Two Ute tribal flags will share pride of place with flags of the United States and the state of Colorado as they are displayed side-by-side in the state’s capitol, an arrangement Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said is part of an effort to “seek broad representation of how rich our history” is with the tribes in the state.
A flag-honoring ceremony on March 22 in the capitol was attended by representatives of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian Tribes, the only two tribal nations within present-day Colorado boundaries, state officials, and others. The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs planned the event.
The ceremony was preceded by a commemoration in the General Assembly for the late Ernest House Sr., a long-time Ute Mountain Ute leader who passed September 17, 2011 following a motorcycle accident. Legislators expressed condolences to House’s family and recalled the important role he played in southwestern Colorado and the state as a whole.
The two tribal flags were blessed and then flown over Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal lands before they were brought to the capitol. Veterans from both tribes raised the flags alongside those of the state and nation to the accompaniment of a drum group, while tribal royalty and guests looked on.
“It was a really good feeling” to hear a tribal drum’s song reverberating through the halls of Colorado’s capitol, said Manuel Heart, a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribal council.
Among symbols in the Southern Ute flag’s great seal are representations of the mountains and forests of their ancestral and present homelands, rivers that cross the reservation, big game, tribal industries, peace as depicted through a pipe, a leaf/branch that is a reminder of the Sun Dance and sweat lodge ceremonies, and a red and white border for the Circle of Life.
The Ute Mountain Ute great seal includes a depiction of a chief representing the Ute Mountain band known as Weenuche, and also symbols or depictions of Sleeping Ute Mountain, the golden eagle which stands for the Sun Dance, tipis—the home of the Ute people—and the Four Corners, where Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado meet, the last three of which include tribal lands.
“It’s good to be on the traditional homelands of the Utes,” said Howard Richards, a Southern Ute tribal council member. He thanked the state of Colorado “for taking care of our land.”