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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 23, 2002 - Issue 55


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SunUte Community Center Exceeds Goals

by Brian Newsome Durango Herald Staff Writer
Working OutIGNACIO, CO - Two months ago, Nathan Cloud was a self-proclaimed "couch potato." The 388-pound Southern Ute tribal member would not even walk down the road to get his newspaper.

But with Ignacio's SunUte Community Center now in full swing, Cloud exercises daily. He has dropped 19 pounds.

"I've been doing this every day since the second week in December," he said, taking a rest after working his muscles on a weight machine Wednesday afternoon.

Cloud, 55, said he is feeling better each day and has more energy to enjoy activities, including getting his newspaper. Cloud, who is a diabetic, works out on several of the center's 40 exercise machines for 2½ hours daily. And Cloud is not alone in his new lifestyle.

About one-third of the population of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Bayfield and Ignacio, as well as tribal employees, have become members at the center since it opened Nov. 30, according to computerized records. There are 1,572 members to date.

Since Ignacio's SunUte Community Center opened Nov. 30, more than 1,500 people have become members. The center's goal was to enroll 20 percent of the overall population of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the community and tribal employees by November 2002. That goal has already been exceeded by about 12 percent.

"The response has been fantastic," said Kip Koso, the center's director, who was surprised to see so large a response with little marketing. "We thought we were going to have to do a ton of marketing and convincing to get people out," Koso said. "It's very gratifying to see a gift the tribe gave to its members and the community has been so warmly received."

Koso said the center's goal was to enroll 20 percent of the overall population of the tribe, community and tribal employees by November 2002 – a figure already exceeded by about 12 percent.

Thirty-four percent of the area's Southern Ute tribal members and their families are members, along with 44 percent of tribal employees and 29 percent of Bayfield and Ignacio residents.

In addition, about 45 non-SunUte members visit the center daily, he said.

Koso said Cloud was an example of what the tribe and staff had hoped for in building the center. They wanted to create a place that would give people in the community a chance for recreation and better health.

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., congratulated the tribe for building the center, in a statement released through his press secretary, Camden Hubbard.

SunUte Community CenterCampbell and his family are members. He said the center is "worlds better than the athletic facilities in the US Senate." A former Olympian and Judo champion, Campbell said that SunUte ranks among the greatest centers he has seen.

Koso said he has observed people of all ages getting involved. Grandparents will use the exercise room or participate in special programs, while their grandchildren swim or play in the gymnasium, he said. Campbell said his grandchildren are among those who frequently use the pool.

There are also sporting events held nightly, and the center recently held an all-American Indian tournament that drew people from other towns, Koso said.

Among the center's special programs is a weekly breakfast for senior citizens in which they learn nutritional ways to cook, how to read labels and monitor their eating. It also offers a diabetes program for Southern Ute members that gives certain diagnosed diabetics a free conditional membership, in which their glucose, exercise regimen and diet are monitored. About 25 members are enrolled in the program.

Though diabetic, Cloud said he is not part of the program.

The Southern Ute Community Action Program also has 25 memberships that it uses for at-risk juveniles and other programs, Koso said.

Marge Borst, special programs coordinator, said about 20 senior citizens a week have been attending the senior breakfasts held Fridays.

"Some people tell me they just can't wait for Friday," Borst said.

Stacy Reuille-Dupont, fitness director, said people have been enthusiastic and actively seeking out services.

"It's filled a gap that was really needed," she said. "It's been phenomenal."

Included in those services are one-hour appointments with exercise trainers and aerobics classes, Koso said. Other services, however, such as personal trainers and nutritional counseling, are not offered. Koso said those programs are conducted more effectively through traditional private fitness centers.

Carol Bentley, 62, was walking on a treadmill Wednesday afternoon in the center's cardiovascular theater, which allows guests to watch television while exercising.

"It's just beautiful," she said. "I'm very pleased."

Bentley, who lives 12 miles south of Durango, said her daughter persuaded her to sign up for a 3-month membership. She said she enjoys swimming in the center's 4,000 square-foot pool.

Tribal Councilor Pearl Casias said the tribal council was delighted to hear about the center's success. She planned to sign up for her own membership this month.

"We were definitely surprised (by the numbers)," she said. "We were just really overwhelmed with the participation of non-tribal members in the community."

Tribal Vice Chairman Clement Frost was the center's 1,500th member, she said. Frost was out of town on business for the week and unavailable for comment.

The tribe has adopted an official logo for the center, which will be circulated in the near future, Casias said.

Meanwhile for Cloud, using the center every day is just listening to "the doctor's orders."

Ignacio, CO Map

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