Letters to the Editor: August 7, 2008

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Dear Editor,
I was thrilled to learn from your editorial in last week’s paper that the federal employees who organized the Smoking River Powwow had decided to (give) generously of their time and effort — because it was my impression that the taxpayers paid their salaries. If they are now going to volunteer their time and reimburse us, they are truly to be commended. I will expect my rebate check in the mail. Calculating this rebate in advance, I estimate reimbursement for four clerical level employees’ salaries for an event that “had been in the works for three years.” If each employee spent 200 hours a year working on the powwow (undoubtedly a ridiculously low estimate) that’s 800 hours a year at a salary of $14-$16 an hour, plus benefits. Benefits aside, we are looking at $11,200 a year (on the low estimate side). This gives us a grand total of $33,600 in labor, not including the big wigs’ salaries and the use of government phone lines and the use of government vehicles and gas to travel to Ft. Duchesne, Glenwood Springs and Denver.
Before I learned this great news, I was worried that taxpayers were forking over the cash for their hourly salaries for an event that bears a tenuous relationship to “federal lands,” lands that need our serious attention and protection — Ute Park “belongs” to the Town of Meeker and Milk Creek is “private land” with exception of an acre or so that has been donated to the historical society. Now, I can feel good about the “generosity” of federal employees again.
Justifying the expenditures of personnel resources, the Forest Service and BLM said in their organizational documents for the powwow that “the White River National Forest has had too few Ute applicants for trail crew positions” and that they would like to “see that change.” This seemed to me to be an extraordinary effort to fill Forest Service crew positions, and I wondered if they had considered a standard ad in the Ute Bulletin. Dropping the racist assumptions might even land them a Ute district ranger, a Ute biologist or even a Ute GIS specialist or visitor information assistant.
Additionally, powwow organizers justified personnel resources expended on the powwow as building the relationships requisite to tribal consultation — admittedly an important legal mandate which both agencies summarily ignore in practice: “Many laws and a number of presidential executive orders require federal agencies to consult with Indian Tribes on a government-to-government basis.” For example, Forest Service Manual 1500: External Relations, Chapter 1560 states objective No. 1 is to “develop and maintain effective working relationships with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes taking into account the cultural concerns and interests of tribes. You cannot have an effective government-to-government relationship unless you work with tribes at all levels.” I, for one, believe that it is very possible to have an effective working relationship with the tribes without holding a powwow.
Suggesting that the powwow is a prelude to consultation and relationship building is disingenuous. If this powwow was about consultation, why didn’t the organizers take the Utes to “public land” — the oil fields perhaps with an archaeologist or wildlife biologist or field manager from the BLM who could learn from the Utes and better preserve the land. Both agencies passed up a chance to learn from Marshall Colorow in Indian Valley, Chief Colorow’s winter camp.
Now, there’s a chance to make meaningful connections on “public land.” Consultation is a legal mandate with a very specific legal definition and precise requirements. These requirements include learning from indigenous people what sites are important and need to be preserved. Moreover, consultation happens between official representatives of governments, and not at the clerical level. If the Forest Service and BLM need a “spiritual adviser” to get the job done, the Forest Service has a long standing relationship with Clifford Duncan that they can draw on.
Bill Kight, the Forest Service archaeologist in Glenwood, has been waxing less than eloquently about their relationship for years in editorials in the Glenwood Post Independent. One of his recent editorials, entitled “A New Beginning for the Utes,” describes a private dedication ceremony for the powwow at Ute Park: “No cameras were present. No media. Only Clifford and four of us who were invited to participate in the historic ceremony were there.” “Healing history” and helping Meeker “face up to the past” in a present day city park in Meeker is just not part of the rather limited and clearly defined BLM and Forest Service mission. But, if they need therapists to get them on “public lands,” I suggest that we do agree to pay for that service.
Perhaps next year, with therapists, spiritual advisors, dancers, vendors, trail hands and maybe even an archaeologist in tow, we can get the Forest Service and the BLM to tour “public lands,” learning from the Utes about the sacred sites that need to be protected in this resource area from tourism and from oil and gas development. That would be real progress in the learning curve for both agencies, especially since the BLM is in the process of revising its resource management plan in light of oil and gas development — an estimated 20,000 wells in the next 10 years. Could it be that there are some cultural and religious sites out there that need serious protection? Could the Utes teach the Forest Service and the BLM something about that? You bet. In short, the Utes have a whole lot more to offer to the preservation of this land than being “trail crew hands” for the Forest Service. If we can just get the Forest Service beyond that concept we will be doing well.
The Forest Service and BLM need to get serious about tribal consultation and learn from the Ute tribal members assigned to protect tribal interests in cultural and religious sites about cultural preservation on “public lands,” Ute indigenous homelands, a fact that is at the basis of the legal mandate to engage in tribal consultation. Yes, the Ute Tribe has a cultural affairs office with leaders assigned by the business council to consult on religious and cultural matters of interest to the tribe. This is indeed a separate office and a separate responsibility from the public affairs office. Moreover, if the BLM and the Forest Service actually wanted to learn something about the process and meaning of tribal consultation they could arrange for a seminar taught by the local historical society. They have been engaged in consultation with the Ute tribe now for several years in regard to the development of an interpretive site that reflects Ute perspective at Milk Creek.
Lisa Pollard
Greetings All and Ms. Louise Courtright,
In the Rio Blanco Herald Times dated July 31, 2008, I was reading your lovely article about the powwow dancers who graced our wonderful town and other happenings in our area recently. Among the items mentioned was that First National Bank of the Rockies had a float (again this year you indicated) “portraying saloon girls, who in reality were prostitutes in the old days‚” (quoted from your article) in the parade. I would like to take this opportunity to correct you on this matter.
First National Bank of the Rockies did win this year — “2008 Best of Show” with the parade theme being “Blast from the Past” for our float portraying a Fabulous Fifties Soda Shop. Yes, we had dancers — a jitterbugging young lady and gentleman dressed in appropriate attire for the (1950s) times, who performed a short dance on Main Street as our float went by, and two other poodle-skirted young ladies danced on the float itself as well. Our bank employees had a great time putting this float together and were pleased that the crowd attending the parade seemed to like it, too.
Over the past several years, the bank floats have included a giant white birthday cake celebrated with red, white, and blue decorations and candles, a huge handmade flag stretching the full length of our float with a cannon on the front to honor our nation’s fighting men and women, an old RBC fire truck and the float containing mountains and trees, surrounded by “wildlife” (FNBR employees in costume — bear, eagle, skunk, etc.) handing out candy to the children along the parade route, and the list goes on. During my tenure here (roughly 17 years) I do not recall an FNBR float with saloon girls.
I believe you have mistaken the FNBR float for the Range Call float, where each year the mountain men, cowboys and saloon girls celebrate during the parade, showing a little of the activities to come during the Meeker Massacre Pageant put on during the Range Call celebration. I am not a member of Range Call, so cannot speak to the “moral and family values of a lot of folks in our town, as well as some of the leaders in our community” (again quoting your article) in regards to this float, other than to say in my humble opinion it looks like just old fashioned fun in its current presentation and an opportunity for increased attendance at the pageant. By the way, Range Call committee, congratulations on another great year — well done.
Lastly, though I was not able to watch the parade (I was driving the pickup pulling the FNBR float), I saw your church float (and I agree, it was great) along with many other outstanding presentations from our local residents. From what I could see, it looked like a wonderful parade. Thanks to everyone for helping our community put on such a fabulous celebration each year.
Kim Brown
First National Bank of the Rockies
Dear Editor,
The can-can dance has been enjoyed by viewers of July 4 parade for a long time. Jean Scott taught can-can in her dance classes in Meeker for several years. Glad someone is carrying on for all of us! Good going little girl!
Phyllis Wigington

