Major Native event to open DNC

DENVER - Colorado;s first residents will offer the first official welcome to the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 23, when Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Northern Ute tribal leaders and other Indian notables in full regalia will lead the pageantry of a grand entry before officials address some 13,000 media representatives.

''It's the right thing to do, since they were the first people in the state of Colorado,'' said Holly Arnold Kinney, co-chair of the entertainment committee for the media event at Elitch Gardens near the Pepsi Center. The Ute Mountain and Southern Ute tribes are the only sovereign nations currently in Colorado, once considered home by the Northern Utes and many other tribes.

Ernest House Jr., Ute Mountain Ute and executive secretary of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, said speakers will include tribal chairmen Clement Frost, Southern Ute, and Ernest House Sr., Ute Mountain Ute and a representative of the Northern Ute Tribe, Utah; Colorado Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, CCIA chair; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The grand entry will include the tribal officials, Denver area community leaders, the posting of the colors by veterans' groups, and singing by various drum groups in a dramatic display that will be ''the first time a lot of them will have seen it,'' said Arnold Kinney of the media event.

In addition to grand entry, the official welcome in August will include performances by Denver-area drum and dance groups, including the Northern and Southern Plains Indian Dancers and Singers and other groups, said Deb Sankey, co-chair for Native planning for the event.

The Native presence at the media event will be followed by Tribal Unity Day on Aug. 24, when a Denver Indian Center-sponsored pow wow will be hosted across from the Denver City and County Building from 2 to 6 p.m. in Civic Center Park, the heart of many key public events at the DNC.

In addition to vendor and arts and crafts booths, buffalo cuisine will be sold at the pow wow. The meat will be supplied by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of South Dakota, said Jay Grimm, DIC director.

A painting, ''The Grand Entry,'' by Sisseton-Wahpeton artist JoAnne Bird, will be featured on a commemorative poster for the DNC, said Kim Cameron, co-planner of Tribal Unity Day events. Local artists will also be showcased.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is expected to attend one or more Native events, but planners said any of the presumptive presidential candidate's appearances would be scheduled later.

Other events are planned for the DNC by various Native groups in metro Denver, including:

"Public reception and other events at Denver Indian Center, with announcements posted at www.denverindiancenter.org.

"Various private events for tribal leaders and DNC delegates, including Native Gathering 2008 from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Colorado State Historical Society, presented by the Procurement Learning for American Indian Nations and Societies, a nonprofit program for Indian- or tribally owned businesses. Bill Tallbull, Northern/Southern Cheyenne and PLAINS procurement specialist, said speakers invited to the event for top business and tribal leaders include Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and Hickenlooper.

"Native caucuses Aug. 25 and 27 at the Pepsi Center and Convention Center.

"A screening Aug. 27 of the independent documentary, ''The Battle for Whiteclay,'' by Mark Vasina, for the Indian community of Denver. The film covers an eight-year period of controversy over alcohol sales in Whiteclay, Neb., to residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, just over the state line in South Dakota, where alcoholism is described as a major

social problem.

"Native Nations Uniting for Change is hosting a policy discussion and reception for tribal leaders and others from 2 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Denver Art Museum. Joe Garcia, president of the National Congress of American Indians, is a scheduled speaker.

In addition to the media, delegates, convention officials and others, hundreds of Native attendees are expected from across the country, including those from state and tribal groups and Indian organizations. Some of the 20,000-plus residents of the Indian community in the Denver metro area will attend convention-related events.

Some metro Denver organizations may be tapped for roles in the convention itself. Denver Indian Health and Family Services, which has been requested to help with medical backup for other events, said they had been contacted some time ago, but no follow-up has taken place.

Other meetings may be held at the downtown Colorado Convention Center by Native delegations, where sessions are already scheduled for black, Asian and Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic groups, among others.