A KSUT conversation with writer, musician, and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

A KSUT conversation with writer, musician, and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

A KSUT conversation with writer, musician, and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

Four Corners Public Radio | By Crystal Ashike
Published January 21, 2022
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Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is serving her third term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. Photo by Karen Kuehn /

Joy Harjo is America’s 23rd Poet Laureate and in her third term in that position. She’s a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and has been writing, teaching, and performing music for more than 40 years. She’s the author of nine books of poetry and seven music albums, including her latest, “I Pray For My Enemies.” Joy Harjo talked to KSUT Tribal Radio’s Crystal Ashike recently about her work, the pandemic, and being fearless for beauty.

Interview highlights:
  • She talks about her latest album I Pray for My Enemies, a collaboration with producer/engineer and ethnomusicologist Barrett Martin, featuring well known rock guitarists
  • On the pandemic, "I remember looking outside the window, and it was just quiet. It took so many of the culture bearers of our Muskogee Creek Nation. We lost so many people like the roots, you know, the oldest roots, some of the deep roots."

Harjo brings a fresh identity to the poetry and songs that have made her a renowned poet of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and one of the most authentic and compelling voices of these times.

Listen to the interview for the complete conversation.
photo by Karen Kuehn/
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe used to rely on fossil fuels to make money. Now, it’s turning to solar

The Ute Mountain Ute tribe used to rely on fossil fuels to make money. Now, it’s turning to solar

The Ute Mountain Ute tribe used to rely on fossil fuels to make money. Now, it’s turning to solar

KSJD | By Lucas Brady Woods
Published January 21, 2022
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s main solar project sits at the base of Ute Mountain and supplies the town of Towaoc with supplemental electricity.
Lucas Brady Woods / KSJD

Driving along a gravel road on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, it’s easy to see why the landscape is a good place to generate solar power. It’s the high desert of Southwest Colorado, which means there’s a lot of open space and bright sunlight.

In one of those wide open spaces, a valley at the base of Ute Mountain, is the tribe’s main solar project.

“It's a way to save electricity dollars,” says Scott Clow, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s Director of Environmental Programs. “We even created our own little micro grid here.”

The project is made up of rows of solar panels that cover about 4 and a half acres of former alfalfa fields. Since it went online in 2020, it’s provided electricity to the main town on the reservation, Towaoc. Clow says it helps power homes, governmental buildings, and the tribe’s casino.

He also says the current project is just the beginning.

“This project is that stepping stone,” says Clow. “To get the tribal membership to embrace this technology, and what it can do for the tribe.”

Scott Clow is the Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s director of environmental programs.Lucas Brady Woods/KSJD

There are two other community-level Ute Mountain Ute solar projects in the works. One of them will be similar to the Towaoc solar project, but will serve another community, White Mesa. Another, smaller scale project will provide power to a housing facility.

But the tribe also hopes solar can offer economic benefits beyond just providing supplemental electricity - by producing power that can be sold outside the tribe, for a profit.

“We're looking at how to replace those many, many millions of dollars that once came to the tribe through oil and gas, with renewable energy,” says Clow.

The Ute Mountain Utes have been in the oil and gas business for over 70 years, and historically, it made up a large portion of the tribe’s economy. But that revenue has been declining for a long time. According to Clow, that decline, combined with increasing pressure from climate change, pushed the tribe to move towards a clean energy economy instead.

Archie House, Jr, is Vice Chairman of the tribe's council and is also involved in the renewable energy team. He says replacing the revenue lost from the oil and gas industry is really about investing back into the community.

“A lot of our revenue that comes from the commercial status here will be focused back into the community to help the individual member, whether it's with food, services or infrastructure,” says House. “That will actually boost up the community to a level once seen with our oil and gas funding.”

But, the commercial project is still in its early stages, and tribal leadership is proceeding carefully with its development.

One important step, for example, is making sure the community is on board. House says tribal leadership plans to involve the public through surveys and presentations about the projects. That will help community members understand that investing in this isn’t just about raising money.

“Solar and renewable is more of a clean type of history that we’ll leave for our future generations here,” says House. “It's better to be part of a part of the answer than going off in another direction where it may not be something good for the future.”

And House says community members are already noticing changes to the climate, like warming temperatures and less water.

The tribe’s current community-level solar project covers about four and a half acres. Lucas Brady Woods / KSJD

Aliette Frank is a lecturer in the environmental and climate institute at Fort lewis College. Her work focuses on climate change and tribal communities in the Four Corners region.

“It's particularly important in the southwest,” she says. “Because, if you bring in the idea of environmental justice, a lot of these populations are the ones that are hardest hit by changing climate."

