Ernest House Jr., Ute Mountain Ute

Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs Fills Key Native Position

Carol Berry

A former head of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA) has been restored to that position, replacing Carol Harvey, Dine’/Hispanic, who left the position in mid-November after members of Colorado’s two Ute tribal nations asked for a CCIA executive secretary who more nearly fit their expectations.

Ernest House Jr., Ute Mountain Ute, served in the position for five years and resigned last January to become director of governmental affairs for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, citing job challenges and additional family responsibilities as reasons for the change.

He is the great-grandson of Chief Jack House, the traditional chief of the tribe, and son of the late Ernest House Sr., a long-time tribal leader, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in September.

Colorado Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia, CCIA chairman, will recommend that the CCIA ratify House Jr.’s selection at its quarterly meeting January 9, 2012. The CCIA hiring committee, in consultation with the (two Ute) tribes, unanimously advised House Jr.’s appointment, said a spokesperson for Garcia’s office.

The CCIA coordinates intergovernmental matters between the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribal governments and the state, and also assesses the needs for services to all Indians in the state.

Garcia, after the former CCIA executive secretary’s termination, said the CCIA’s role was to act as a conduit to the tribes and to maintain an open line to address tribal needs and priorities, and he felt it was time to “improve the overall level of service” and communication with them.

When House Jr. was former CCIA executive secretary, he said he felt the Commission had “changed the stereotypical perception and outlook of the American Indian citizen, community, and culture.” He also played a key role with the Colorado Historical Society (now History Colorado) in developing a national model for implementing the Native American Graves Repatriation and Protection Act (NAGPRA) on state and private lands.

The process for tribal consultation, transfer and reburial of culturally unidentifiable Native American human remains after their inadvertent discovery was significant because NAGPRA regulations had not been developed for repatriating remains that could not be affiliated with a particular tribe.

He headed up consultation on the process with about 50 tribes that called and may continue to call Colorado home, noting the tribes’ preference for non-disturbance, including that which could occur in the testing of remains, and for reburial as soon as possible near the discovery site.

Garcia, who is also head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said the CCIA will continue the emphasis on educational equity for Native students that was a priority of Harvey’s when she was in that position. For that reason and others, she had received support from Denver’s urban community.

In a prepared statement issued after Harvey’s ouster, Garcia said, “We believe that a strong and effective leader in the role of executive secretary (of CCIA) can help to provide a stronger voice for our tribes and for all indigenous people in Colorado.”

By voice vote, each CCIA member was in favor of Garcia’s replacement proposal, which he said would include input from heads of the two Ute tribes in the selection process.

House Jr., who was not immediately available for comment, has said he hopes at some point in the future to return to the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in southwest Colorado to work with his tribe. He studied political science at Metropolitan State College in Denver.

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fodessip's picture
Submitted by fodessip on
Congratulation to House Jr. Dear Denver native, please remember that House Jr. is not a part of the Mountain Ute leadership assembley, and its culture affairs dep., who engineered the removal of the former CCIA secretary, and falsely accused her of misrepresenting her position and their leadership. This process caused a lot of conflict, by using the CO. Lt. Gov. and his chief of staff, to do the dirty work for them. The Lt. Gov. and his assistance bought all the dirt dumped on the former CCIA secretary, and interesting enough, no records of the phone conversation, I believe Oct, 18, (where the official request was made)in the afternoon or evening to drum up CCIA support to remove the former secretary, by dumping lies and fabricate verbal accusations) (date might be off) between the Mountain Ute, Southern Ute, a Lt. Gov. official and a few other CCIA members, is found. Again, no RECORDS is found regarding this phone conversation meeting. Any meeting of 3 CCIA members of more, has to be listed on the agenda 10 days in advance, and its meeting, discussion or phone conversation RECORDED and displayed in the public. Any falsification of such records can be punishable by the Gov. Again, this was done in such a way that it violates the CO. and federal commission meeting act, CCIA act, and set them self and the Lt. Gov. and the state of CO. up for a lawsuit. This is such a violation of the Sunshine act, that if the truth comes forward, it threaten the future of the CCIA. (The former CCIA secretary admits she might have overreacted afterwards, has no interest in lawsuits, and strongly believes that the current Lt. Gov. is indeed good for the Indian Community, tribes, and capable of improving CO. education system ) Remember, the Lt. Gov. has time after time expressed positive remarks and complemented the former CCIA secretary on her work, weather it was for the 2 Ute Tribes, Denver natives or Indian education. The Lt. Gov. also said after the first CCIA meeting 2011, that "the Ute tribes wants a Ute member in the CCIA position, but can not find any quelified Ute members". The Lt. Gov.,(due to this process) can, officielly, not longer say that the former CCIA secretary performed well above ecpectations representing CCIA, even, when he earlier stated that, she had litterelly been the best CCIA secretary since CCIA started in CO., many years ago. Again, he has, as well as others, including Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribal members and many Denver and CO.state departments, the former CCIA secretary did an excellent job, and funny enough, she complied with all the elements of what her title and commission charter required her to do, something previous members might have omitted. With respect to House Jr. he is proably the best Ute member CCIA candidate, and he is a find, inteligent, skilled and articulate person, and according to the former CCIA secretary, he would be a great asset on the Mountain Ute tribal council. So, why did the Mountain Ute Tribe, and later the Southern Ute Tribe, want to remove the former CCIA secretary. Most likley, quite possible,she was not a member the tribe(s), and therfor unfit for the position. Many CCIA members, as well as Ute members, believe that there is a leader in sw. Co. who wants to make a name for himself, and its culture affairs department has a strong and traditional influence on tribal politics, and they lag well behind their counterparts, south of Durango. I have known the former CCIA secretary for many, many years. She wishes the best for House Jr. "I do not speak for the former CCIA secretary". Again, Denver native, please welcome back Mr. House Jr., and kindly do not "nagg the Lt. Gov. or his associate, they had no knowledge off beeing a tool in the process. For the Indian Community in the Rockey Mountain, it is just to bad that we lost such a dedicated, knowlegeble, task oriented, and objective person, as the previous CCIA secretary. Again, and again, we will see that state and federal departments will walk all over the tribes and native members again in the Rockey Mountain region. There might be time for Denver natives to find a political avenue for an official representation in the Denver, CO GOV. assembly, since CCIA, is now, proven to be a SINGLE POLITICAL TOOL and arm for the 2 official CO, tribes. Many thanks.