Southern Ute Environmental Programs Department Issues Air Quality Alert

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Environmental Programs Department operates three air quality stations on the Reservation and maintains a website that provides real-time air pollutant and EPA Air Quality Index (AQI) health alerts from data collected at these stations. Smoke from wildfires can cause unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter (PM) in the air.
Particulate matter is continuously measured at the Ute 3 monitoring station near Bondad Hill and the Ute 1 monitoring station in Ignacio.

As of Wednesday, 4/24/2024, 7:00am, the Ute 1 station is currently reading high PM concentrations with a corresponding AQI of Unhealthy. People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children avoid limit prolonged or heavy exertion. The general public should limit prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.

To view the ambient monitoring program website, and for more information about how to understand the AQI forecast, follow the links below:

Southern Ute Indian Tribe Ambient Monitoring Program Website
EPA Air Quality Index Information Website
Wildfire Smoke Resources to Protect Your Health | US EPA

EPA Air Now Article – How Smoke From Fires Can Affect Your Health

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT EPD, Air Quality – 970.563.2214


For Immediate Release: Preserving Tribal Sovereignty: Vice Chairman Cloud Testifies on Land Annexation 04/17/2024


Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320

Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313


Preserving Tribal Sovereignty: Vice Chairman Cloud Testifies on Land Annexation

Southern Ute Indian Reservation – Vice Chairman Lorelei Cloud testified before the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee at the State Capitol in Denver this afternoon. Cloud urged the Committee to support Senate Bill 24-193: Protect Tribal Lands from Unauthorized Annexation. This critical legislation is in response to the City of Durango’s attempt to seize Reservation land from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for the economic benefit of the City.

The Utes are the oldest continuous inhabitants of what is now the State of Colorado. The Utes are resilient and have endured assimilation, relocation, and seizure of their land and culture for far too long. The Reservation was established by successive treaties and was to be “set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the [Utes]” and “no persons . . . shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside” on those lands. The City’s actions take direct aim at these promises.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, a strong neighbor, proven business partner, and significant investor in the local economy, will fiercely defend its land status, sovereignty, self-determination, and cultural heritage. Vice Chairman Cloud cautioned that annexation will further complicate matters such as law enforcement, air and water quality, and environmental regulation, stating, “complexities with the federal, state, and local jurisdiction make it difficult. Adding another layer – especially a city with no interest in cooperation and a history of failing to consider the Tribe at all – only puts my people and culture at greater risk. This is unacceptable”.

Senate Bill 24-193 offers a vital safeguard for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s land and future. Respecting the Tribe’s sovereignty and culture is not just a matter of honoring past treaties, but a step towards a more collaborative relationship. The Tribe stands ready to work with the State to find solutions, but the City of Durango’s actions threaten to unravel years of progress. By supporting this legislation, Colorado can ensure a future built on mutual respect and understanding.


Photo Credit: Senator Jessie Danielson

CO Indigenous Needs Assessment Community Survey

The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs and the Colorado Department of Education are partnering with Education Northwest, a research organization, to conduct a needs assessment on how Colorado districts and schools support Indigenous students.  The Southern Ute community is invited to share feedback on the priorities, needs, and concerns about Indigenous education in Colorado.

Your community’s insights are important to helping the Colorado Department of Education accurately capture the needs and hopes for Indigenous education in the state. Feedback will help improve services to Indigenous students in the future.

The community survey should only take about 15 minutes to complete.  Names will not appear on any reports about the project, and no one at the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs or the Colorado Department of Education will know individual response to the survey. The survey is open until Friday, May 10. 

Please use the link below to access the survey.

-Summer Begay, Communication Specialist.

For Immediate Release: For Our Children’s Future: Vice Chairman Cloud supports SCR24-001 04/16/2024


Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320
Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313


For Our Children’s Future: Vice Chairman Cloud supports SCR24-001

Southern Ute Indian Reservation – Vice Chairman Lorelei Cloud joined several Colorado Senators and advocates at the State Capitol in Denver this afternoon in support of the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Amendment (Senate Concurrent Resolution 24-001). If passed, this Amendment would retrospectively permit victims of child sexual assault to make civil claims against an abuser or an institution regardless of how much time has passed.

“Our Ute and Native youth are the heart of our future. As a leader, I believe we must work together to ensure and protect their safety and success,” said Vice Chairman Cloud. For generations, Native communities have faced an epidemic of sexual violence and trauma, starting with children being the most vulnerable targets in the federal boarding schools. Tribal Courts, due to limitations in authority and jurisdiction, are unable to prosecute non-Native perpetrators. The perpetrators are often in positions of authority such as government officials, trustees, teachers, and religious leaders.

The cycle of trauma persists, silencing many young victims. Fear, intimidation, and the struggle to articulate their experiences due to a developing emotional vocabulary prevent them from seeking justice and beginning their healing journey. According to the National Institute of Justice, Native youth experience violence at rates higher than any other racial group in the United States, with 56.4 percent reporting experiencing sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking in their lifetime.

Legislation like SCR24-001 offers a critical first step. By holding perpetrators accountable, it paves the way for healing and a future where survivors can truly thrive.







