Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Keystone Policy Center Launch RISE Education Initiative

Millie Hamner and Ernest House, Jr. tour the Higher Education Lab for the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe hosted a community launch of a Tribal education initiative May 25-26 that will develop an academic and cultural curriculum for Ute Mountain Ute youth and the community at large. The initiative is a result of years of planning and a grant from the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Education Fund.

“Keystone Policy Center has been working with Ute Mountain Ute leaders for nearly two years facilitating this planning process for the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. During that time, Keystone has learned from Tribal Elders and leaders, community partners from early childhood through higher education, and others involved in projects and activities supporting the Tribe’s youth. We are eager to now shift from planning to development and implementation at the direction of the Tribal Council,” said Millie Hamner, senior policy director for the Keystone Policy Center and leader of the RISE project.

“The Tribal Council has envisioned an education initiative that creates a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics curriculum that is also embedded with Ute arts, language, culture, and traditions. This initiative will serve the academic, social-emotional, and basic educational needs of students and families,” said Ernest House, Jr., the director of the American Indian/Alaska Native program for Keystone Policy Center.

At the direction of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council, educators, and families, Keystone Policy Center will facilitate strategic planning to develop an innovative, culturally-based education system for students on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation and their families. A central pillar of the plan is to integrate Ute arts, language, and culture into all levels of education and curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, (Native) arts, and math (STEAM) to prepare children, youth, and families for the workplace of the future. The project, known as Growing Ute STEAM, aims to provide an innovative, student-focused model of learning and support for all students of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

Community members gather for a celebratory lunch for the fall opening of the Kwiyagat Community Academy.

As part of the launch, Tribal leaders, education stakeholders, and members of the team at Keystone Policy Center conducted an education roundtable, participated in a walking tour of the Early Childhood Center, met with leaders of the Kwiyagat Community Academy, and hosted a community celebration and lunch, among other activities.

In January, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe was awarded a grant from the RISE Education Fund to support this initiative. The RISE Education fund was launched in Sep. 2020 by the State of Colorado to support high-needs school districts, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19 in a manner that creates sustainable innovations that improve student learning, close equity gaps, and enhance operational efficiency for pre-K-12 through higher education.

“In the past, generations of our grandfathers and our parents, a lot of our students were taken away from our homes and they were taught to assimilate into the system,” said Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, during January’s announcement. “I think while each one of us are also looking to streamline education to meet the needs of our future, we also want to include the past.”

Last week’s launch is the beginning of a robust public engagement effort that will continue through this summer.