Way out West: Ute elder speaks of tribe’s creation story in Paonia

Compiled by Tom Ross
Northern Ute elder Roland McCook spoke in Steamboat Springs in 2008. Last week he told a Paonia audience about the Utes' creation story.
Ute Indian historian Roland McCook.

Ute elder tells of tribal religion

— Northern Ute elder Roland McCook, who spoke to about 100 people at the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs in August 2008, told an audience in Paonia on Sept. 13 that his people eschew science and are unafraid to die.

Steamboat Today reported in 2008 that McCook helped start the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in 1995, encouraged students of Ute descent to go to Colorado Mountain College, started a skiing program with Billy Kidd for Ute children and ran a leg for the Olympic Torch preceding the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In 2008, McCook said that rather than dwell on the poor quality of the land his tribe had been given at its reservation in Utah, he preferred to talk about the Northern Utes’ tribal traditions.

“My heart could be angry. I could stand here and give you a different idea and tell you how I really feel. But what would be the point of doing that? I would rather come here and educate you,” McCook told Steamboat Today four years ago.

In Paonia this week, McCook, 71, told his audience that his people are content to die because there is a better life afterward, according to a blog post in the High Country News by Neil LaRubbio. The tribal elder spoke about his peoples’ creation story.

“Our people shun and don’t believe in science,” he said. “Our belief is that we came from the Rocky Mountains. We shun archaeologists and geologists.”

Bozeman ice palace?

The climbing community and officials in Gallatin County, Mont., are considering a proposal to build a concert venue and an 84-foot ice-climbing tower at the county fairgrounds that proponents say could make Bozeman a destination for the climbing community.

Renowned Mount Everest climber Conrad Anker and Montana State University architecture professor Mike Everts helped present the plan this week, according to an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

The article noted that ice climbing would be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. A rendering of the proposed tower in Bozeman reflects angular modern architecture.

Climbing author Joe Josephson told the Chronicle that the tower could be the first of its kind in the Western hemisphere.

“We could be part of an Olympic movement right here,” he said. This “is something Bozeman can own. We can brand our town.”

The estimated cost of the tower is $3 million to $4 million. The proponents are not seeking taxpayer dollars.

Town of Vail boosts summer marketing

The Vail Town Council agreed this week to a plan for the Vail Local Marketing District to spend an additional $230,000 in summer marketing in 2013, boosting the total marketing budget to $2.57 million.

The Vail Daily reported Tuesday that the additional monies will be devoted primarily to advertising and public relations aimed at attracting destination and international guests as well as group business. The newspaper reported that more than half of Vail’s summer guests are destination visitors and that 75 percent of summer visitors are returning guests. Room nights booked by groups were up 24 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association proposed a 2013 summer marketing budget of $725,000 this week.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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