Council Tree

Poem by Roland McCook, Northern Ute, Great-great grandson of Chief Ouray and Chipeta

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As a young tree I watched the Utes come and go,

I have heard the laughter, the singing, the tired groans
and the crying of the little ones,

I have witnessed the young ones as they played and jumped
from my young branches,

I have listened to the songs of the elders as the winters move on
and give way to the spring
and the happy sounds of the spring Bear Dance,

I have sheltered the Utes as they hold Council beneath my branches,
the leaders speaking with wisdom and foresight,
the young warriors talking of war to protect their hunting grounds
and the Ute way of life,

I have stood here by the river for many winters
since the sounds of anguish and sobbing of the Utes
as they passed under my branches for the last tim
e leaving the Shining Mountains,

I have stood here listening
and watching development grow around my branches,


I hear a familiar sound of long ago
and strain my branches to hear more,

I hear the sounds of Drums long forgotten in this valley,

I hear the singing of the Flag Song, Round Dance, Bear Danc
e and songs that make my leaves flutter in the wind,

I again see and hear the sounds of laughter and talking of the Utes,

I am overjoyed to see the Utes are back dancing, singing,
and visiting with relatives,

I stand proud as do the Elders who watch
from among my old branches,

I am the Council Tree.

Council TreeRoland McCook

O. Roland McCook Sr. is the great-great grandson of Chief Ouray and Chipeta. He is a member of the Uncompahgre Band of the Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Utah and speaks fluent Ute. He has trained at the College of Eastern Utah, Weber State University, and University of California-Berkeley. He has been actively involved in repatriation for many years in Utah and Colorado. McCook is a board member for the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado. He also served as a board member of the University of Utah Museum of Natural History. He has extensive experience conducting historical and archival research on Ute tribal history. (

Courtesy Roland McCook.