The 68th session of the Colorado General Assembly began January 11 with an invocation by Terry Knight, a spiritual leader of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, headquartered in the southwestern part of the state.
After the opening ceremony, the Ute delegation, which also included representation from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, met with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said he hopes the state “can become a national model of how states can collaborate with the sovereign tribal nations.”
Tribes’ needs “are very similar to our needs,” Hickenlooper said, citing requirements in health, education, and preparation for jobs so that people can “work and have a life.” He said he will visit Ignacio and Towaoc, Colorado, the respective homes of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Legislators may consider a number of Indian issues this year, including a bill being drafted by Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora), a member of the Comanche Nation.
The proposed legislation would allow indigenous languages to satisfy foreign language requirements in Colorado schools and exempt some teachers from credentialing requirements so that they could provide Native language and cultural instruction, said Ernest House Jr., executive secretary of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.
Other measures that may be considered by the legislature’s Native Caucus include assuring that Indian history is included in the story of Colorado’s settlement.