Ute leaders meet with governor

DENVER – Ute tribal leaders met Gov. John Hickenlooper in his office Wednesday afternoon, their first meeting that included the new Southern Ute leadership.

Tribal leaders are at the state Capitol this week for meetings with state officials and for opening ceremonies marking the 2012 legislative session.

Ute Mountain Ute spiritual leader Terry Knight gave a blessing in his native language Wednesday morning in the state Senate, after a prayer by Denver Rabbi Steven Foster.

About 10 leaders from the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes met Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia in the governor’s office.

The tribes are sovereign nations and not subject to most state laws. State and tribal leaders have met periodically to see if they can work together better.

“Our full intention is to make sure that Colorado becomes a national model for how states can work collaboratively with their sovereign tribal neighbors,” Hickenlooper said.

The meeting happened behind closed doors, but health care was one of the topics the leaders discussed.

“Their needs are very similar to our needs. They’ve got kids playing video games and eating too much fat, just like we do,” Hickenlooper said.

They also talked about jobs and education, he said.

The governor said he “absolutely” plans to visit Ignacio and Towaoc as soon as he gets a chance.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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