NPR: Southern Ute Tribe displays cultural riches in museum

"It's not often that you hear of Native American tribes flourishing thanks to the U.S. government, but that's what happened to Colorado's Southern Ute.

With the help of a historic government blunder, the Southern Ute have become one of the country's wealthiest tribes. So wealthy, in fact, that they've just transformed their old museum into an impressive new cultural center in Ignacio, Colo. It's called the Southern Ute Museum and Cultural Center and it's housed in a new $38 million building. The hope is that center will help boost tourism, but it's also meant to teach outsiders and tribal youth about Southern Ute history and culture.

In the late-19th century, the U.S. government divided the Ute people up into three different tribes, sending them north, west and letting some stay where they were.

"We remained here," explains museum board Chairman Robert Burch, who grew up on a Ute reservation near Colorado's border with New Mexico. "Little did they know we were sitting on oil — natural gas. And once we started getting it out of the ground [and] producing it, we became a wealthy tribe.""

Get the Story:
Colorado Tribe Puts Cultural Riches On Display (NPR 6/13)

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Southern Ute Tribe sets grand opening for $38M museum (5/16)

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