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Ground blessing prepares for Democratic Nation Convention

Massive event to take place Aug. 25 - 28

DENVER - The Democratic National Convention;s 31-day clock started ticking July 25 with a ground blessing attended by party notables, including Frank LaMere, Winnebago and chairman of the Native American Caucus.

A ceremony performed by Ute tribal leaders blessed the DNC site at the Pepsi Center as smoke from traditional sage offerings in a small garden west of the building contrasted with the modernity of cables and electrical lines twisting through the inner area, modified to host the massive upcoming event.

Boyd Lopez, Sun Dance and Bear Dance leader of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Byron Red Sr., executive officer of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, prayed and spoke briefly to the state and tribal officials. Red sang a Ute sunrise song and Andy Cozad, Kiowa, and John Emhoolah, Kiowa/Arapaho, sang a song composed by Leonard Cozad Sr. that celebrates the gift of life.

Colorado Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, chair of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, said the two Ute tribal nations were the ''longest continuous residents of the state'' where there was a Native presence 13,000 years ago that ''long predates statehood.''

The blessing of the building itself by Red and Lopez preceded an address by LaMere, who noted that ''Democratic candidates have found their way to our reservations and our homes.''

The Democratic Party ''has stood with us, and we need to stand with them,'' he said. ''Everyone is important - there is no one among us who is unimportant.

''It is the Indian people of North America that first consecrated the land and prepared us to honor our Mother Earth.

''One month from now, people from the four directions will come together to talk together about how things can be,'' he said; and while polls and politics will occupy peoples' minds until then, ''the Creator cares about who will care for the people.''

LaMere gave the Ute leaders tobacco he received at a recent Sun Dance in Pine Ridge, S.D., and said ''the Ute medicine is strong'' because an eagle was sighted south of the Pepsi Center while they were praying.

Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said the Pepsi Center is the ''most visible and tangible symbol'' of preparation for the convention, scheduled for Aug. 25 - 28. She spoke about Native presence in the ''spirit of the West,'' which is of ''highest importance'' to the Democratic Party.

The ceremony concluded as Emhoolah and Cozad sang the Kiowa Flag Song.

Others present at the ceremony included Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Clement Frost; State Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, Comanche; Pat Waak, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party; Ernest House Jr., Ute Mountain Ute, CCIA executive secretary; Dave Jolette, a vice president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises; and representatives of other groups, including Native American Bank.

Modifications to the Pepsi Center have involved about 600 workers, who spent weeks modifying the 20,000-seat center to accommodate the needs of up to 15,000 journalists. Cable bridges about 15 feet high connect the arena itself to media facilities, and a bloggers' area is located in a converted weight room.

The center is home to various sports events, including the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, after the DNC concludes.