Utes setting up new office at CMC

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— More than a hundred years ago, the Northern Ute Indians were forced from their ancestral lands in northwestern Colorado, including the Yampa Valley.

Now the valley is trying to bring them back.

"There was a lot of history missing from the valley," said Pam Burwell, a Colorado Mountain College administrator who serves as a liaison to the Northern Ute tribe.

About four years ago, CMC realized there was a big void in what people knew about the Yampa Valley before white settlers came in. So, they started to develop a relationship with the modern-day Utes whose families once called this part of Colorado home.

"This was a medicine valley for them, a place they came for healing," Burwell said. "For hundreds of years, tribes came in to the valley to use the hot springs."

CMC brought in Ute speakers and guests to talk about their Yampa Valley history. Their current home is in Fort Duchesne, Utah, where several Ute tribes were forced to relocate.

CMC has now taken its relationship with the Northern Utes a step further by opening up the Northern Ute Cultural Affair Office on campus.

Angie Krahl is occupying the office for now. She is the director of the Ute Conservation Corps that hires Ute youths to work on conservation projects in the national forests.

"CMC donated this office to the tribe to use for economic development and a liaison office," Krahl said. "We'll be working on a database that brings artisans and local business owners together."

The database would connect Ute artists, speakers and entertainers with groups and businesses from Craig to Kremmling.

CMC plans to offer a Native American scholarship as well, but the ultimate goal is to have one of the Northern Ute members to staff the CMC office.

"They could send one of their people to actually speak for the tribe," Burwell said.

The college also wants to set up a mentoring program for Ute youths who attend the college or who may visit the area as part of the conservation corps.

Burwell said the Ute office is a way for everyone to reconnect so that the Utes can call the Yampa Valley home once again.

"It's extending our sense of community to include the indigenous people who were in the valley before us," Burwell said.

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