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The Southern Ute

The Ute nation, for whom the present state of Utah is named, are found today on three reservations spreading across Utah, Colorado and New Mexico (ENAT, 244-245). The Southern Ute reservation is a 310,000 acre area stretching along Colorado's border with New Mexico and is home to about 1,000 Ute tribespeople (AID, 42). The Utes residing on this reservation are mainly from two different bands, the Mouache Band and the Capote Band.

The information concerning the flag, and seal of the Southern Ute Tribe comes from two Ute tribal artists, Mr. Ben Watts and Mr. Russell Box Sr. It was provided to the author by Mr. Eugene Naranjo of the Southern Ute Executive Office (Eugene Naranjo, letter, dated Feb 2., 1995). The tribal flag was designed by Ben Watts and Stanley Reed Frost

The exact date of adoption can no longer be found in tribal records. It is assumed by the Executive Office that the flag and seal were adopted around 1970 or 1971 when a contest was held to choose a name for the "Pino Nuche" Lodge and Restaurant, one of the major businesses on the reservation.

The flag of the Southern Ute tribe is light blue and bears the name "Southern Ute Tribe" in white capital letters across the top third of the flag (Photo of flag provided by The Southern Ute Executive Office) . Centered on the lower two thirds is the tribal seal.

The seal is circular, representing the "circle of life", a theme that has run through many tribal flags. Everything within this circle is a facet of the life of the Southern Ute people. Immediately within the circle is the identifying legend in red "Great Seal of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ignacio, Colo."

Centered in the circle is the profile of a Ute chief shown in the colors of red, orange, black, blue and white. The Indian represents the whole tribe; a colorful individual representing a colorful people. The colors represent the colors of the rainbow and the colors of nature.

Surrounding the Indian head are various representations of natural resources to be found within the Southern Ute Reservation and cultural icons meaningful to the Ute people. Directly below the bust of the Indian is a calumet or peacepipe from which hang two feathers. The pipe shows that the Ute are a peaceful and peace loving people. The two feathers represent the "Great Spirit" and the "healing power" that comes from being a single peaceful people. Below the pipe are two leafed branches that recall the green things of the earth and the harmony that the people share with nature.

Below the pipe and branches is a small representation of the flag of the State of Colorado. The inclusion of the Colorado emblem is unique. Many of the tribes researched for this article do not include state symbols in their seals or flags, except for some instances where a map of the state may appear. Many, like the Nez Perce of Idaho and the Muskogee of Oklahoma do not even include the state flag amongst the flags carried during parades and similar events. To them, the inclusion of the state flag can be viewed as an infringement or weakening of their sovereignty.

Obviously, the Southern Ute do not fear any imposing by the State of Colorado or it may be a realization that a map of Colorado would not be a particularly striking symbol - the state is a perfect rectangle!

To the viewer's left of the Indian bust, are a gas well and a pair of grazing sheep. These, along with the tractor and the grazing steer to the right of the chief represent the main pursuits of the Ute tribe and its members, agriculture, ranching and industry.

Above the chief's head is a mountain space with an elk and bear, animals that share the land with the Ute people. The sun watches over the tribe while the river represents the six rivers that cross the reservation, the Piedra, Animas, La Plata, Pine, San Juan Florida, and the Navajo.

The mountains represent the actual mountains that lie to the north of the current reservation. In past times, these mountains were part of the homeland of the Ute nation. The reminder of their past homeland in the seal of the Southern Ute is a way of reminding themselves that their past and their tradition are also a component of the "circle of life" that is the Southern Ute Tribe.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603