Once termed “useless to the Utes,” the Brunot area of Colorado, a 3.7-million-acre range teeming with wildlife was opened up to the Ute Mountain Ute hunters and anglers on January 11 through sovereignty according to officials.
The Brunot Agreement of 1874 between the Ute Tribes and U.S. government ceded the Brunot area to the U.S. after repeated, illegal incursions by settlers and miners onto the tribal lands, but the Utes retained hunting rights there. That is, as the 19th Century agreement states, “for so long as the game lasts and the Indians are at peace with the white people.”
Ute Mountain Ute tribal officials and state officials changed the 139 year old agreement allowing tribal members to manage fishing in the lakes and rivers of the Brunot area and to hunt a certain number of black bears, moose, mountain goats, big horn sheep and mountain lions, in addition to the existing take of elk and mule deer.
A similar updated agreement was signed with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in 2008.
The changes give the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe civil and criminal jurisdiction over Brunot area rights for tribal members and the state will have similar jurisdiction over non-tribal members. The tribe maintains its hunting rights “are not limited by modern species protection laws,” unless forbidden by Congress.
It’s sovereignty at work opening doors for the tribe, noted Gary Hayes, the tribe’s chairman, who said negotiations had yielded good results for both sides.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the new agreement “helps to preserve Colorado’s heritage and customs of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.” It “protects the Ute Mountain Utes’ sovereign rights to hunt and fish these lands,” said Rick Cables, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Not everyone agreed with the change to the Agreement – Robert Bray, of rural Redvale, who observed that many residents in the area “are very uneasy with this” because Parks and Wildlife “doesn’t have any authority” over tribal affairs. Hunting for deer and elk off-season and on winter range constitutes a “pretty big concern” for the residents, he said.
Davis Wing, Brunot Commission chairman for the tribe and also a Tribal Council member, said “we want to work with everyone” and could alleviate their concerns.
Hayes observed that some people feel tribal members “are being treated special” without any understanding of trust and treaty commitments, even though “that’s how the Brunot Agreement came about.”