I am a member and former chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and have lived on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation for more than 70 years. During the Spanish Trails Fiesta in the 1940s and 1950s, we would often dine at the Chief Diner, which in those days was located on north Main Avenue. We were welcomed there, and treated with dignity and respect. When asked by other Indians for restaurant suggestions, we would recommend the Chief Diner, telling people to look for the giant Indian chief in the sky pointing the way.
To us, the sign represented a friendly place where Indians were welcomed. None of us felt the sign was offensive.
Jackson Clark was a tremendous help to me when I managed the old Pino Nuche gift shop. He would often loan us pieces of jewelry, paintings and Navajo rugs, which we sold on consignment, resulting in healthy profits for the tribe. I learned a lot from him, and I don’t believe he purchased the “Chief” sign to disparage people with whom he has conducted business for many years.
I believe the “Chief” sign is an important part of local history that conjures positive memories for those of us who frequented the diner over a half-century ago. It should be celebrated, not destroyed.
Pearl E. CasiasBayfield