For Immediate Release: Statement on the passing of Jicarilla Apache Nation President Velarde


Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320

Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313


Statement on the passing of Jicarilla Apache Nation President Velarde

Southern Ute Indian Reservation – The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of President Edward Velarde of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

President Velarde was a pillar of his community and a dedicated leader who made significant contributions to the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the State of New Mexico throughout his life.  A Vietnam War veteran, he served as President since 2019, guiding the Jicarilla Apache Nation with wisdom and compassion.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation described President Velarde as “not only a leader but also a cherished member of our community, whose kindness, wisdom, and dedication touched the lives of all who knew him.”

Southern Ute Indian Tribe Chairman Melvin J. Baker and Tribal Council offers their condolences, stating, “The Jicarilla Apache Nation is a valued neighbor. We extend our sincere condolences to the family of President Velarde and the entire Jicarilla Apache Nation. President Velarde was a strong believer in the importance of tribal-to-tribal relationships, which he consistently exemplified throughout his leadership.”


– Summer Begay, Communication Specialist

For Immediate Release: Bear Dance Fire Burn Area Trail Reopening 05142024

Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – (970) 563-0100
Summer Begay, Communication Specialist – (970) 563-2313
Bear Dance Fire Burn Area Trail Reopening
Southern Ute Indian Reservation – On June 3, 2022, the Bear Dance Fire ignited on tribal trust land and burned 89 acres north of the Bear Dance grounds and along the Los Pinos River. Following the fire, non-hazardous and hazardous debris was observed on the ground surface in areas paralleling Ute Road by the Tribe’s Environmental Programs Department (EPD). Exposed hazardous materials created a potential concern for public health. Out of an abundance of caution, Tribal Council closed the Bear Dance Fire burn area, including the hiking trail along the Los Pinos River.
After extensive planning, EPD, Cottonwood Consulting, and Emergency Environmental Services initiated a remediation project on April 8, 2024. The project was successfully completed on May 6, 2024. This involved the removal and proper disposal of an estimated 2 million pounds of potentially hazardous materials and soil. Additionally, to enhance the visual appeal of the area, an estimated 340,000 pounds of non-hazardous debris was removed. The remediation area has been backfilled with clean soil and reseeded with an approved local grass mix.
The Los Pinos River hiking trail had been closed during remediation activities. These activities will be completed on May 17, 2024 and Tribal Council has approved the reopening of the trail.
If you have any questions, please contact the Southern Ute Environmental Programs Department at (970) 563-2272.
– Summer Begay, Communication Specialist.

Southern Ute Police Department: Dispatch Lines 05072024

Update: 05/07/2024 8:30 PM
The Southern Ute Police Department phone lines are working. Thank you for your understanding!

Southern Ute Police Department Dispatch is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Our phone lines are down, and we cannot receive incoming or outgoing calls.

If you have an emergency: Please dial 911. Central Dispatch will answer and transfer you to Southern Ute Dispatch.

Non-emergency calls: We apologize for the inconvenience. We are working hard to resolve the issue and will update you as soon as possible. In the meantime, you may call 970-563-2820 for non-emergencies.

Thank you for your understanding!

-Summer Begay, Communication Specialist

For Immediate Release: Tribal Council Welcomes Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Touton 05062024

Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320
Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313
Tribal Council Welcomes Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Touton
Southern Ute Indian Reservation – Making history, Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton of the Bureau of Reclamation became the first Commissioner to visit the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s headquarters in the agency’s 133-year existence. Chairman Melvin J. Baker, the Tribal Council, and staff extended a warm welcome to the Commissioner and her team, who were joined by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and congressional staff from Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper’s offices.
The meeting provided a platform for Tribal leadership to elevate concerns about water challenges and express appreciation for the Bureau of Reclamation’s ongoing support in building tribal water resiliency. “This visit marks a new chapter in our collaborative efforts with the Bureau of Reclamation. We are grateful for Commissioner Touton’s commitment to understanding our needs and for this grant award that will assist our efforts to improve and strengthen our water security,” said Chairman Baker.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe was awarded a $4,666,719 grant, with $2.3 million coming from the federal government and $2.3 million provided by the Tribe as a match. This funding, announced by Commissioner Touton during a meeting, will support the construction of long-crested weirs to stabilize water levels upstream of Tribal diversions during dry periods and ensure the Tribe can access its full water allocation. The grant is part of the Biden-Harris Investing in America project.
“This funding through President Biden’s Investing in American Agenda will help you respond to water reliability challenges due to drought,” Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said. “We continue to prioritize Tribal Nations as you lead with solutions for the benefit of water sustainability across the West.”
“For too long, the United States has failed to live up to its responsibility to adequately fund and maintain the Pine River Indian Irrigation Project. I was grateful to travel to Ignacio today with Commissioner Touton to welcome this investment to ensure the Southern Ute Indian Tribe can access the water it needs. There is much more work to be done, but this is a great start,” said Senator Michael Bennet.
Following the meeting, Commissioner Touton, Senator Bennet, and Vice Chairman Lorelei Cloud embarked on a tour of the Pine River Indian Irrigation Project, led by the Tribe’s Water Resources Division. The Tribe’s long-standing positive relationship with the Bureau of Reclamation has resulted in valuable technical assistance and multiple grants for infrastructure improvements, including fish passage enhancements.
Photo Credit: Summer Begay

For Immediate Release: “Land is Sacred”: Chairman Baker Urges Colorado to Block Durango’s Land Grab 05032024

Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320
Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313
“Land is Sacred”: Chairman Baker Urges Colorado to Block Durango’s Land Grab
Southern Ute Indian Reservation – Chairman Melvin J. Baker delivered a powerful testimony last night, urging the Colorado House Committee on State, Civic, Military, and Veteran Affairs to defend a historical promise. Chairman Baker urged the Committee to support Senate Bill 24-193: Protect Tribal Lands from Unauthorized Annexation. This legislation stands as a crucial shield against the City of Durango’s egregious attempt to seize Southern Ute Indian Reservation land for economic gain.
For generations beyond counting, the Utes have been the unwavering stewards of Colorado. Their ancestral lands stretch across the state’s mountains and valleys, a testament to their deep connection to the land. The rich culture, traditions, and language of the Utes are woven into the very fabric of Colorado. Their resilience is a testament to their spirit, having endured forced assimilation, brutal relocations, and the relentless theft of their land and cultural heritage. The Reservation, established by federal treaties, was a solemn vow: “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” for the Utes. Yet, Durango’s actions are a blatant disregard for these historical agreements.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, a cornerstone of southwestern Colorado, considers their land more than property – it is sacred. Chairman Baker’s message struck a clear chord: Respecting tribal sovereignty strengthens, not weakens, Colorado’s future.
Senate Bill 24-193 is not a formality; it is a critical lifeline. By honoring the Tribe’s sovereignty, Colorado can build a future based on mutual respect and collaboration. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe extends a hand in partnership, but Durango’s actions threaten to unravel years of progress. Colorado has a stark choice to make: stand with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and build a future based on trust or allow Durango to unravel the fabric of respect. Passage of this bill sends a clear message: Colorado honors its Tribal Nations.
– Summer Begay, Communication Specialist

For Immediate Release: Southern Ute Indian Tribe Connects the Future: Ignacio Broadband Now Active 04302024


Melvin J. Baker, Chairman – 970.563.2320

Summer Begay, Communication Specialist– 970.563.2313



Southern Ute Indian Tribe Connects the Future: Ignacio Broadband Now Active

Southern Ute Indian Reservation – The Southern Ute Indian Tribe celebrated a significant milestone today with the activation of its new broadband network serving the Town of Ignacio. The activation ceremony was attended by dignitaries and leadership from the Colorado Broadband Office, La Plata County, Town of Ignacio, and Bonfire, along with Chairman Melvin J. Baker, Tribal Council, and the Southern Ute Shared Services.

The Ignacio Broadband network signifies a giant leap forward in connecting the future for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. This essential infrastructure project offers residents within the boundaries of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation and businesses in Ignacio with high-speed internet access, unlocking doors to advancements in education, healthcare, economic development, and overall well-being. This activation will serve over 100 Tribal Member homes. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the severity of the digital divide on the Reservation. The lack of internet access severely limited opportunities for remote work, telehealth services, and remote learning. In response, the Tribal Council prioritized bridging the gap to ensure equal access to these critical resources.

