Ute Mountain Tribe, Colorado, New Mexico & Utah


For the eighth straight year, a class from Foothill Elementary in Boulder, Colo., raised money to help stabilize Indian ruins in Mesa Verde National Park and to visit. "We heard the ruins were falling apart, so we started giving money," said Megan Schwartz, a third-grader in Marcy Lockhart's class at Foothill. The school's donations to site preservation over the years total more than $10,000. Lockhart started the Adopt-A-Ruin program at Foothill in 1991 in response to a push for volunteers to help protect sites at the nearby Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park. After a 1996 fire damaged ruins at Mesa Verde, the school decided to split its largesse between the tribal park and the National Park Service. "It's become a tradition. The children begin in September and work all the way through the year," Lockhart said. "The whole purpose of the project is service - an opportunity to donate their time to something that isn't theirs. They feel they have a hand in history," she added. "If people your age are getting excited about protecting these dwellings, that gives us hope that these places are going to be here for hundreds of years more," park education specialist Melissa Cobern told the children.

Work underway to sharpen the image of one of the best-known examples of Southwestern kitsch has raised questions among some members of the Ute Mountain Nation. Giant arrows that pierce the dirt near Mancos, Colo., are being painted and repaired. The 30-foot-long shafts, 10 telephone poles in a previous life, will be fixed up along with three, 25-foot plywood tipis at The Hogan trading post adjacent to U.S. Highway 160. "People view them as advertising gimmicks," said Terry Knight, assistant general manager for the tribe's farm and ranch enterprise. "There are certainly some members of the tribe who think it is an exploitative use of Indian culture, but I've never heard the leadership make a formal statement in opposition." Hampton Inn and Hampton Inn and Suites has made a point of preserving landmarks its customers pass on the road before bedding down. Mancos Mayor Greg Rath said, "If you're sending people out to Mancos you say, 'Watch out for the tipis and the arrows.' It's early Americana highway kitsch. Some people love it." Ricky Lightfoot, president of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, said the arrows are more tacky than insulting. "It's probably up there with Car Henge or other roadside attractions."

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota - The man accused of driving an all-terrain vehicle into the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribal chairman has pleaded guilty to five charges. Joseph Peltier, 60, of Dunseith, struck Richard "Jiggers" LaFromboise with his ATV in March. LaFromboise suffered a broken arm. Peltier pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and operating an ATV where prohibited, under the influence of alcohol, without a headlamp and without a driver's license. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 19.