March 2015

Starting the process of reconciliation

By Art Goodtimes

UTE APOLOGY … After several years of prep work, the Ute Tribal Business Committee in Fort Duchesne, Northern Ute Nation, Utah, scheduled a hearing on San Miguel County’s Resolution #2014-11, apologizing to the Uncompahgre Utes for their forced removal from the lands that became San Miguel County almost 134 years ago. I presented the resolution on Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 9:30 a.m. along with Ute elder Roland McCook of Montrose … While it may seem somewhat pointless to apologize after all these years, Native American lawyer/scholar Walter Echo-Hawk has outlined the importance of reconciliation in healing the scars and injustices of the American past. Reconciliation, he notes, begins with an apology by a representative of the offending party. Next, it must be met by an acceptance of the apology by a representative of the offended party. Following that, the issue of restitution needs to be addressed, before true reconciliation can take place … As Echo-Hawk explained at a conference in Boulder in 2012, “Until the United States makes reconciliation with Native Peoples, America will never be at peace” … So, while an apology is important, it’s only the beginning of a process.


moon thru light snow

marble goddess
her bright cloud veil

slowly undressing

— Rômulo Pinto Andrade

APOLOGY ACCEPTED … My deepest thanks to former Northern Ute Tribal Chair Roland McCook for his assistance in taking San Miguel County’s apology to the Ute people. Speaking in both Ute and English, Roland introduced the apology resolution from the citizens of San Miguel County to the descendants of those Uncompahgre Utes forcibly removed back in 1881 from land within current county boundaries. A dozen or so Uncompahgre Ute elders and another dozen plus tribal members sat scattered around a small auditorium where we met Feb. 10 at the Ute Tribal Offices, on a bluff above Fort Duchesne. A few people spoke. The elders sometimes in Ute. There were tears. It was very moving … When asked by tribal officials, the elders came forward to accept the apology I had brought on behalf of our county’s citizens. A number of cameras flashed. It was a sad but historic moment … Now I hope to visit again with the Uncompahgre Ute elders to find out what they think restitution would look like 134 years after the fact.

UTE HISTORY … Author Peter R. Decker, for many years of Ridgway, wrote a good book about the shameful tale of how Western Colorado was opened for pioneer settlement in the 1880s, “The Utes Must Go!: American Expansionism and the Removal of a People” (Fulcrum Publ., 2004). For anyone unfamiliar with the sordid story, that’s a great place to start … And here’s one sentence from a monograph that says it pretty succinctly, Frontier in Transition: A History of Southwestern Colorado – BLM Culture Resources Series (Colorado: No. 10). The Meeker incident “became the pretext on which Coloradans sought the removal of the Utes from their ancestral hunting grounds on the western slope. More than to rid themselves of the threat of Indian hostility, they saw an opportunity to gain access to potentially valuable land held by the Ute people.”

AZTLÁN … If you haven’t read at least the watered-down Wikipedia version of the life of itinerant preacher, community activist and lands-rights revolutionary Reies Lopez Tijerina, who -- unheralded in the mainstream media – passed away in a Texas hospital in Januray, then all you probably know of him is his 1967 armed raid on the Rio Arriba courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, N.M., where several people were injured. You might not have any idea that “King Tiger” was one of the principal sparks of the radical Chicano movement, along with Cesar Chavez of California, Corky Gonzales of Colorado, and Jose Angel Gutierrez of Texas. You wouldn’t know that Tijerina founded La Alianza Federal de Mercedes Reales to fight for Norteño and Native American land grant rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The United States government rejected Article X of that treaty as negotiated and has failed to honor Articles VIII and IX, as well as ignoring the Protocol of Querétero and the Treaty of Mesilla, all of which Tijerina on several occasions tried to enforce with attempted citizen arrests (a kind of Yippie street theater) … And you might not have any idea that the very land we live on here in San Miguel County was not only the Ute homeland before Anglo pioneers arrived, but some of the same land has been claimed by Chicano activists as once having been the mythic Nahuatl homeland of the Indio-Hispanos of Northern Mexico and the American Southwest.

SPEAKING OF TIERRA … Driving south from Chama last fall on U.S. Highway 84, one could see the “Tierra o Muerte” sign still stands, defiant, on a hillside, above Tierra Amarilla.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “I believe the origins of the Anglo psychopathy began when the English were excluded from the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed June 7, 1494, between Spain and Portugal. The treaty was brokered by the Pope. It was at this time that the Anglo not only rejected the legitimate body of the era, but also the religion that went against them. The Anglo, without respect for authority and religion, and to get back into the colonization game, legalized piracy. They had to operate outside the law to become the law. Over the last 480 years, the Anglo complex of psychopathy has worsened. His conscience tortures him, and his thinking grows demented for having violated his own religion, his own law, and humanity” –Reies Lopez Tijerina

Art Goodtimes is a five-term county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.