She also hopes the Ute Mountain Ute solar projects can go beyond their own people, and serve as an example for others who can invest in renewables.

Back on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, Scott Clow agrees.

“The magnitude of potential for renewable energy in Indian Country across the United States could put tribes ahead of the rest of the nation,” he says. “And that’s profound.”

But he also says, at the end of the day, Ute Mountain Ute renewable energy projects aren’t about standing out as a leader. They’re about making sure the needs of the tribe’s people are met well into the future.

Copyright 2022 KSJD. To see more,visit KSJD.

Broadband subsidy slow in reaching much of the rural West

Broadband subsidy slow in reaching much of the rural West

Broadband subsidy slow in reaching much of the rural West

Boise State Public Radio News
Published January 18, 2022 | By Nate Hegyi
Yven Dienst /Adobe Stock
News Brief

A recent report shows most low-income households in the Mountain West aren’t taking advantage of an internet incentive program launched by the Biden administration last year.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit gave households a subsidy of $50 a month to help cover their internet bill. It applied to everyone making 135% or less of the federal poverty guideline. Those living on tribal lands qualified for a $75 monthly discount.

The FCC program, which launched in May 2021, was aimed at reducing the digital divide. The millions of Americans without high-speed internet – which tend to be those living in rural and poor areas – are disadvantaged in accessing things like online education and telemedicine. But a report from the California-based research firm Broadband Now, published in December, estimates that only a fraction of eligible households are actually receiving the discount.

In Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, less than 8% of qualifying households had enrolled in the program. The rates were higher – between 9% and 25% – in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

Tyler Cooper, the executive director of Broadband Now, says there’s been a lack of messaging in many locations – especially rural areas.

“A lot of the advertising for this benefit has really fallen to the [internet] providers,” he said. “It’s essentially up to them to make their customers aware – which we have seen providers doing – but it varies from place to place. In really rural areas, that communication just might not be as constant or even present at all.”

Changes are coming this year. As part of the infrastructure law, a new benefit called the Affordable Connectivity Program replaces the existing subsidy. The incentive drops to $30 a month but expands eligibility to anyone making 200% or less of the federal poverty guideline. The $75 discount will remain for those on tribal lands. Households can apply at acpbenefit.org.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Copyright 2021 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Lamar and Yuma schools cling to Savages and Tribe after being told to drop Native American mascots

Lamar and Yuma schools cling to Savages and Tribe after being told to drop Native American mascots

Lamar and Yuma schools cling to Savages and Tribe after being told to drop Native American mascots

By Sue McMillin/The Colorado Sun
Published January 18, 2022
American Indian statues made by Lamar High graduating seniors over the years and donated to the city line Savage Avenue leading to the school in Lamar in this July 15, 2021, photo. Mike Sweeney / Special to The Colorado Sun

This story was originally published in The Colorado Sun.

The Lamar and Yuma school districts were told last week that their preferred team names – Savages and Tribe, respectively — likely would not comply with a new Colorado law that bans the use of Native American mascots.

“Savages is probably the worst word I’ve heard out there, out of all of them,” said Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and a board member of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

He went on to read definitions of the word, noting that all were negative or derogatory and questioned why Lamar would want to continue to use the word.

“It hurts to see that somebody would use this word as something proud,” Heart said.

Both districts were advised by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera that they should probably have a “Plan B” when they come before the board at its regular meeting in March, one of two upcoming meetings when the board will vote on whether schools are complying with the law.

The discussion came at a special meeting of the CCIA board during which five districts presented plans for changing mascots to comply with Senate Bill 116. Several board members told the districts they had a hard time disassociating Savages and Tribe from the Native American context because of how the schools have historically used their mascots.

Lamar has long used the Savages nickname along with Native American logos and imagery and in the 1980s had “Chief Ugh Lee” as the mascot. The Yuma Indians also have used Native American imagery and mascots.

The CCIA has found 26 schools within 14 districts to be out of compliance with the new law, and all are facing fines of $25,000 a month beginning June 1 if changes are not made.

Although a lawsuit was filed in November by Mountain States Legal Foundation of Lakewood in an attempt to overturn the law, other districts and schools continue to work toward compliance. The lawsuit has plaintiffs from Lamar and Yuma.

Last week’s meeting was the first at which the CCIA board members discussed specific mascots. The commission also this week posted guidance that the board adopted in December – six months into the year in which schools must comply with the law – that delineates some of the things the board will consider when reviewing mascot changes.

District officials have complained that they’ve been seeking such guidance and feedback since at least September and are now on a short timeline to get the changes made.