Dear Editor,
I am writing to you regarding your article in the July 10 edition of the Rio Blanco Herald Times concerning Love’s RV Park.
The issue I wish to address involves the statements you attributed to Ginny Love at the end of the article. In your article you wrote that Love claimed I requested a temporary spot in Love’s RV Park when I moved to town. Love is lying. She claimed that she got special permission for me to live there. My question is from whom? She is the owner. If she is going to make up a story she should at least try to make sense.
This is the truth about what happened. Shortly after I moved here I met Ginny Love while I was at work. She offered me a space in Love’s RV Park. I declined. It makes sense that a business woman would seek a new customer for her business. It is ridiculous to believe that I would have sought an RV space when I do not own an RV. I invite you to check motor vehicle registrations if you would like to confirm that. I also invite you to look in my driveway. One thing you will not find is that I have ever owned an RV.
I have been a critic of the Loves in their attempt to renew their permit for the RV park. I have contacted the county commissioners by writing the letter you quoted from in your article. I believe that by doing so I made Ginny Love mad and she retaliated by making up a story about me. I found it interesting that you devoted two paragraphs in your article to this nonsense. I suppose sensationalism sells papers.
It is important for you to understand the severity of printing falsehoods about another person. Ginny Love committed slander when she lied about me. You committed libel when you printed that lie to make the story juicier. There were witnesses to the conversation between Love and myself that could be subpoenaed if necessary. I will leave the issue with a suggestion that you quit trying to sell newspapers at my expense. If you stick to reporting the truth there will not be a problem.
Ginny Love has repeatedly said that she is worried about where the residents of the RV park will live. I am glad to hear the county say that there are going to be adequate spaces for them. Is it possible that Love’s interest is not just about other people having a place to stay or is she worried about the tens of thousands of dollars per month in revenue she is going to lose?
In my view, the facts of the issue are simply that the Loves asked the county commissioners for a temporary permit for the RV park and it was granted. Then the Loves asked to close the RV park and develop a subdivision and that was granted. Then the Loves wanted to do both on the same property. The county commissioners had no choice but to choose one or the other and I believe they followed the only legal course that was available to them. Love created this controversy, not the homeowners or the residents in the RV park or the county commissioners.
Glenn Wilson

Dear Editor,
I have lived in Meeker for 22 years with my husband. He passed away last year! In trying to fix it up again; we fixed a park named Aspen Falls on Wall street with a bench to sit on and a sidewalk to walk on with deer to enjoy. I wish whoever is taking the deer and/or moving them would leave them alone and just enjoy the park please!
Anna Parker

Dear Editor,
It’s that time of year when people make room for their new beef and pork from the Rio Blanco County Fair.
A freezer was donated from the Hall family so we had enough room for this year’s donations from all the wonderful people that want to donate meat to the food bank. Call Darlene Feller at 675-8910, and I will arrange to pick it up or meet you at the food bank.
Darlene Feller