Ancestral Land Returned to the Ute Indian Tribe

Ute Tribal Business Committee Members thank Mr. Snyder

Published November 1, 2018

FT. DUCHESNE, Utah — During the summer of this past year, Colorado landowner Rich Snyder reached out to the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. He had been working on and living on a lot of land in the San Luis area of southern Colorado that he purchasedonly a few years ago. The power of the Ute Indian Tribe’s historic presence on that land overwhelmed him.

“I bought a lot of land that looks like your people lived on with buildings, graves … was a very sacred place. Would love to have the land checked out and give it to your people … it has given peace to me to be there.” In late September, Rich signed over the deed at the county clerk’s office to the Ute Indian Tribe. Rich told volunteers for the Tribe who visited the site in late September that the land has given him great joy but he believes it belongs to the Ute people.

From the lot of elevated land, one can look toward the southwest and see the Ute Mountain in northern New Mexico. This region is the area of the Colorado and New Mexico border known to be Ute ancestral land. In the 1880’s, bands of the Ute people were expelled from Colorado in a vicious land-grabbing campaign led by politicians and the media of the day. “The Utes Must Go!” declared editorials in leading papers of the time and the several bands of the Utes were marched out of Colorado into Utah, or pursued like common criminals in Colorado. “Every tribe has its own ‘Trail of Tears’” said Business Committee member Shaun Chapoose. “This was ours.”

On Thursday October 25th, the Business Committee of the Ute Indian Tribe welcomed Colorado landowner Rich Snyder to a reception at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Conference in Denver. Luke Duncan, Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee said: “This good man reached out to the Ute Tribe, on his own, to return this land to us. We hope it can inspire others to take similar actions.” The Ute Indian Tribe recently established the Ute Land Trust, a non-profit organization that can help facilitate transfers of land ownership or rights, including through cultural conservation easements.

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