The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Politics need a little peace, compromise and politeness


February 16, 2020

I started pondering Chief Ouray the other day and wondered what he could teach us in this politically charged day in which we’re living.

For those of you who never lived on the banks of the Uncompaghre River or worked in downtown Ouray, Colorado, let me explain who I’m talking about.

The Native American Ouray was born, probably around 1833, in Taos, the son of a Jicarilla Apache father and a Ute mother. He was raised by a sheepherding Spanish family where he learned Spanish and English. Later in life he learned the Apache and Ute languages, a skill that would serve him well.

His father despite his Apache heritage was adopted into the Uncompaghre Ute band in Colorado and eventually became their leader. Ouray eventually joined him in Colorado and after his father’s death became chief.

Early on, the well-educated Ouray understood how dire and hopeless his people’s situation was as U.S. expansionism loomed. He adopted the tact of negotiation and diplomacy to put the Ute in the best position possible. He met personally with presidents Rutherford B. Hayes as well as Ulysses S. Grant and was probably in Washington, D.C., more than any other Native American chief of his day.

His talents at negotiation landed the Ute in a much better spot than other Native American groups that suffered slaughter and depredation. His downfall was that the Ute society was broken into lots of small bands and while he was getting along well with the white men, Ouray had trouble bringing his own people together.

Much like today in government, whether in Washington or Santa Fe, the person standing in the middle trying to be the peacemaker can’t overcome the lies, deception and evil coming from both sides.

We’ve come to a time where working for the best solution for the most carries the label of traitor and sellout. Polarization is so bad that the only thing that matters is winning and hopefully punishing the other side.

I long for the time when politicians and statesmen worked a compromise for the sake of serving a constituency instead of loading up every day for retribution.

On a recent trip to Santa Fe, in the halls of our roundhouse, I overheard a part of a conversation where a young power broker I didn’t recognize (not sure if he was legislator or lobbyist) told another guy “I feel like stepping on some necks this morning.”

Wow, all that attitude got for Ouray’s associates from other bands he didn’t control was a brief battle that took the life of the Indian agent that was oppressing the Ute and their complete subjugation.

A little peace, compromise and politeness in our politics please.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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