Roland McCook Sr., great-great grandson of Chipeta, the wife of Ute Chief Ouray, is dedicated to telling the story of the Ute Nation. After living on a Utah reservation for most of 66 years, he made his home in Colorado.
“My sole purpose is to research the strong ties our people had with Colorado. I will not allow the Utes to fade away into the past and be forgotten,” McCook said.
Tales from the Tread
Tales from the Tread columns publish the first and third Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today.
If you go
What: Roland McCook, Ute heritage speaker
When: Noon and 6:30 p.m. May 23
Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, Library Hall
McCook’s mission and the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s mission are linked: One of the museum’s key roles is to educate about Ute heritage so it is not forgotten. The Utes are our ancestors and boast a long, rich history that precedes the pioneers or any modern settlement. It is the museum’s duty and privilege to create connections and understanding between the Utes and our local community.
As part of these efforts, the Tread of Pioneers Museum is partnering with Bud Werner Memorial Library to host McCook as a speaker at noon and 6:30 p.m. on May 23. We hope that the community will join us in embracing this rare opportunity to hear from a Ute leader and celebrate our Native American heritage in this special way.
“Steamboat Springs is the heart of the Ute nation, due to the healing waters of the mineral springs that come from Mother Earth,” McCook said. “The energy of this area draws me here.”
I first met McCook in 2007. Knowing him as a revered historian of the Ute tribe, I invited him to speak at the museum, and he graciously agreed to allow us to interview him for a new interactive video exhibit we were creating.
The museum provides the opportunity for Ute people to tell their history and story in their own words, and in their own ways, as opposed to relying on interpretations by non-native people. More than 90 minutes of the 2007 video interview with McCook can be accessed on the now permanent interactive exhibit at the museum.
The Tread of Pioneers Museum has spearheaded other connections and educational opportunities with the Ute tribe in the past, and we will continue to work with McCook and others to coordinate future community events that honor and celebrate Ute heritage.
About Roland McCook
McCook grew up on the Uintah-Ouray Reservation at Fort Duchesne, Utah, where he participated in all the traditional ceremonies and pow-wows. After high school, McCook’s father sent him to the University of California-Berkley. His father had directed him to spend time in the “white world,” to learn what he could about it, and then return to help his people. After studying archaeological design in college, McCook worked as a surveyor and fire manager for the Bureau of Land Management.
His father’s words led him to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and later, as director of Housing and Urban Development for the Ute Nation. In 1995, McCook was elected to the Ute tribal government, where he served more than nine years, including two years as chairman.
McCook also worked for eight years with the Smithsonian Institution for the Repatriation Review Committee, overseeing the return of Native American human remains and sacred objects to their tribes. He has also served on many boards of directors, including the Native American Cultural Programs organization, the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Utah Indian Cooperative Council.
In 2004, McCook began speaking and lecturing full-time about Ute history and culture, and we are grateful he did. Please join us for this truly special event to honor the unique Native American heritage of our region.
Candice Bannister is executive director of Tread of Pioneers Museum.