“We were getting for the first time very concrete feedback,” said Chad Krug, Lamar School District superintendent. “That was helpful because to this point it’s just been silence. Even if it was hard to hear, we were happy to get feedback.”

Lamar’s rebranding campaign will have two options

He took issue with the board’s guidance to consider the historical context of the name and for generalized comments about the district’s past lack of respect toward Native Americans and its stubborn desire to retain the Savages nickname.

“We are working toward compliance and should not be expected to bear the burden of a historical slant against Native Americans,” he said.

“I believe we can come up with a logo with Savages that doesn’t draw any reference to Native Americans.”

The district’s newly appointed mascot committee will meet Jan. 28 with consultants Kati Knisley and John Jenson to begin work on a rebranding campaign. Krug said Friday that will now include two plans, the original one to remake the Savage nickname and one without using Savages.

The Yuma School District has already been through that process and whittled about 18 suggested nicknames down to three: Tribe, Yetis and Pioneers, Superintendent Dianna Chrisman told CCIA during the Zoom meeting.

Tribe was the overwhelming favorite within the community, she said.

Board member Rachel Bryan-Auker, a tribal liaison with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the word tribe is closely associated with Native Americans in Colorado and perhaps more so for Yuma because of its use of the Indians mascot.

Chrisman said she understands that it can be associated with Native Americans, but it has many other definitions, including in religion and pop culture.

The Yuma High School gym — known as “The Pit” — was branded with the Indians team mascot with the baseboards sporting “Tribe” in this 2012 photo. Eric Lubbers / The Colorado Sun

“Tribe is not unique to Native Americans,” she told the board. “We really are a unique group and we do love the definition of tribe. We’re looking at those alternative definitions. We’ve been careful and conscientious about that.”

When board members persisted that they had concerns about using Tribe, Chrisman asked how that differed from schools that will continue to use Warriors despite past associations with Native American logos and mascots.

“We want equal treatment,” she said.

Bryan-Auker said she personally sees a closer association of tribe with Native Americans than the use of Warriors, but noted she was speaking only for herself.

Other board members who were troubled by the use of tribe did not address the comparison with the use of Warriors.

During their presentations Chrisman and Lamar Board of Education President Lanie Mireles both noted how important their mascot was in their small, tight knit communities.

Mireles said Lamar identifies strongly with the Savages nickname and the board has worked to find solutions that will meet the requirements of the law and the interests of the community. She said it has considered using savage as an adjective rather than a noun, such as Savage Storm.

Warrior districts

Two districts that have used Warriors nicknames also gave presentations, and at least one intends to continue its use.

Weldon Valley School District Superintendent Ben Bauman told the board the schools have been eliminating all Native American imagery and the logo has been changed from a W with an arrow to a WV without an arrow or feather.

The district has not had a mascot figure in the four years he’s been there, nor have any of the old Warrior chants or drumming been in use, he said.

When asked by Heart if the community still engaged in such activity, Bauman said that was not evident at school events.

“We cannot control the community, but we can control what we teach our kids,” he said, noting that is an important part of the transition.

Campo School District Superintendent Nikki Johnson said the school rarely has used its Warrior nickname since joining the South Baca Patriots sports cooperative 16 years ago. Some Native American imagery had remained at the school, but it all has been removed, she said.

The school board didn’t think it was necessary to immediately decide on whether the district would retain the Warrior name or any nickname, she said.

“The students identify as Patriots,” she said. “Some alumni would like us to keep the school mascot as Warriors and look for another image and the board considering that.”

The CCIA board members did not give feedback specific to the use of Warriors at the meeting.

At least one other school, Central High School in Grand Junction, has decided to retain the Warriors nickname with a new logo and is in the process of eliminating all Native American imagery.

The Thunderbirds

The Montrose School District is in the process of changing mascots at its middle school and high school but asked the commission for permission to retain the Thunderbirds as the mascot for Johnson Elementary School.

Jacob Price, a school psychologist in the district and a member of the Pawnee Nation, said he has long fought to rid schools of Native American mascots and is in total agreement with Senate Bill 116.

However, he said the Thunderbird is a cross-cultural mythical creature and is the only mascot of that nature on the list of schools not in compliance with the law.

Johnson Elementary School in Montrose has redesigned its Thunderbirds logo to come into compliance with state law requiring schools to eliminate Native American imagery from mascots and logos. Handout /

The district has redesigned the school logo to eliminate Indigenous iconography and believes it is in compliance.

The CCIA board had no questions on the Montrose presentation and gave no indication of whether it agreed with Price.

District spokesman Matt Jenkins said the district has had no further guidance from CCIA since the meeting and expects the board to vote on whether to remove Johnson Elementary from the list at the March meeting.