PC: David Smith

-Summer Begay, Communication Specialist.

Missing Indigenous Person Alert Activation: 04/02/2024

Missing Indigenous Person Alert Activation: 04/02/2024
Audrina Bartley was last seen on Sunday, March 24, 2024 at 11:30 AM in Albuquerque, NM possibly headed to Durango, CO.
Audrina was wearing a white hoodie with “faith over fear”, black skinny jeans, pink shirt, and a white puma backpack. She was not wearing glasses when she was last seen.
If seen, please call 911 or the Southern Ute Police Department at970-563-4401.

PSA: Bear Dance Fire Burn Area Trail Closure and Temporary Ute Road Closure


Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – (970) 563.0100

Summer Begay, Communication Specialist – (970) 563.2313

FOR RELEASE: April 01, 2024

Bear Dance Fire Burn Area Trail Closure and Temporary Ute Road Closure

Southern Ute Indian Reservation: On June 3, 2022, the Bear Dance Fire ignited on tribal trust land and burned eighty-nineacres north of the Bear Dance grounds and along the Los Pinos River. In the aftermath, the Environmental Programs Division (EPD) had observed hazardous materials mixed in with the burn area debris on the ground surface in areas paralleling Ute Road. The fire exposed these areas and the presence of hazardous materials, which created a concern for public health. Out of an abundance of caution, Tribal Council closed the Bear Dance Fire burn area.

EPD and various environmental professionals have assessed air, soil, water, and vegetation samplings and determined that there is currently minimal risk to human health and the environment. With a commitment to environmental stewardship, Tribal Council has directed EPD to remove these surface materials and remediate the area. Remediation will commence on April 1, 2024, and the project will consist of debris pile removal and the capping of any remaining material in place.

While the risk to human health and the environment from the material remains low, certain remediation activities have the potential to generate dust that could contain hazardous material. To protect the public from potential dust inhalation, Tribal Council has authorized the temporary closure of the Piinu Nuuchi skatepark and a portion of Ute Road during dust-generating activities. To mitigate this issue, soil within the site will be suppressed with water. The road and skatepark closure will occur during daytime hours and is anticipated to last one to two days.  Closure dates are scheduled to occur between Tuesday, April 2, 2024, to Friday, April 5, 2024.

In addition to the closure, Tribal Council has authorized temporarily closing the hiking trail and access to the Los Pinos River in the project area during all remediation activities. The remediation project is expected to last for up to three weeks­­­. The trail and Los Pinos River access will be reopened following completion of remediation activities.

If you have any questions, please contact Kyle Siesser, Cottonwood Consulting, at (970)764-7356.

2024 General Meeting Attendance Information

The General Meeting will be held on Thursday, April 11, 2024 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at Sky Ute Casino Resort Event Center.
This is a closed meeting for the Southern Ute Tribal Membership only. 
There are 3 ways to join the General Meeting:
1. In-Person: Registration is not required and we look forward to seeing you there!
2. Live Stream: Registration is required. Please use the following link or QR code to register with your information and census number. To expedite the process, please use your “so-ute” email address. Please do not share your registration information with anyone. Direct Link:
*This link is case-sensitive
3. Recording: If you are not able to attend, the live stream recording will be available on the Tribal Member Portal.
For more information, please contact Tribal Council Affairs at 970-563-2313.
For technical assistance with your “so-ute” account, please contact SUDEP at 970-563-5555.
– Summer Begay, Communication Specialist.

For Immediate Release: Southern Ute Indian Tribe welcomes new Sky Ute Casino Resort General Manager


Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320

Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313



Southern Ute Indian Tribe welcomes new Sky Ute Casino Resort General Manager

Southern Ute Indian Reservation – The Southern Ute Indian Tribe warmly welcomes Mr. Thomas Frank as the new General Manager of the Sky Ute Casino Resort. Mr. Frank will be starting on April 3, 2024, following an impressive career of more than thirty years of experience in business development and casino operations spanning four states and three countries: Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador.

Throughout his career, Mr. Frank has played a key role in the development and implementation of over ten gaming start-up projects. This impressive track record includes work with the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of California, Tolowa Dee-Ni’ Nation, and at the Dakota Sioux Casino.

As General Manager, Frank will oversee the daily operations of the Sky Ute Casino Resort and all its amenities, including gaming and entertainment, hotel, restaurants, conference center, and bowling. “We believe his extensive experience and proven leadership will be instrumental in driving positive change and will continue Sky Ute Casino Resort’s legacy as the premier entertainment destination in Southwestern Colorado,” said Chairman Melvin J. Baker.

Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Frank expressed, “I am incredibly honored to step into this role as the General Manager. The legacy of excellence at Sky Ute Casino Resort is truly inspiring.  Together, we will keep the excitement rolling for our guests and ensure this resort continues to be a leader in hospitality and gaming for years to come.”

Please join Tribal Council in welcoming Mr. Frank. Thank you for your continued patronage and support during this transition. For more information, please contact Tribal Council Affairs at 970-563-2313.


-Summer Begay, Communication Specialist