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Bruce Ignacio Named to Business Committee by Northern Utes

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Bruce Ignacio edged out incumbent Irene Cuch, a two-year chairwoman of the Ute Indian Tribe’s governing Business Committee, in her bid for re-election to the Committee’s open Uintah Band seat on April 24.

Ignacio, an artisan from Fort Duchesne, the tribal headquarters on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah received 102 votes, 14 more than Cuch in the unofficial returns according to Robert Colorow, public relations director for the Tribe, who noted that the Committee is now all male. Ignacio’s votes were about one-fourth of the 402 registered voters in the Uintah Band.

The Ute Indian Tribe includes three Bands, each of which seats two members on the Committee. They are the Uintah, Whiteriver and Uncompahgre Bands, the last of which is the largest, with 676 registered voters. The Whiteriver Band has 406, Colorow said.

Each Band elects two representatives to four-year terms in two-year cycles.

One Committee member for each Band was elected April 24 and the three present incumbents whose Band terms are up in 2015 will either run for re-election or step down at that time, he said.

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Gordon Howell, of the Whiteriver Band, received 113 votes in the general election, winning that Band’s seat over Luke Duncan, a former Committee member, who garnered 91 votes. For the Uncompahgre Band seat, Tony Small won in an unofficial 197-103 landslide against Delilah Longhair, Colorow said.

After an official swearing-in May 6, members of the Committee will select a new chairman.

Tribal members must be 21 years of age to vote and must have been a resident on the reservation for more than one year before casting their ballots in tribal elections. Races are won by simple majority.

The tribe’s lands encompass more than 4.5 million acres and constitute the second-largest reservation in the United States. Some 3,175 members live on the reservation, where oil and gas development provides the primary funding for tribal government and services.

New Committee members will face a number of issues, including a BIA-conducted election that could widen tribal enrollment criteria; possible leasing of tribal water and water storage questions; administration of oil and gas enterprises, and an ongoing controversy with some surrounding communities and counties over a lack of respect for reservation boundaries.