Courtesy Jeremy Wade Shockley/Southern Ute Drum
Jimmy R. Newton, Jr., chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, June 2013.

Jimmy R. Newton Jr., Chairman: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series

Dennis Zotigh
July 18, 2013


In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of the Native peoples today.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Jimmy R. Newton, Jr., tribal chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or nickname? 

My nickname is JimBo.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

To be the voice for my people and carry out the responsibilities of the constitution.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

It starts with learning the teachings of my parents and traditional people from where I am from. Looking back at my life experience, I've always tried to be a strong person and always knowing who I am as a Ute man.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

Lots of people have inspired me throughout my years, but of course my dad has been the biggest one. And also a Southern Ute councilman who taught me the traditions of the tribe and helped me learn about tribal politics.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so who?

I'm not sure how far back you want me to go, but my grandpa Tom Black Newton was a council member from 1941 to 1947; he served with the second chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Julius N. Cloud. 

Where is your tribe located? 

The Southern Ute Tribe is located in southwest Colorado.

Where was your tribe originally from?

Our original homeland is the state of Colorado. 

Do the Southern Ute have a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

We have traditional chiefs to lead our ceremonies.

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share? 

We were the first tribe to acquire the horse from the Spaniards.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

Almost 1,500.

What are the criteria to become a member?

One-quarter Southern Ute Indian blood. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers? 

Our language is still spoken. It's around 10 percent or less of the population who speak it.


To read the full interview with Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. visit the NMAI series here.