Roland McCook

Roland McCook

Roland McCook is a member and former chair of the Uncompahgre Band of the Northern Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and a descendant of the historical Ute leaders Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta. One of 15 children born to Ute parents, McCook was raised in Ute traditional ways in Desolation Canyon, part of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation on the Green River in eastern Utah.

As a child, McCook was taken from his home to the Whiterocks Boarding School where he “resisted systematic attempts to snuff Ute culture out of his being.” In 1961, McCook’s father, a believer in education, sent his son to the University of California at Berkeley. McCook recalls, “A reservation boy in Berkeley! Wow! I got educated about that lifestyle but did not adopt it.”

McCook’s subsequent career with the Bureau of Land Management included acting as a go-between when BLM land encroached on Indian land. He also worked to restore oil and shale reserves to the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.

McCook has been designated an official historian by his tribe and will discuss the history of the Utes in Colorado. He is current chair of Native American Cultural Programs in Montrose, and is on the Smithsonian Institution’s Native American Repatriation Review Committee, responsible for returning Indian artifacts and human remains to the native peoples of the Americas.

His work for the Smithsonian included restoring a lock of hair and leggings belonging to Chief Sitting Bull to the Dakota Sioux in South Dakota. He is a gifted powwow dancer and has been a consultant for local powwows.