Ute Mountain Ute Leader, Ernest House Sr., Passes

Ernest House Sr. was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident outside of Cortez on September 17th; he was 65. More than 500 guests attended his funeral in Towaoc on the 24th to pay their respects and honor the former Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe Chairman. 

House was known across Indian Country and the nation for his thoughtfulness, compassion, and devotion to his people. The speakers during his funeral painted a picture of a wise leader who built bridges and persevered through challenges. In addition, House was a listener and also had a wonderful sense of humor. 

House Sr. grew up in Mancos Canyon and was a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe (Weeminuche Band). He lived near his grandfather, Chief Jack House, the last hereditary chief of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. After high school, he served in the Colorado Army National Guard, Special Forces (Airborne) Group. After serving, he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Park Service. House worked for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe for more than 30 years. He was elected to the tribal council in 1979 and elected tribal chairman in 1982. He went on to serve four four-year terms as chairman, the last of which ended in November. 

According to his son, House Jr. “He wanted to carry through the issues that Chief Jack House advocated for.” One of those projects focused on securing water rights for the tribe. Under House's leadership, the tribe completed the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act, which guaranteed water to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes from the Dolores and Animas-La Plata water projects.