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Southern Ute tribe will take control of museum

Cultural center to lose nonprofit status; fate of the collection is uncertain
Nonprofit status for the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum will dissolve, and the facility’s assets will be turned over to the tribe.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe released a statement Friday confirming that the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum will dissolve its nonprofit status and become a tribe-managed entity.

When contacted by The Durango Herald, tribal staff declined to comment and did not provide a news release, but the Southern Ute Drum posted the document on its website Friday.

Since the museum opened in 2011 next to the Sky Ute Casino and Resort, the tribe has subsidized the nonprofit with $1 million each year on the condition that the museum board find a way to match the funds and achieve financial independence in five years. The museum was unable to meet that goal.

Last fall, the agreement between the tribe and museum expired. Instead of closing the museum, tribal council and the museum board of directors have negotiated a transition agreement through which the tribe pays for some of the museum’s liabilities in exchange for the collection, according to the release.

“Preserving our culture and our history is important to pass on to the future generations,” said tribal council Chairman Clement J. Frost in the prepared statement. “The tribe has always been committed to supporting the museum and our culture.”

The tribe’s statement says both museum and tribal council agreed dissolution of the nonprofit was the best option, but museum staff told the Herald earlier this month that tribal management will thwart their jobs and the facility’s future.

The timeline is unclear for dissolving the 501c3 and transferring assets to the tribe, but the museum board and staff members believe that collection owners will reclaim their items, leaving an empty building.

Museum Director Shirley Cloud-Lane said in a previous interview that renegotiating collections, which the tribe must do once the nonprofit is disbanded, could take years.

The tribe has hired a museum consultant, Southern Ute tribal member Linda Baker, to assist with the transition and handle inventory.

jpace@durangoherald.com

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