“Balancing tradition and progress, Tribal nations in remote areas like the Southern Ute Indian Tribe face an even larger digital divide where accessing technology and essential services is difficult,” said Brandy Reitter, Executive Director of the Colorado Broadband Office. “Connecting the Town of Ignacio to high-speed internet isn’t just about connectivity, it’s about bridging the digital gap, preserving culture, fostering economic growth and unlocking limitless opportunities for Southern Ute generations to come.”

“Activating the Ignacio Broadband in the boundaries of the Reservation is the first step on our journey to bridge the digital divide,” said Chairman Melvin J. Baker. “This project reflects our unwavering commitment to building a brighter future for both Tribal and non-Tribal members of our community. High-speed internet is no longer a privilege; it is a necessity for achievement in today’s digital age.”

Southern Ute Shared Services Chief Information Officer, Jeff Engman shared, “The lighting of the Ignacio fiber is an event three years in the making.  While it will take another six to eight weeks to fully connect every home in Ignacio, we are excited that we are now ready to light up the Tribes’ fiber network and begin serving homes in the town. Construction Reservation-wide will continue over the next few years, with Ignacio being the first to have state-of-the-art broadband connectivity.”

The Ignacio Broadband is more than just wires and signals, it is a pathway to empowerment, opportunity, and progress. It embodies the Tribe’s unwavering commitment to technological advancement, serving as a beacon for a thriving and digitally connected community for generations to come. To learn more about this project or to stay informed when construction and network activation will occur in your area, please visit and enter your physical address to get started.


US Dept. of Interior: Land Owners Q&A 05152024

The Office of Natural Resources Revenue invites Indian Land Owners to a Question and Answer Session on the topics of land. minerals, and royalties.
This will be on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at SunUte Community Center in the Capote room.
For more information, contact the Office of Natural Resources Revenue at 800-982-3226.

– Summer Begay, Communication Specialist.

For Immediate Release: Upper Basin Tribes Sign Historic Memorandum of Understanding with Upper Division States



Romaine Wood: 505-330-0160 |

Summer Begay: 970-563-2313 |

Upper Basin Tribes Sign Historic Memorandum of Understanding with Upper Division States

[DULCE, NM] – The Upper Basin Tribes (Jicarilla Apache Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, and the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah) and the Upper Basin States of the Upper Division of the Colorado River Basin (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) acting through the Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC), are proud to announce the signing of a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU).  This document commemorates the parties’ commitment to timely sharing of information regarding Colorado River developments, identification of Colorado River issues of mutual concern, and engagement and cooperation on measures aimed at achieving common goals.

The agreement follows almost two years of close coordination between the Upper Basin Tribal Leaders and Governors’ representatives of the four Upper Division States. Tribal leaders have previously hosted meetings with the UCRC Commissioners on their homelands to share their personal experiences and community perspectives regarding Colorado River management, and to jointly identify issues of mutual concern. On April 22, 2024, the Jicarilla Apache Nation hosted the MOU signing ceremony and celebration on Jicarilla Apache Nation lands at the Nation’s Lodge at Chama.

Vice President of the Jicarilla Apache Nation Sonja Newton – “The Nation is honored to have had the opportunity to host this historic event.  Today we have made a strong commitment, as sovereigns, to meaningful communication and governmental collaboration on Colorado River issues in the Upper Basin for many years to come.  This MOU is the culmination of the Tribal Nations’ decades of hard work to change the status quo regarding tribal involvement in Colorado River management and decision-making.  This MOU is a major achievement in our continuing work to ensure that Tribes are included in a manner that is consistent with their sovereign status.”

Federal Commissioner Anne Castle –  “The execution today of this Memorandum of Understanding marks an important milestone in the relationships among the States and Tribes of the Upper Colorado River Basin. This formalized mechanism for ensuring the involvement of the sovereign tribes in the Basin in meaningful discussions about operation of the Colorado River, regardless of changes in leadership and personnel, demonstrates recognition of the critical role of these Tribal Nations in moving toward a sustainable water supply for all. We look forward to this ongoing collaboration and a more equitable future.”

