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Indians Work With Olympic Officials

November 20, 2000

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Organizers of the 2002 Winter Games have promised to include American Indians in the Olympic pageantry, but some tribal representatives say not enough has been done.

``We need to sit down and talk,″ said Utah Division of Indian Affairs director Forrest Cuch, a Ute Indian who also serves on the board of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee

Cuch said he has met with the producer of the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies and is satisfied with how those preparations are going. But he also said SLOC should rely more on planning help from the Native American 2002 Foundation, a Utah group working to bring tribes together for the Olympics.

``They need to be partners and not have the separations that currently exist,″ Cuch said. ``They need that recognition from SLOC.″

The nonprofit foundation, created in May of 1998, is modeled after a similar group that worked to ensure indigenous people were authentically represented at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta.

The foundation won the approval of the National Congress of American Indians, which gave the group the support of nearly 300 North American Tribes. But the Navajo Nation, which has decided to work with SLOC on its own, is noticeably absent.

The Uinta Ouray Utes _ upset by the group’s choice of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Fort Hall, Idaho as the host tribe for the group’s Olympic operations _ may be reconsidering its support.

``If we aren’t the foundation’s host tribe we will declare ourselves the aboriginal host tribe,″ Ute tribal spokesman Larry Cesspooch said, pointing out that the state of Utah derives its name from the Ute tribe. ``We are now in discussions whether or not we are interested in contacting (SLOC head Mitt) Romney and the Olympic committee ourselves about our participation in the Olympic Games, or even if we want to participate.″

Group director Larry Blackhair acknowledged that he is walking a fine line between SLOC and the tribal councils.

``We have the support of 292 tribes and hope to have even more by the time the Games roll around,″ Blackhair said. ``There is a lot of tribal pride out there and that should not go away. It is our goal to see that they are presented in an authentic and historically correct way.″

Romney said one of the reasons Olympic organizers have not aligned with the Native American 2002 Foundation is to keep communications open with all ethnic groups.

``As I see it, Salt Lake City has always been a place where people from many nations have gathered,″ he said. Romney also said SLOC has contracted with an American Indian artist to compose music for the opening ceremony and that native traditions will likely be displayed.

In addition, he said that SLOC will rely on the Native American 2002 Foundation to help select nine leaders from North American tribes to be recognized as heads of state at the Games.


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