manuel Heart and Clement Frost will speak, as well as state officials, an historian, and a local archaeologist. Peter Pino from Zia Pueblo, who serves as a board member of the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, will be followed by Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, an Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman and spokesperson for the Bears Ears Coalition.

“We believe,” added Goodtimes, “that this initial gathering may become an annual way of promoting cultural and social exchanges among Tribal members and County citizens.”

All three events are free to the public.

Special thanks goes out to:

Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart and Councilwoman Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk;

Southern Ute Councilman Mike Olguin and staffers Sunshine Whyte and Robert Ortiz;

Ute Indian Tribe staffer Charlotte Navanick; Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs Director Ernest House, Jr.;

Historian Peter Decker;

San Miguel County officials and staff, especially Commissioners Joan May, Amy Levek, and the late Elaine Fischer;

Administrator Lynn Black, Open Space & Recreation Department director Janet Kask and Jerud Butler of the San Miguel County Road & Bridge Department;

Towns of Mountain Village, Telluride, Ophir, Norwood and Sawpit, especially Mountain Village councilperson Laila Benitez and John Wontrobski of the Telluride Parks & Rec Department;

Robert Stenhammer and the Telluride Ski & Golf Company;

Tom Mann & Grassroots Masonry;

Sarah Landeryou and the Wilkinson Library, the Peaks Resort & Spa;

Sheridan Opera House;

The late Ophir Mayor David Glynn – who was the original elected official to reach out to the Ute tribes;

21 GoFundMe supporters;

Volunteers and lodging providers;

Most of all our local citizens who support San Miguel County’s Reconciliation project and Indigenous Peoples Day.


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