Vice Chairman Lorelei Cloud of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe “Colorado’s very foundation rests on the stewardship of the Ute people, including the Mouache and Kaputa. We have safeguarded these lands and waters since before there was a state, and our responsibility continues to this day. This MOU, signed by our Tribe, stands as a powerful symbol of our enduring connection to this sacred resource. It also recognizes the essential role Tribal voices play in ensuring its well-being. We are thrilled to formally establish this partnership between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, other Upper Basin Tribes, and the Upper Colorado River Commission.”

Vice-Chair and Colorado Commissioner Becky Mitchell – “When we started the journey with our Tribal partners, hosted by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Ignacio, Colorado, we collectively acknowledged that our meetings and discussions were historic but that they shouldn’t be. I am pleased that the UCRC took this step today. I also want to acknowledge that after more than 100 years since the Compact was signed – it is time to more fully engage and collaborate with our Tribal partners. We also acknowledge there is more work to be done: it is time that we support the Upper Basin Tribal Nations in realizing benefits from their settled but undeveloped water supplies.”

Chairman Manuel Heart of the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe “The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe appreciates the open communication that has developed between the UCRC and the Upper Basin Tribes over the past two years. We thank Colorado Commissioner Becky Mitchell and Commissioners from the other Upper Basin States for consistently engaging the Tribes.

The UCRC-Upper Basin MOU formalizes these important relationships by providing a cooperative structure for coordinating the work that lies ahead in creating post-2026 Guidelines to support the sustainable and equitable operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The Upper Basin Tribes are entitled to approximately 25% of the water rights in the Upper Basin and are working diligently to exercise and benefit from these rights. The alignments between the UCRC and the Upper Basin Tribes provide an important foundation for making sure that we all benefit from the negotiations that lie ahead.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe approves the MOU as an important step forward, and a basis for building on and advancing our working relationships in the best interests of all partners in this agreement.”

New Mexico Commissioner Estevan Lopez – “Today the UCRC took an important step to formalize an engagement process with Tribes that we collectively started in the summer of 2022. It has taken too long to get to this point, and we still have further to go. I want to thank Tribal leaders, my colleagues on the Commission, UCRC, State and Tribal staff and the many people who have worked hard to get to this point. I am hopeful that we are entering a new era of cooperation among Tribes and States. Going forward, Tribal perspectives must be considered as we manage the waters of the Colorado River which we all depend upon.”

Utah Commissioner Gene Shawcroft – “When the Commissioners and Tribal leaders began our meetings over 1.5 years ago, we engaged in some honest and uncomfortable conversations regarding our shared history. However, through the joint efforts between Tribes and States, we have reached a point of shared optimism that moving forward we can do better together. I am hopeful that this approach can be a positive model for difficult discussions across the Basin.”

Wyoming Commissioner Brandon Gebhart – “Wyoming supports the Tribes-States Dialogue process and appreciates the forthright discussions that have led us to this agreement. The process underway with Tribal leaders and the Commissioners to talk openly about the unique and difficult issues we face together on the Colorado River can help us all as we consider the post-2026 operations.”


042424 MOU Signing – Regional Press Release

SW Colorado’s Small Business Development Center Hosts 12th Annual SW CO Small Business Conference

Don’t miss this year’s SW Colorado Small Business Conference! This day-long event, hosted by Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) & FLC Center for Innovation, attracts hundreds of professional business owners who represent every sector of the diverse business communities across the region.

These diverse leaders come together to build, invest, & strengthen our business community. The Conference includes breakfast, lunch & reception, and features Educational Seminars, One-on-one Consulting, Engaging Keynote Presentations, and Networking Opportunities.

Small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend this powerful event.

Enrolled Southern Ute Tribal Members SAVE 50% off


Southern Ute Economic Development will cover 50% of the registration fee to support any Enrolled Southern Ute Tribal Member small business owners and sole proprietors in attending this informational conference,

Use discount code SUIT50 to Register and pay HERE

Questions? Contact Jennifer Rummery, Economic Development Project Coordinator