An outdoor dedication ceremony for the new Ute Mountain Kwiyagat Community Academy in Towaoc was attended by a large gathering of families, educators and tribal leaders.
Traditional prayers and blessings were made for the school. The Rocky Mountain Mustang drum group performed Ute Mountain Ute honor songs.
Kwiyagat students gathered in front of the audience to sing several songs in the Ute language and wished the crowd a Happy Thanksgiving.
The state-funded charter school is accredited by the Colorado Department of Education and the Charter School Institute.
In its first year, the school enrolled 28 kindergarten and first grade students and plans to add more grades. It is the first public charter school on an Indian reservation in Colorado.
The curriculum will blend Ute history, art, culture and language with core educational instruction, including science, technology, engineering, math, reading and writing.
Tina King-Washington, K-12 Education Director for the tribe, spoke of the collaborative effort to make the school a reality.
“We worked together, overcame many hurdles and got it done. This school is so important to the community,” she said. “Our goal is to keep this going until we end up with an educational quadrant with grades K-12 and a college.”
Towaoc parent Candida Ketchum spoke about the importance of the school for her family. She enrolled her son in kindergarten.
“I chose Kwiyagat because it is home,” she said. “I love that the school is just a few minutes from my house.”
She praised the smaller classes, one-on-one instruction and the opportunity for her son to learn the Ute language and culture at a school on his own reservation.
“My son is provided with educational and cultural skills. He loves to come home and share Native stories he has heard throughout the day,” Ketchum said.
Several tribal councilmen spoke of the values and sense of pride the school brings.
Students from Kwiyagat are the future of the tribe, said Vice Chairman Archie House.
“Our vision for the future is that graduates of this school will have a strong grounding in Ute culture and language while incorporating modern perspectives as contributing members of the Ute Mountain Ute community,” House said. “A new generation of graduates will revitalize the tribe’s culture and use that knowledge to build community connections built on mutual respect, academic success and focused career goals.”
After a ribbon-cutting, members of the audience were given a tour of the newly remodeled school facilities.