Colorado Native leader resigns key position

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DENVER – The executive secretary of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs has resigned in order to become director of governmental affairs for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce after five years as a key CCIA spokesman.

Ernest House Jr.’s announcement cites the challenges of his new job and additional family responsibilities.

He also hopes to return to the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in southwestern Colorado in the future to work with his tribe, and added that he “still (has) a lot to learn” in areas that the new job may address.

Businesses, nonprofits, small entrepreneurial ventures and other sectors of Colorado Springs’ “growing community and growing Native American community” will offer opportunities for learning, he said.

He is the son of Ernest House, Ute Mountain Ute tribal leader, and the great-grandson of Chief Jack House, the last traditional chief of the tribe, whose picture adorns the dome of the Colorado State Capitol.

One of his main roles with CCIA was coordinating with the state’s two tribal nations, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and other Native organizations; distributing information on programs and services and on legislation affecting Indian people; making legislative recommendations; performing needs assessments, and other tasks.

In a letter to supporters, House said he believes “we have made huge gains in Colorado for the first and continuous residents of Colorado. Together, we changed the stereotypical perception and outlook of the American Indian citizen, community and culture.”

House Jr. played a key role with the Colorado Historical Society in developing a national model for implementing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act 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 were not developed for repatriating Native remains that cannot be affiliated with a particular tribe.

House Jr. headed up consultation on the process with about 50 tribes that have 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.

He had also announced a possible Indian health summit to be held next summer in southwestern Colorado on Ute tribal lands.

House Jr., who studied political science at Metropolitan State College in Denver, said his last day with CCIA will be Jan. 22. No successor has been named.