In the meantime, Montrose High School has narrowed its new mascot choices to: Bulls, Storm, Raptor, Mountain Lions, Mavericks and Red Hawks. It has been the Indians. The middle school’s choices are: Bears, Badgers and Bobcats. It has been the Braves.

The Sanford School District announced Jan. 3 that it would retire its Indian mascot at graduation and will officially become the Thundering Mustangs on May 28. A new logo is being designed.

Indian Health Service’s chief medical officer says, “the People really stepped-up”

Indian Health Service’s chief medical officer says, “the People really stepped-up”

Indian Health Service's chief medical officer says, "the People really stepped-up"

by Sarah Flower | KSUT Tribal Radio | January 16, 2022

Native American tribes across the nation have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus pandemic. KSUT’s Sarah Flower speaks with Dr. Christensen, Indian Health Service's chief medical officer about the impacts of coronavirus on Native American families, and how tribal nations are preparing for the surge.

Press play to listen to full interview (17:47 min)

KSUT welcomes new board member, Mikki Naranjo

KSUT welcomes new board member, Mikki Naranjo

KSUT welcomes new board member, Mikki Naranjo

Four Corners Public Radio | By KSUT Staff
Published January 15, 2022
Mikki Naranjo has joined the KSUT Board of Directors./courtesy of Mikki Naranjo

Mikki Naranjo is the newest member of the KSUT Board of Directors, filling one of three open seats to be held by enrolled members of the Southern Ute Tribe.

Ms. Naranjo is a graduate of Fort Lewis College with a B.A. in Accounting. She worked for the Sky Ute Casino Resort in the finance department for 16 years, from accounting technician to controller. In addition, she's held various positions within the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's finance department and is currently employed as the Contracts & Grants Manager for the Tribe's Permanent Fund.

Mikki is the founder of "Shadow Wind Dancers" and has performed for various organizations and companies throughout Colorado. She has coordinated Native American dance events for the casino and helped produce the annual casino pow wow, as well as assisted with the "Heritage Performance Train Ride" with the Durango/Silverton Train and was acknowledged with a Governor's Volunteer Tourism Award.

Colorado’s latest COVID surge is leading to child hospitalizations and a record positivity rate

Colorado’s latest COVID surge is leading to child hospitalizations and a record positivity rate

Colorado's latest COVID surge is leading to child hospitalizations and a record positivity rate

Four Corners Public Radio | By Sarah Flower
Published January 6, 2022

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Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Many COVID-related metrics are on the increase in Colorado. We spoke to State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy, M.D to get the latest.

Key takeaways:
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment reported Wednesday (1/5) that 60 children are hospitalized across Colorado with COVID-19. Last Wednesday it was 25.
  • Some of the child hospitalizations could be for other reasons, but they were COVID-positive at the time of admission.
  • As of Wednesday, the state's positivity rate is 26%, the highest yet recorded in the pandemic. For context, that means that 1-in-4 people in Colorado likely have COVID.

We also reached out to Colorado COVID Incident Commander Scott Bookman to get an update on the shortage of monoclonal antibody treatments.

Listen to the interview for more details.

Public Health update: Local omicron cases rise five-fold, seriously stressing infrastructure

Public Health update: Local omicron cases rise five-fold, seriously stressing infrastructure

Public Health update: Local omicron cases rise five fold, seriously stressing infrastructure

Four Corners Public Radio | By Sarah Flower
Published January 4, 2022

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Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Positive COVID-19 cases are reaching unprecedented numbers in southwest Colorado leaving local public health overwhelmed. KSUT’s Sarah Flower talks with San Juan Basin Public Health about how the new variant is affecting services for the region.

Interview transcript:

Sarah Flower
Liane, so much has changed with COVID-19, and this pandemic and this surge of cases and hospitalizations climbing, and lag times for the actual numbers due to the holiday season - and reporting of these numbers. There is a lot to cover today, but what I'd like to start off with is cases locally, and how things are faring right now in southwest Colorado.

Liane Jollon
Things are moving very quickly with omicron variant. We have seen here in southwest Colorado in the jurisdiction served by San Juan Basin Public Health, just about a five fold increase in our daily averaging cases since Christmas to now. With a five fold increase in cases in that short amount of time, it puts tremendous stress on our local infrastructure. Our case investigators our outbreak investigators, it also puts tremendous pressure on our testing facilities and has created a lack of availability of the over the counter rapid tasks and other resources that people really want to have available to them to control this virus. So at this volume of cases, we're not going to get to every positive case in a timely fashion.

Flower
Lack of testing has been an issue across the nation. And with school starting back this week, are we behind in the number of tests we need to be providing for our community right now.

