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Gearing up for Denver

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Democratic National Convention events planning is under way

DENVER - Democratic National Convention attendees will be met at Denver International Airport with a positive Native presence - colorful graphics designed to showcase the area's original residents, past and present.

Ernest House Jr., executive secretary of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, said he and others want to underscore the state's Native heritage. Original tribes in and near the area include the Utes, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, Lakota, Apache, Comanche, Shoshone, Pueblo groups, and others.

The state's two contemporary tribal nations - the Ute Mountain Utes and Southern Utes - will be attending the convention and are supporting a welcoming reception for Indian delegations, representatives of Native organizations, and others.

As the planning horizon shrinks for the Aug. 25 - 28 convention, other major events are firming up, although, as real estate savants say, it's about location, location, location.

A celebratory pow wow and Native market may take place in Denver's downtown Civic Center Park near the state capitol, said Kim Cameron, president of the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce.

''We think this would be a good venue for the event,'' she said, noting that the city of Denver may make the park available through a permit the city holds for the site on an opening day.

Other possibilities could also present themselves because, in an inadvertent stroke of luck for Native convention plans, the cash-strapped DNC host committee had to cancel welcoming events for state delegations at 24 locations throughout the city in favor of a single, large event at the Colorado

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Convention Center.

Jay Grimm, executive director of the Denver Indian Center, said the National Congress of American Indians will be contacted about convention plans. Additional national Native organizations may become involved.

Finding at least one venue is a ''big thing to talk about'' in coming days, House said, mentioning The Fort restaurant among others, as a site of previous Native events.

Ben Sherman, president of the Western American Indian Chamber, said ''most places were booked up a year ago'' and that one possible location for a welcoming reception did not work out because of security concerns.

Until the DNC host committee consolidated its reception plans, the only locations that seemed to be available for Native open houses or other events were either in Fort Collins, 64 miles north of Denver, or Colorado Springs, 70 miles to the south.

Funds for a major welcoming event are being collected ''if we can find a venue,'' Sherman said.

Conference calling, meeting and networking will intensify in Denver's Native community as planning deadlines for the DNC approach.

Hundreds of Native attendees are expected from across the country, including those from state and tribal delegations and Indian organizations. In addition, political aficionados among the 20,000-plus residents of the Indian community in the Denver metro area will attend at least some related events.