Jollon
We're hearing reports of testing locations in other places in Colorado that simply cannot accommodate the requests that they've gotten. We have not gotten those reports here yet. But it would not surprise us if in the next couple of weeks, we do end up in a similar situation to lots of communities in Colorado, where we simply cannot get everyone run through the free community test sites. So if you're symptomatic, get tested right away. If you're exposed, get tested on day five or get tested when you develop symptoms. But if you cannot get a test, the most important thing, if you're symptomatic, is stay home, do not go to work. Don't go to the supermarket, don't go out to any public indoor crowded space, because we really need you to follow the isolation orders or follow the quarantine orders if you've been exposed.

Flower
The most recent data we have from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows an insanely steep climb in the number of positive cases, not really even gradual, but just a complete vertical line far surpassing the numbers that we saw in the peak of 2020. And what we do know from two years in this pandemic is that what follows these positive cases is hospitalizations and then ultimately death. With this high number of cases, Liane there is so much we don't know about this omichron variant.

Jollon
In 2020, the highest daily case count that we ever had in Colorado was just under 7000. And this was last winter in just the absolute crush of our winter surge, before vaccine became available. We are now seeing days in Colorado where Colorado is reporting 11,000 positive cases on a single day. And we know we're missing cases because individuals are not able to get into test sites and are not necessarily able to find rapid tests. But if they happen to have their hands on rapid tests, a lot of those are not getting reported into the system. Historically, with this pandemic, increases in cases have led to increases in hospitalizations and increases in fatalities. We don't know how much hospitalization and fatality this variant is going to lead to. It's going to be really hard to figure out what happens next, until we have some basic questions answered. You know, what is the severity of this variant? What is the transmissibility? And then how does this variant react to the vaccines that are currently available? We do believe that all signs point to it's highly, highly transmissible. As far as how well the current vaccines protects people, a lot of the science and a lot of the recommendations are it is so important right now to be fully vaccinated and be boosted if you're more than six months out from your last vaccine, if it was an MRNA or be boosted if you're more than two months out from a Johnson & Johnson completion. What we have seen locally throughout the last few months is we have seen extraordinarily full hospitals. We do not have any more room in our local hospitals. Yet we've seen 90, 95, 100% of the individuals in our local hospitals as not vaccinated.

Flower
That's Liane Jollon with this week's COVID-19 update here on KSUT.

Native Braids: A man recounts the day his father invited him home to pass along spiritual responsibilities

Native Braids: A man recounts the day his father invited him home to pass along spiritual responsibilities

Native Braids: A man recounts the day his father invited him home to pass along spiritual responsibilities

Four Corners Public Radio | By KSUT Tribal Radio Staff
Published December 27, 2021
Russell Blackbird performs the Eagle Dance as a teenager. Photo used by permission of Russell Blackbird/
Hear this story and others on the Native Braids website.

Though he lives in Ignacio Colorado, Russell Blackbird is a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska.

In his conversation with Bird Red, Russell recounts one of his proudest moments in life–the day Russell’s father invited him home to pass along some spiritual responsibilities.

When to listen on KSUT:

Native Braids episodes can be heard on both Tribal Radio and Four Corners Public Radio at approximately the following times (actual time may vary slightly due to story length):

- Mondays and Wednesdays: at approx 7:50 AM during Morning Edition

- Tuesdays and Thursdays: at approx 5:50 PM during All Things Considered

Native Braids: A grandmother sings a Ute worship song and talks about the meaning behind the lyrics

Native Braids: A grandmother sings a Ute worship song and talks about the meaning behind the lyrics

Native Braids: A grandmother sings a Ute worship song and talks about the meaning behind the lyrics

Four Corners Public Radio | By KSUT Tribal Radio Staff
Published December 22, 2021
Kathryn Jacket attends a youth camp in Towaoc, Colorado. Summer, 2021. /Mia Clark /
Hear this story and others on the Native Braids website.

Kathryn Jacket and her granddaughter Jeralyne Arnold are close. They spend most evenings together watching their favorite shows and talking on the living room couch. So when they sat down for an interview, Kathryn and Jeralyne were very much at ease with one another.

In this excerpt of their conversation, Kathryn sings a Ute worship song and talks about the meaning behind the lyrics.

Kathryn Jacket and Jeralyne Arnold are both members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

When to listen on KSUT:

Native Braids episodes can be heard on both Tribal Radio and Four Corners Public Radio at approximately the following times (actual time may vary slightly due to story length):

- Mondays and Wednesdays: at approx 7:50 AM during Morning Edition

- Tuesdays and Thursdays: at approx 5:50 PM during All Things Considered